Organization picks up where others left off

Temple Theater’s newest organization, Sidestage Season, is looking to even the playing-field this year.

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 and on twitter @Alexa_Bricker17

1 Comment

  1. Alexa,

    I’m curious, where did you get the information you needed to write this article? In the second paragraph you say that the Sidestage Season is the first organization “to successfully produce and see a show to fruition,” yet there are links to several other articles at the bottom that say otherwise.

    Speaking as someone in the unique position of having played a part in the inception of the Sidestage Season, I can confidently say that this is definitely not the first successful organization to have mounted a student production at Temple.

    This organization would not exist if there weren’t a need for it, and the reason it does exist is because Temple Theaters’ limited resources could not feasibly support the volume of independent work that students were seeking to produce. The faculty’s response was to appoint a team of students to solicit proposals from potential producers and democratically select a season that could run in conjunction with Temple Theaters’ mainstage season: The Sidestage Season.

    What I want to make clear to your readers is that the theater department does not have and has never had a shortage of talented, hardworking individuals. What we have is a shortage of resources.

    So, hypothetically, if you were to rewrite this article I would encourage you to skip the part about “actors who just want to act,” the organizations that have fizzled out (some haven’t), and the generally disparaging tone that you assume when talking about the “others.” Focus on the positives like how, despite massive budget cuts in the 80’s, for nearly 30 years Temple Theaters has put on great shows and has done so on shoestring budgets. Focus on the grit and tenacity of a long line of passionate artists whose successes and failures paved the way for those in the present. And of course, don’t forget to add in something about being “Temple Made.”



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