BWW Blog: When You're a Penn Singer *snap* *snap*
Hello, readers of BroadwayWorld! My name is Ayaka Shimada, and I am a communications and theater arts student at the University of Pennsylvania. I am a proud member of Penn's only musical theatre company, Penn Singers. I am so excited to present how theater nerds here at an Ivy League institution do what we love on top of our chaotic lives, during which we juggle academics, jobs, and extracurriculars.
The performing arts community here at Penn is extremely vibrant, with over 46 different student-run groups, of which eight are theater and musical theater groups. What makes my group, Penn Singers, unique is that we are a four-year company, meaning once you are accepted to the company, you are automatically guaranteed an ensemble role in the fall and spring shows. (Everyone has to audition for lead roles.) Speaking of which, we are also different from other theater groups because we produce a Broadway-style musical in the fall and a light opera in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan in the spring. Our shows are always in a professional theater in the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts right on campus, which is a major hub for the arts here in Philly.
This fall, we, including our 11 newly-minted members, are so excited to be bringing the story of America's kookiest family, The Addams Family: A New Musical to Penn's campus. Believe it or not, the creator of The Addams Family, Charles Addams was a fellow Quaker and attended Penn in 1930 and 1931. College Hall, one of Penn's landmarks and our oldest building on campus, was allegedly the model for the famous Addams Family mansion. However, in our production, we are not recreating the mansion (thank God) because our show will be on a thrust stage centered around the Addams Family tree. (Stay tuned for pictures of the set in a few weeks!)
Our company is run by students, with a ten-person board, and we manage all of what it takes to operate a theater company: managing ticket sales, publicizing our shows, hiring an orchestra, and more. However, for our shows, we always hire a professional director. This year we have been working hard with the wonderful Anthony Bruno, a theater director based in New York City. At the same time, though for the first time in a while, we have two of our very own company members as our music director and choreographer. All of our company members have diverse passions-we have a member who wants to direct music professionally in the future to a member aspiring to be a bioengineer. We have nursing students, business majors, biology majors-you name it! As you can see, our company is truly cohesive and collaborative, and much like the Addamses, we are a quirky but loving family!
We rehearse three times a week, two hours each on Tuesday and Thursday, and five hours on Sunday. Of course, since we are busy Penn students, we don't always have all of the company members in the rehearsal room, which prompts us to think outside the box and plan accordingly. (The photo above is from our rehearsal on Sunday where we went over Morticia and Gomez's Tango scene.) With our performances on November 15th, 16th, and 17th, tech week is quickly approaching, but our entire company, from our tech directors to our costume designers to our performers, are hard at work! (For more information about our company, check out: https://www.pennsingers.com/)