1940’s NOW, Two Generations Collide A Southwestern University Variety Show
by Christopher Myers
In March of 2002, I directed Personals, the first student produced musical in Southwestern University’s history in conjunction with King Creativity Fund. It was during one of the three sold out performances that I got the idea that I wanted to do another student produced performance the following year. I started making some goals for myself. First I wanted to involve the community in some way. I feel that too many times, Southwestern University becomes a bubble that has no contact with the Georgetown community. I wanted a way to connect with those people on a much more personal level. Second, when doing Personals we turned Alma Thomas into a small 100 seat black box theater. This time I wanted to use the entire theater and fill all the seats. Last, I wanted to do something that gave a lot of people a chance to perform that would not normally get the chance.
It was then I got the idea of a variety show. With this type of show, I would be able to use community members as well as students, spotlight talents that normally don’t have a place to shine and draw in a much bigger crowd. I knew if I was going to do a variety show, I wanted to do it right and have a real variety of talent. Before Winter Break, we held auditions for three weekends in a row. The first was at Georgetown High School and was for featured talent. The second and third were here on campus and were for featured talent and hosts respectively. On top of the great turn out, I also went out and specifically found other talented people and groups that I knew existed that would be a great addition to the show.
After we got back from Winter Break, we really got down to business. The hosts would be performing original skits between the featured talent performances. The way we wrote these skits was quite an experience. We would come up with an idea, put together a mock set, assign characters and then improv. We would go through the scene and then switch characters. We video taped each rehearsal so we would never miss a beat. The actors would work off of each other and at times it got pretty crazy. The next step was casting the scene, and improving again. Finally I would go home with all the tapes and type out an exact script form all the different attempts at that particular scene. Some of the featured talent arrived with their particular talent all wrapped up and ready to perform. Others I gave guidance until we found something that fit the style and need of the show. Scheduling all the featured talent rehearsals and the hosts’ rehearsals was a monster. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays we would rehearse with the hosts. Tuesdays and Thursdays we would rehearse with individual featured talent. After four and a half weeks we brought everyone together on one stage and prayed that it would work.
In the end we had over five hundred people come to see the show each night in a house that only holds five hundred, thirty-six. The show had fifteen different acts of featured talent, nine original skits from the hosts, and a cast reaching over fifty people. About fifty percent of those people were students and the other from Georgetown and the surrounding community. Finally, the talent was extremely diverse ranging from a thirteen year old yodeler to one of four seventy-eight year old tap dancers that were part of the Sun-Sations. We also had a mime, salsa dancers, musicians, a pie skit and much much more. I feel it was a huge success that will hopefully open the door to an annually student produced production that incorporates the King Creativity Fund and the Georgetown community.