Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
This weekend students can catch a musical performed in Olde Club about the ups and downs of a true Swarthmore staple: good old Sharples Dining Hall.
The play focuses on the development of a relationship between Steven Freshman, a first-year student already fed up with the frequency of Pasta Bar, and Ruby Blue, a sophomore with a knack for making the best out of the biweekly dining hall offerings. Tension builds between them once they realize they have very different views of Sharples. Sophie Miller ‘16, the writer of the show, explained the premise as “tracking the love-hate relationship everyone goes through with regard to Sharples.”
“I have kind of a quirky friend group, and at some point someone brought up this idea as a joke and we were tossing it around. I thought it was something I had the resources to do, and it sounded like something the college community would really appreciate,” Miller said.
Abigail Henderson ‘15, who directed the show, explained that she was excited to take on the more lighthearted project in comparison to the more experimental, dramatic performances generally presented at Swarthmore. “I think Swatties need more excuses to laugh,” Henderson said.
When discussing the very serious nature of most of the college theater productions, Henderson noted that humor often can contradict our community’s values. “A lot of funny things are problematic. A lot funny things use humor to make fun of a group of people, and I try really hard not to do that,” she said.
She also touched upon the way our college’s culture discourages more “superficial” art. “Swatties like to challenge themselves and delve very deeply into things, and there’s only so far you can delve into a comedy. I think college is a time where people want to deeply understand the depths of their souls,” Henderson said.
Miller explained that comedy was another way of exploring intellect. “At Swarthmore there is a real emphasis on intelligence, but this has been an opportunity to show cleverness and wittiness and to be smart while still doing a comedy,” she said. “A lot of the intelligence here can be very dour and serious.”
Henderson noted that directing a musical was far more complicated than directing a play, but ultimately very rewarding. “A lot of our leads don’t have a lot of acting experience, but have a lot of singing experience, which meant that they were pretty open and moldable to whatever direction we wanted,” she said.
As a completely original musical, the show took a great deal of effort to produce and was the result of a lot of collaboration, especially in terms of the music. “We didn’t have the orchestrations until fall break. I was really nervous because I had been hearing the music in my head for four or five months by that point,” Miller said.
However, she was ultimately blown away by the results. “This music I had envisioned but couldn’t express was coming out of my speakers, better than I even could have imagined it. They had found the core of the song and expressed it for me,” Miller said.
Even the most cynical of Swatties will find likely themselves charmed by specific references to things like the highly sought-after booths at Sharples, Wow Butter, and, of course, the all too-frequent Pasta Bar. The show manages to capture both the wonderful and the frustrating aspects of Swarthmore in a funny, captivating way.
Featured image courtesy of bonappetitpizzeria.com.