The talent and dedication of Muhlenberg students was indisputable this past weekend, with three incredible performances taking the stage. The Muhlenberg Theatre Association (MTA) put on three successful shows: “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, sad girl hours and Llorona.” The Studios performances at Muhlenberg are completely student-run, with students producing, directing and acting in all three productions.
The Studios coordinator this semester, Kristin Dlugos ‘26, finds the charm of Studios to be in its mission for strictly student involvement. She says, “Being in an environment with students reminded me that we’re all here for the same purpose. We’re all students at the end of the day! It’s a whole lot of passion, that’s something I have found truly beautiful about this organization.”
This passion that Dlugos emphasizes was bursting through all three productions, with the casts bringing so much to the stage, leaving audience members in awe of their performances. It was clear that this passion went further than just the cast, as the directors, choreographers, music directors and creative teams clearly went above and beyond for their productions and provided the behind the scenes work that allowed the shows to be successful.
Each of the shows were vastly different in content, with all of the directors seeing different visions for their shows and what messages they wanted to convey to their audiences. Brooke Hager ‘23, director of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” said that “My favorite part of the process was getting to dive into the world of being a kid again! Everyone involved had to really look back and use their own sense of play and nostalgia to develop their piece of the show. We spent a lot of rehearsals remembering our own childhoods and creating the onstage moments from those memories.” This deep dive back into childhood was exemplified on stage, as the colorful set design, childlike costumes and acting choices perfectly exhibited the sentimentality of childhood. Hager emphasized how she wanted to make the cast feel like kids again, saying “Fun fact: the art class drawings next to the desk were all done by the cast!”
“I am forever grateful for this production, the cast and crew and I hope to continue making art that expresses the ideas that I am unable to say alone.”-Devyn Jarvis ’23
With all of the Studios being proposed to the MTA by students, Muhlenberg students are given the opportunity to put on shows that resonate with them and their identities. Devyn Jarvis ‘23, details her experience in choosing to direct “sad girl hours.” She expressed, “When I first read ‘sad girl hours’ I thought ‘omg someone should do this play’ and then I was like I should do this play. As a Queer Black student at Muhlenberg, I crave art that resonates with ALL of me and not just one single facet of my identity. College is a time of self exploration and identity building, Libby Carr encapsulated this feeling perfectly with this play. For the first time in ages I read a script and felt seen, and I wanted to have that again, I wanted to be seen.” “sad girl hours” is a production that gives a voice to groups who are commonly underrepresented in theater. The identities of these characters were celebrated onstage, giving them the much needed space to be heard. Jarvis voiced “I am forever grateful for this production, the cast and crew and I hope to continue making art that expresses the ideas that I am unable to say alone.”
Not only was Llorona student-acted, directed and produced, but it was also student-written. Alejandra Cepeda Bátiz ‘23 began writing the show in her Intro to Playwriting class sophomore year. Bátiz and Ruhani Singh ‘23 co-directed the show as a Studios production, but before that it started in the New Play Reading Series, became a show in the Red Door Play Festival and then finally became a Studios production this semester. In her playwright’s note, Bátiz discussed her inspiration for the show, stating “The grand legend of La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) tells the tale of a woman who went insane and drowned her kids in a river. She then haunts the streets of Mexico as she looks for them, nocturnally crying her famous words: ‘Ay, mis hijos,’ (Oh, my children). It is said that she’s hunting for kids to replace her own.” While writing in her Intro to Playwriting class, she found a different version of the fable, expressing how “This version, different from the myth I grew up with, hit me in a way I can’t describe. Not only was this woman ripped away from her children but she also had her story taken away from her–villainized and silenced.” This version of the fable inspired the show that took the Studios stage. Cepeda Bátiz and Singh had the hope for their audience, stating “We want to invite you to reflect, to feel, to engage, to begin to understand. We hope you begin a process of empathy, perhaps even one of action.”
Bátiz and Singh reflected, saying “I think that this experience taught us a lot about theatre and how theatre is made. With Studios being completely student-run, we think that leaves space for more communication and honesty, as a lot of the bureaucracy and hierarchies that come with faculty-led productions are set aside.” Llorona tackled difficult subject matters from perspectives of students and students only, making the show completely representative of the Muhlenberg student community, truly adding another layer of authenticity to the production. Dlugos remarked that her favorite part of Studios was: “The collaboration! Being able to work with so many different people has allowed me to learn so many new things and unlock a lot of new opportunities for me! I’ve seen so much hard work and dedication and it inspires me!” The MTA and all students involved in Studios work tirelessly to inspire not only one another, but the entire community that they impact with their phenomenal productions.