At 7 a.m. on Saturday morning, six sleepy seniors, myself included, met in the Friedman Room where we would spend the next 12 hours creating an original show from nothing. We were all seniors and members of the student theater club The Green Room, who had wanted to commemorate our time in the club the way a capella groups or sports teams do through senior shows and senior games; we decided to have a “Senior Show” of our own.
Instead of doing a scripted play, as the club usually does, we decided to develop our own play in 12 hours, a variation of the “24-hour play” done by other college and professional theater groups. In these plays, the actors come together and work for 24 — or, as in this case, 12 — hours to create a completely original show.
To add an extra challenge, we decided to make the play a musical, in commemoration of the theater club, Rhythm and Shoes (R&S), which many of us had been members of before the club dissolved last year.
To create this musical, we adopted the R&S format, in which members present songs from musical theater and popular culture they would like to perform. The leaders then choose which songs will be in the show and begin to write a script that fits around those songs. This type of musical theater is referred to as a “jukebox musical,” which is a show or movie that uses previously released songs as its score (“Mamma Mia” is a jukebox musical).
While Rhythm and Shoes usually spent a whole semester writing, casting and rehearsing its mostly original musical, we challenged ourselves to condense the process, leaving only one to two hours for each part.
We decided that the songs would be lip-synced rather than actually sung, and the scenes would be mostly improvised instead of scripted, given the short time frame we had to work with. Writing team leader Frank Tavares ’19E said, “This was a really silly and fun way to celebrate Green Room, and all of the work we’ve put into it over the last few years. I hope it’s a tradition that future seniors in the group decide to keep alive, whether they do a musical or something else.”
What ensued was a whirlwind day, during which our team created a murder mystery plot that fit around the songs chosen, which included musical theater songs such as “Cabin in the Woods” from “Evil Dead: The Musical” and “Why are all the D’ysquiths Dying” from “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” as well as less traditional musical songs, such as “Work it Out” from “High School Musical 2” and “Friendtopia” from the musical TV series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” The plot centered around an a capella retreat in a cabin in the woods where the newly formed Five College a capella group (Fcags for short) met their rival group, the D’ysquiths. When the D’ysquiths mysteriously begin to die, the Fcags try to work out the mystery only to discover the female members of their group were the ones guilty of plotting these murders all along. The 30-minute musical ended with the three women singing about their plan to take over the world (“Friendtopia”).
We had our plot figured out by 10:30 a.m. and immediately began to work on blocking and choreography. We actually learned the movie choreography from “High School Musical 2” for “Work it Out,” and then created original moves for the rest of the songs.
While the process was challenging, the tight time limit eliminated the pressure to make things perfect.
As David Green ’19E noted, “In an environment like Amherst, where we are constantly focused on the professionalism of the final product, it was an absolute delight to reserve a full day for lighthearted hard work amongst friends, with little pressure to produce a polished product. The show ended up immensely fun to both perform in and watch — apparent from the raucous audience laughter — and looking back, it warmed my heart to know that in such a pressure-cooker of a school, we had accomplished the rare feat of mixing a stress-free process with an enjoyable performance.”
Technical director Sophina Flores ’20 and producer Michelle Han ’20 worked on the technical aspects of the show and brought lunch for the seniors so that we could rehearse nonstop.
Our group rehearsed the complete show a total of three times before the house opened at 7 p.m.
The performance was attended by a total of 10 people who laughed as we struggled to remember plot points and choreography. By the end of the show, we were flushed with adrenaline and bowed to the amused yet confused audience.
Audience member Stuart Robbins ’20 said, “Seeing all my senior Green Room friends put together a show within 12 hours was the highlight of my weekend. I’m so glad they have this fun tradition to finish out their musical theater experience on campus with a bang.”
Afterwards, we celebrated our accomplishment and friendship by ordering a pizza and falling asleep by midnight. Founder of the Green Room and director of the show Michael Barnett ’18 said, “it was a very fun show that brought my experiences in student-run theater at Amherst full-circle. But I am still sore today!”
The following morning at breakfast we complained about our sore muscles, but agreed that this untitled show was one of the best experiences we’d had at Amherst. Even first-time actress Andrea Sanchez ’18 enjoyed the process. “While I’ve done little things for the Green Room, like designing posters and taking pictures, I never took on an acting role. This actually was my very first time acting at all. It was a great debut, and I definitely had fun with all of my friends, but I’m ready to retire.”