Vassar has a reputation for being a hub of theatrical talent and quality productions, and last semester marked a new age of creativity in theater. In the spring semester alone, Future Waitstaff of America’s (FWA) produced two original productions, ‘2023’ and ‘Sludge Dump,’ as well as a second annual Beyonce-themed musical.
For the students who put on these shows, the opportunity to hold creative license marks unchartered territory in their artistic careers. “Everything about the production was entirely different from anything I’d ever done before—in high school I had done nothing but act, and not very much of that,” said Belle Shea ’16, who co-wrote and scored ‘2023’ with Hannah Tobias ’16. “There was a huge learning curve in putting up ‘2023’, because not only were the things we had written being said onstage for the first time but also now we were directing, which I had never done either.”
For Shea and Tobias, teamwork played a huge role in putting on ‘2023,’ a musical based on the real-life space mission to establish a human settlement on Mars. “For the process of creating our show, both writing it and then actually getting to produce it, I think the most important part was honestly in the teamwork, and Vassar just happens to be a great place to find that,” Shea continued. “Not having this kind of theater experience meant that I personally relied on the teamwork aspect of it all that much more, which made me realize when it was over just how incredible it was to have such amazing people and theater-makers actually volunteer their time for us.”
The task of putting up an original show is an arduous one, and FWA offers students the opportunity to do so. “FWA has the special events application and coordinator in place to support students who want to produce the original works they have written. We as a board try to make it as easy as possible for writers to make their show a reality,” said Arden Shwayder ’16, Secretary of FWA.
In addition to offering guidance from their board, which is made up of students well versed in all aspects of theater, FWA provides aid in specific aspects of production— from finding an orchestra to staging the show. “We have loved that so many student written works have been tremendously successful on campus and we hope to have this continue,” said Shwayder.
FWA offered Sean Eads ’15 a strong foundation without stifling Eads’ artistic freedom or control when he put up his show, ‘Sludge Dump,’ a musical about the politics and absurdity behind sludge dumping. “When I set out to workshop Sludge Dump I applied to direct a special event through FWA. Special events have much fewer guidelines than full-length productions, and that gave me a lot of creative power, especially regarding space,” said Eads. “It was a huge plus having an organization backing me for purposes of legitimacy when it came to booking spaces and dealing with administration, but otherwise I was left to my own devices, and together with the collaboration of the cast and my production team of three, we spent two months translating the play from script to stage.”
Putting on original theater offers students a different experience than participating in most productions. “Creating your own work is the best way to get to know yourself as an artist,” said Eads. “Original ideas have always shaped me as an artist, and at Vassar you’re able to execute original ideas if you know how to navigate the administrative obstacles, which is a challenge in itself.”
“‘2023’ has been my favorite thing that I’ve done so far at Vassar, and also the thing that I’m most proud of,” echoed Shea.
“There’s just something different and incredibly special about the sense of ownership that goes with putting up your own show, and I really hope to get to do more of that, and especially to get to do more of that with Hannah.”