There have been many start-up organizations in Temple’s theater department that have fizzled out after a few short months. One group claims it’s here to stay.
Temple Theater’s Sidestage Season, a project started by Spring 2014 alumni, was taken over late last spring by junior musical theater major, Alex Monsell. It is the first student-run organization in the department to successfully produce and see a show to fruition.
The organization aims to “support student projects by providing them with both space and producers, while simultaneously allowing theatre students to hone their skills in a professional environment,” according to the organization’s website.
“The reason [the organization] stuck this time was because it wasn’t just started by actors who wanted to act more,” Anjelica Vezzosi, a sophomore theater major and member of the organization, said. “This time it was started by a producer who really wanted to produce more shows and provide opportunities for everyone.”
Monsell said he felt that there was a lack of opportunity for students to take charge of the productions, experience that is essential for a career in musical theater.
“My main thing is that I want to give students the chance to make executive decisions,” Monsell said. “What’s happening currently is students are doing all the work and learning the skills but not making any of the decisions.”
While Monsell acknowledges that it is a process of trial and error, he said that it is important for theater majors to take a hands-on approach.
“Every semester you have to work on a show and you learn craftsman skills, which makes you a well-rounded artist,” Monsell said. “When you go out into the real world, though, you will have to make decisions. Inevitably mistakes will be made, but we’ll learn from them.”
Student director John DiFerdinando and Monsell also agreed to take a democratic approach in choosing what shows to produce and which actors and crew members to cast.
“I want to have a completely balanced season,” Monsell said. “I want it to come from the students, so we took a whole bunch of proposals and what I’m looking for is that everyone in the department has something to do.”
For the first show, and likely future shows, DiFerdinando said they decided to keep it small, as the organization is new and an expensive production just isn’t feasible.
“Musicals are a lot more expensive to do than plays,” DiFerdinando, a senior musical theater major, said. “But I knew I wanted to do a musical and I kept coming back to Stephen Sondheim because he’s one of my favorite composers and as a first time director, I knew I would have a good grasp on the material.”
On Aug. 24, the organization kicked of the year with its production of Stephen Sondheim’s, “Putting it Together,” a showcase of some of Sondheim’s most famous compositions.
Since the organization is new and doesn’t have the funds to work with, they had to turn to outside sources. The group found two people willing to help.
“[The show] was funded entirely by me and my parents,” DiFerdinando said. “We ended up making a profit – more than we thought, and we plan to use whatever is left over after budgeting for other productions.”
The organization can now start fresh with their upcoming production of “The Indian Wants the Bronx,” set to begin on Friday, Sept. 12. at the Randall Theater.
While Monsell is directing this second production, he and DiFerdinando said they think that after the success of the first show, more students will be open to getting involved.
“This whole organization is just meant to kind of fit the students,” DiFerdinando said. “I think before, since its been a big issue up in the air for so long people were leery about its success. Now that they see something tangible in front of them, I expect it to gain a lot of support.”
Alexa Bricker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @Alexa_Bricker17