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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

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Seniors in the performing arts remember 2020-2024

At pretty much any given moment on campus — in the basement of DPAC, in the attic of Washington Hall, in some far-flung practice room — there’s someone rehearsing something. We gathered a coterie of performing arts seniors to tell us about those somethings and their highlights from the last four years.

Department of Film, Television and Theater

Christina Sayut — a film, television and theater minor — reflected on her work in the department’s productions. She enjoyed her behind-the-scenes job on “Dawn’s Early Light,” a student-written show.

“It’s definitely, I think, a little bit more fun,“ she said. ”You get freedom. There’s no, ‘You have to do it this way because it’s always been done that way.’”

She recalled having to borrow a pair of socks from friend Joe Golden when choreographer Theresa Thomas spent a rehearsal making everyone, cast and crew alike, dance her choreography — a day Sayut was wearing Birkenstocks.

Another fond memory of hers was the opening night of “A Chorus Line” this April: “The curtain came up opening night, and I was literally in tears. I was fortunate enough that my family was in the front row, and my boyfriend was in the front row. I turned around, and the first people I could see were all of these people that love me.”

There was a great team behind “A Chorus Line,” Sayut said. “I really felt like I was with a completely and wholly committed group of people. There was not a single person who was not on the same page the entire time.”

After four straight months of rehearsal, “it was really hard to say goodbye.”

Pasquerilla East Musical Company

Colleen Mackin, the current executive producer for the Pasquerilla East Musical Company (PEMCo), started out at the bottom of the ladder.

“The first thing I ever did for PEMCo,” she said, “was ushering for the revue in the fall of 2020.” Mackin remembers herself as “a scared little freshman who really wanted to be involved in theater … so I would do whatever they needed or wanted me to do.”

Consequently, she’s worn a lot of hats in her time with the company — not only as an executive producer and usher but also as an associate producer, stage manager and assistant stage manager. It was in this role as an assistant stage manager that she worked on “Something Rotten” in the spring of 2021.

“It was during COVID restrictions,” she recalls, “and we did this really interesting thing where one person was allowed to sing indoors. We had to record each sound part individually, and they patched them together.”

“Something Rotten” was one of her favorite productions, she said.

“I really like that show a lot,” Mackin said. “It’s really fun — there’s a lot of dancing, so it was super interesting for that to be my introduction to musical theater in college.”

Another favorite show was “Young Frankenstein,” her first gig as a stage manager.

“A lot of [the cast] were freshmen, and they're still involved with PEMCo,” Mackin said. “It's really exciting to see that kind of growth, from what they were doing their first semester of freshman year to what they're going to be doing when they enter their senior year.”

Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company

Natalie Allton is the executive producer of the Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company (NSR), but she acts too.

She told The Observer about her favorite roles from the past four years: “Beatrice in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ — I love her so dearly. She's such a fun, comedic character to play. I really loved being the nurse in ‘Rodeo and Juliet.’ And then when I was Buckingham in ‘Richard III,’ that was such a fun role to pick up. My favorite roles have definitely been the ones where I get to play a character that’s maybe a little bit funny, but especially roles where the scenes rely on chemistry with the other actors. That’s by far the best part of NSR, the community around it.”

Allton’s favorite NSR production was “Measure for Measure,” which she worked on as an assistant director.

“I think the end result was just this incredible hodgepodge of scenes that cut you really deeply and were genuinely very tragic, and then we moved to a scene that was just laugh out loud funny,” she said.

Speaking about the club overall, Allton said, “I'm very proud to say that I think NSR provides people with the tools that they need to really parse through Shakespeare. ... NSR has this great ability to help people build those muscles to understand Shakespeare — and, of course, spending weeks with the text definitely helps — but for me now, I think in iambic pentameter sometimes. We joke about that, where we'll be in a conversation and one of us will just quote something from a show we've done recently.”

Transpose Dance Collective

Anna Falk is a choreographer for the Transpose Dance Collective — Notre Dame’s “all styles, all levels, no cut” dance ensemble. It consists of both people like Falk, who has been dancing since the age of two, and people who are new to dance.

As with Mackin, the beginning of Falk’s involvement in her organization was shaped by COVID. During restrictions, Falk bonded with a fellow dancer in her dorm. That friend prompted her to join, and join she did — halfway through the rehearsal process.

“I just kind of learned, and didn’t stop there. I started choreographing the next semester,” she said.

“Part of the constitution of Transpose is to bring dance to the people more. … It’s more communal,” Falk added. That’s exactly why Transpose performs offstage, specifically in the Dahnke Ballroom (and formerly in the LaFortune Ballroom), in order to “be on the same level” as the audience.

Falk said she felt good about her final show with Transpose. “It was memorable because I got to do a solo, and I was really proud of the work that we had done on our senior dance. Also a lot of my friends came, and my mom was there, too. I felt very supported during that.”

Chorale

As a freshman, Anna Gazewood joined Chorale because she missed singing during the pandemic, a time when there ”wasn't a ton to do.”

Now, she’s the choir’s president.

“We had our first few rehearsals that semester in the stadium concourse because of COVID,” Gazewood said.

Laughing, she told The Observer about “tummy time” — a mandatory rehearsal break to help with air circulation instituted as a COVID precaution. “We’d kind of just lie on the ground,” but “tummy time” also became a time to chat and get to know other singers.

She also spoke about Chorale’s winter tours every year: “It’s kind of our first really big bonding experience because we’re on the road for a week. … You get to really know the group more than sort of just singing together and maybe going to dinner.”

Gazewood made memories with Chorale in places like the dining hall and the library, but also on tour, in places like a Birmingham mall and the Bass Pro Shops pyramid in Memphis.

Still, her favorite memory was her first time singing Handel’s “Messiah” with the ensemble.

“I already felt like I was fully in the group, but at that point, it was like, ‘I'm fully in the group and wow, we have all this legacy that like now I feel like I'm finally in,’” she said.

Humor Artists

Emily Shetterly is one of the Humor Artists, Notre Dame’s improv comedy group. She’s served as the club’s treasurer, as a sketch show director and as a longform improv troupe member, but she started as a fan.

“[The team] really has a groupie culture to it, in a really fun way,” she said. ”They were my campus celebrities.”

Shetterly decided to try to audition: “I — like — put on a good outfit to make a good impression, and then I stumbled into DeBart 101. I was the first one there, ten minutes early … I was really nervous. I didn’t even really know what improv was.”

Once she got in, her first show was in the basement of Keenan Hall.

“I thought there was going to be no one there because that was the impression I was given,” Shetterly said. “Then Keenan Hall packed the whole basement. It was actually electric — it was the first time where I was like, ‘Oh, I actually really love doing this.’”

Shetterly likened the Humor Artists to a family, adding that being a Humor Artist gives her a feeling of purpose.

“It’s just so electric, and I love the show high,” she said. “Then afterward, you sleep for like 14 hours, and it feels so beautiful.”

Student Standups

Nick Pesce, also a Humor Artist, was initially hesitant to join the Student Standups.

“I kind of resisted it for a while, especially my freshman and sophomore years,” he said. “Doing improv was such a departure from the guy I had been in high school, to where it felt like, ‘Okay, if I did both of these things, it'd be really like crossing a line.’”

“There were a lot of people in the club who told me that I should do it, that they thought I'd be good at it,” he said, so eventually he did.

Pesce has done some great work with the club since then.

At the Backer show, the group filled the venue to capacity. “It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” Pesce said.

He said he felt good about the recent senior show at Washington Hall too. “So much of it comes back to your material and what you thought was good. Part of it was the crowd at Mainstage, and part of it was that I was really proud of my set.”

“It’s an interesting group,” Pesce said about the club. “The club president, Aidan [Tompkins], is very good at giving feedback. … The feedback that people offer is kind of where their comedic voice starts to shine through.”

Notre Dame Bands

Josh Richards, a french horn player and music major, said his favorite marching band performance was the “Top Gun” routine for the game against UCLA in 2022, “mostly because the entire show was a straight banger.”

“It was also one of our most intricate shows, so the stress was high going into it, and it paid off,” he remembered in an email. “We can't see ourselves from a bird's eye point of view like the spectators in the stadium, so our only way to gauge how well we're doing is by the cheers from the audience — that day was the loudest the stadium had ever been for the ND band.”

He also reminisced about performing “Danny Boy” with his section for a crowd of Irish fans at Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

For Richards, the band is about community: “The band's heart beats for Notre Dame. … We care about delivering performances that get the crowd moving, get them excited and ready to cheer our boys in golden helmets to victory. We care about giving the fans something to relate to, something to hold onto as distinctly ‘Notre Dame.’ We care about our traditions, the silly game day excursions that keep us distracted from the fact that we're sweating straight through our uniform.”

Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra

Cecilia O’Brien is the co-president of the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra (along with Richards). When she joined as a freshman in 2020, the ensemble rehearsed outside in a tent and had to keep their music on their stands with clothespins.

O’Brien’s favorite concerts were the crowd-pleasers.

“The Star Wars concert, our first show of the 2023-2024 season, was a huge hit. The audience was massive,” she said in an email.

She said she loved the Christmas tour with the Glee Club too: “We played in some spectacular venues, such as Heinz Hall, Verizon Hall and St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in New York City), and it was truly the most fun I've had playing with the group. Since we had played the concert so many times, it wasn't stressful at all — we could just enjoy playing Christmas music together for enthusiastic audiences. Dan, our conductor, is great with the crowds — they absolutely love his jokes and stories. The tour brought us a lot closer together as a group.”

She and Richards have worked to do exactly that — to bring the orchestra closer together as a group.

“I'm really proud of how many people in the orchestra bonded over the tour and other events this year,” she said, “and I see a really bright future for the group.”

Editor's Note: Christina Sayut, Natalie Allton and Anna Falk are former Observer staffers. Peter Mikulski is a member of the Humor Artists.