Every semester, the First Year Players coalesce to organize a student-run production. Their musicals introduce to the University talented, energetic and engaging performers in the first-year class. Though the cast and stage managers are restricted to first-year or transfer students, the people behind-the-scenes — the technical staff, artistic staff and production staff — can be members of any class.
Third-year Batten student Nolan Reilly serves as producer of FYP, and he said he enjoys working for his younger peers.
“Working alongside so many passionate, bright and talented people never ceases to make the process a delight,” Reilly said. “Every person — from cast member to tech staffer to committee member — brings an enthusiasm to their position that makes the process fulfilling to take part in.”
Reilly has participated in the production of every show for the past five semesters. As the producer, he leads the production staff, which manages the ins and outs of the show — including publicity, fundraising, business and photography. These behind-the-scenes operations counter the foregrounded work of the technical and artistic staffs.
The technical staff convenes weekly throughout the course of the semester, preparing for the “tech week” that precedes the performances. During this week, the group reconstructs the empty scene of the Student Activities Building — what Reilly calls a “warehouse” — turning it into a full-blown theatre.
“Tech week has always been my favorite part of preparing for the show, as our tech staffers and team members transform an empty space into a functioning stage and set,” Reilly said. “Every tech week I have gotten the chance to meet and work alongside someone that I may not have known before.”
This semester’s show “Little Shop of Horrors” — which premiers the weekend of April 27 — will be a culmination of several months of preparation. Fourth-year College student and pit director Richard Davis said this period helped the cast members establish important relationships.
“It’s important for characters and musicians alike to develop chemistry ... Among their respective cohorts and throughout the whole organization in order to eliminate the tension and rigidity that can hinder progress,” Davis said.
Davis conducts rehearsals twice every week, developing and facilitating the pit instrumentation for the performance. Like many other participates in the program, Davis said he has encountered various opportunities throughout his involvement in FYP that have shaped his character, both on and off the stage.
“I’ve made many close friends with the other musicians in the pit, along with the cast and tech staff,” he said. “In some ways, the personal growth and increased confidence I’ve achieved are directly related to the unique experiences and opportunities that I encountered.”
For Davis, the highlights of show preparation — which arise out of the physical and mental work required from the group — are the interactions among the group members.
“One of the best parts about preparing for the show are certainly being able to goof around and make jokes with everyone in the pit during rehearsals and with the organization at large during outside activities and social gatherings,” Davis said. “We bond through the shared stress of tech and show weeks and help each other solve a variety of problems and conflicts that come with that.”
As a fourth-year who is able to look back on FYP’s previous shows, Davis said he finds this semester’s to be one of the most remarkable. The performance will consist of the assemblage of the devotion from each member of the group, from the singers to the musicians in the pit, to the staff leaders looking on from the wings of the stage.
“Since my time at the University, this is definitely FYP’s most creative and technically challenging endeavor,” Davis said. “The hard work and passion for creating this art will be evident in every performance.”
For the first-year students who are part of the group, working with experienced third- and fourth-years has enhanced their involvement with FYP, influencing both their acting skills during performance and the overall synergy of the group.
“A big component that drew me in initially was having an avenue to interact with upperclassmen in a way not only helpful to developing as an actor but also as a way to connect with upperclassmen that I would not have been able to meet otherwise,” first-year College student Aiden Carroll said. “It is inspiring to see what these people are doing at the University and to see what I could maybe do one day.”