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BWW Blog: A Starry Night

BWW Blog: A Starry Night

The stars shined brightly upon Northwestern's campus the weekend before last, as alums and icons of stage and screen returned to their alma mater for this Starry Night weekend. The last time an event of similar magnitude was conducted at Northwestern was the October of 1980. This period saw some of Northwestern's most prominent alumni working in Hollywood, as well as Broadway, coming together to celebrate the completion of the then Theatre and Interpretation Center, now the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts.

The Way They Were, hosted by actors Charlton Heston and Ann-Margret, was a night of acting and singing and a celebration of not only what the Northwestern theatre family has accomplished through their respective platforms, but also what Northwestern theatre will accomplish in the future, and from then to now, there have been numerous accomplishments. During that time no one would have guessed that thirty-eight years later Northwestern would be producing the same thing, except this time it would be to raise money for the Graduate school of acting in downtown Chicago.

I had first heard about the gala back in September of 2017, and it was Associate Dean Adam Joyce, who told me what the ideas, goals, and hopes of this gala would be. The entire weekend of April 21st would be known as Commfest, in which alumni from the School of Communication (theatre, Radio/TV/Film, Communication Studies, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Performance Studies, and Dance) would return to their alma mater and rediscover, reengage, and reunite with their campus.

The weekend included reunions and parties held by popular student organizations such as WNUR, the Northwestern radio station, Waa-Mu, the nation's largest student written musical (currently in its 87th year), the Dolphin Show, the nation's largest student produced musical (currently in its 76th year), and panel organizations that talked about how to save one's hearing, the art of puppetry, algorithms in modern culture, among a plethora of others.

The culmination of the weekend was the gala, crafted by a host of alumni: head writer Ms. Shelly Goldstein (C79), music director Mr. Doug Peck (WCAS03), stage director Mr. Peter Flynn (C87), executive producer Mr. Don Weiner (C79) and hosted by the one and only Mr. Stephen Colbert (C86). The entire evening was second to the Tony Awards or the Oscars, and had an attendance of about 2600, me being among them. But throughout the weekend I was able to have one of the coolest jobs, I worked in the Talent Headquarters and escorted the talent while in Evanston.

My first full, and long day, of my duties had me stationed at the Orrington Hotel in the center of the city in order to both greet the talent, as well as escort them to their vehicles at the appropriate time to get to rehearsal at the Ryan Fieldhouse, state of the art facility where the gala was held, on time. Throughout the day I had conversations with Mr. Tony Roberts, Ms. Nancy Dussault, Mr. Richard Kind - who truly lives up to his last name by the way -, Mr. Dermot Mulroney, Mr. Kyle Heffner, and Mr. Stephen Colbert. Meeting all of them was a huge blessing, and seeing how kind they were in coming up to me and greeting me was all the more special.

When Mr. Colbert walked through the door he walked right towards me, smiled, held out his hand, and humbly introduced himself. I was able to sit down with Mr. Mulroney and talk about his time on campus, while also finding out his son his is currently in my grade, and in the same school.

But that wasn't the only cool part. I had access to the Ryan Fieldhouse, and I got to watch the rehearsals and set up and it was by far the most magical and rewarding experience I have ever received in my life. I couldn't believe how much work was put into this event, as well as events just like it, and I couldn't believe I was in the middle of it all. Here it was common to just sit there and have Mr. Brian d'Arcy James walk right past you, without anyone batting an eye! Or lounge on the couch in the green room with Ms. Heather Headley and Mr. Harry Lennix sitting right next to you. What was going on?!

The weekend became even more memorable due to the personal conversations I had with some of the talent and the kindness they emitted as soon as the stepped out of their cars. I had the opportunity to ask if any of them had advice or wisdom to share for me to take with me throughout my time in college. Mr. Brian d'Arcy James told me to "show up." He said it took him awhile to realize what that truly meant, but discovered that it doesn't just mean being there, but truly being there, with every ounce of who you are. Mr. Sharif Atkins, who has become a mentor to me, told me that I should never begrudge anyone else's successes, especially if it's the same success that I want in the future, because by doing that, I don't know what I'm doing to affect my own success. With that he told me that "there is only one Nolan Robinson born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised in Evanston, Illinois." He told me that although we might want to sing like someone else, or act like someone else or be like someone else, we all have a God given seed and it is up to us to nourish it and to grow it. In relation to that Mr. Kyle Heffner told me to find my niche, that thing inside of me, and let it show. Ms. Ana Gasteyer and Ms. Kimberly Williams-Paisley told me to write, cause when out of school it's hard to find the time for it. The consensus of what everyone said was to take risks and be in the moment. I will heed that, and absorb all of it. It was beautiful to feel their presence and their love, and wonderful to see their appreciation in wanting to help the next generation of artists and Wildcats.

Hopefully in about thirty years Northwestern will put on another one of these, and according to School of Communication Dean Ms. Barbara O'Keefe, it will be the current generation's turn to do it. Who knows? Maybe I'll be that next Colbert! But until then, that starry night will now be in my heart forever, and in the history of the School of Communication for years to come.

 

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