Fall 2023 Studios Festival overview

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The casts of "35mm," "Nowhere Left To Go," "Fun Home," and "Twelfth Night." Photos courtesy of @bergMTA on Instagram

The weekend of Nov. 30, the Muhlenberg Theatre Association (MTA) put on their semesterly Studios Festival. Every single element of the festival was made possible by the work of students. The directing, designing, acting, stage managing, etc. were completely student-driven. One of the plays this semester was even student-written.

Let’s start there: “Nowhere Left to Go,” written by Katie Harris ‘24 and directed by Shira Holtz ‘24, told the story of six strangers who all mysteriously end up trapped in a cave. Over the course of the play, their pasts begin to slowly unravel as they try to find a way out. The play made excellent use of the lighting (or lack thereof), mimicking the characters’ sense of directionlessness. It was often just as engaging to watch the characters in the dark as it was to watch the ones who were lit.

The other straight play, albeit with some dancing, was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night (Or What You Will).” Conceived in collaboration with the director Becca Millevoi ‘24 and the cast, this adaptation was a queer retelling of the play, intermingling Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter and modern speech.

Alex Piteris ‘27 really enjoyed the production. “I liked how accessible the adapted script was to audience members who are not familiar with Shakespearean text. Sometimes people become frustrated with trying to follow the plot of his plays and the narration of the hilarious players helped lessen that confusion… I’m glad it was performed. There is a lot of value in inviting Shakespearean texts into a modern context. The queer element was very well incorporated into the show and really explored those lines of Shakespeare’s text that made us all raise an eyebrow. Historians might say they were best friends, but we can beg to differ.” 

Piteris was also impressed with other production elements, going on to say, “I really enjoyed the execution of the shipwreck in the beginning. The lights and movement gave a sense of urgency that transferred to the audience. It really set the tone of the production and had me at the edge of my seat for what came next.”

The other two shows in the festival were musicals. The first one was “Fun Home,” directed by Bri Ramberg ‘24 and music directed by Bethany Qian ‘25 and Sonny Berenson ‘26. The show is an adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir of the same name. It tells the story of Alison at three stages of her life: as a child, a college student and a middle-aged adult looking back on her journey. It was the longest and definitely most emotional show in the festival; I know myself and others were brought to tears watching Alison discover her identity as a lesbian in a fraught household.

Katy Olson ‘27, who played Small Alison, said, “I think for me, being involved in ‘Fun Home’ was a really great way to get to know some of the theater community on campus and to meet other people with similar interests. I also met people who worked in all aspects of theater and that was really neat getting to see how the lighting works, how the set works. And also, the intimacy coordinator! I’ve never been in a show that had that before, so that was a really unique part of this process.” 

Finally, there was “35mm,” directed by Tommy Kelly ‘24 and music directed by Jay Walker ‘25. The show was completely sung-through and consisted of a series of vignettes based on 16 photos taken by the composer’s husband on 35mm film. Walker was very glad to have been a part of the Studios Festival. They told me, “From what I saw, everyone was just so talented. Every single facet of the creative process was awesome. I could not be more thankful to my creative team for giving me the chance to work on a production as big as ‘35mm.’ I hope everyone walks away from Studios feeling so proud of themselves because this was some of the best theatre I’ve seen come out of this school.” 

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