As the leaves start to turn and we finally get some autumnal weather in New Jersey, life here at Princeton is settling into its normal vibe of constant, city-never-sleeps activity. Since we start in mid-September, later than most other American universities, classes are just now kicking into high gear; extra-curricular clubs are in full swing; and the freshmen are becoming more jaded as the glamor of college life becomes routine. Though I only moved back to campus three weeks ago, it feels like I’ve lived here forever.
With the new season also comes an overflowing schedule. Along with everyone else on campus, I’m guilty of packing approximately 48 hours’ worth of activities into each day, which gives me my fair share of chaotic days and too-late nights. Despite all the extra work, though, my extra-curricular groups are a big part of what makes my college experience so great.
This semester, I’m directing and producing a full-blown musical on campus, which means that my time spent away from my studies has been increasingly dominated by auditions, rehearsals, and meetings with my design team.
The twelve-person play, Illyria, is a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. While still set in Elizabethan England, the play’s beautiful score provides a more modern take on Shakespeare’s tale of self-discovery, and mixes humor and introspection in a way that I was immediately drawn to.
Directing is a fairly new experience for me, and it’s been more than a bit daunting. There are so many things to organize and to keep track of! Luckily, my design team, my music director, and my stage manager have all provided incredible support for me throughout the process. With a budget of just over $2,000 from two of Princeton’s student-run theater groups, my team and I are working hard to mount a production that will pack audiences into our 90-seat theater for all five nights of the show’s run.
Every little detail is important—fabric colors for curtains must be approved; scalar blueprints for the set must be drawn; costumes must be pulled from the Theater Department’s dusty stockrooms, and subsequently must be ripped, altered, and sewn back together until they fit our cast members just right. In order for the show to work, my designers, my cast, and I have to be in constant collaboration. There can be no divas or drama queens: from now until the show opens in November, we’re all acting as one cohesive unit.
Thanks to Illyria, as well as my rehearsals for the University Orchestra and my journalism work here on campus, a typical weekend in Princeton sometimes feels even more hectic than the class-filled week. However, the rewards are a hundred fold. Though I was wiped out from a late-night orchestra rehearsal when I woke up this morning, I had great motivation to get out of bed: I was having brunch with Pete Mills, the playwright of Illyria and a Princeton alumnus from the Class of 1995.
As Pete and I sat and talked, discussing everything from my production to the coincidence that we both played the French horn in high school, I couldn’t imagine going to school anywhere else. My schedule may be overwhelming at times, but the opportunities that I’m blessed with here definitely outweigh the occasional stresses of a full course load