From Fiction to Family on Wharton Stage…

Fish in the dark was a success! I heard some people saying “It was so underrated as compared to other Wharton events but every penny worth it (full paisa-vasool as we say it in Hindi).” More than the audience appreciation which went beyond expectations, the personal treasure that I am taking out of this experience is precious.

The one thing I lacked in my Wharton experience is a tight-knit community with my peers. I have made so many good friends, and I know they will rush to me when I call them, but the puzzle still feels incomplete. I found that missing piece of the puzzle in the theatre group. The group that was haphazardly brought together to put together the show feels like a real family now.

We started in fragments. Until 3 days before the show there wasn’t a single time when the entire cast came together. But this experience validated that it’s not the quantity of time, but the quality of time you need with someone to build a connection.

Everyone was in the show for various reasons. Some people came in for the passion for theatre, some joined as a distraction from other events in life, whereas some were realizing the “stretch experience” at Wharton. The common goal was to put up a great show. That goal enabled this show to be a top priority for everyone. Oh! How that made everyone’s life easier.

All those late evenings spent in 2401 and Huntsman Hall – eating, drinking, laughing and occasionally acting. There were times when someone would forget the lines and start adlibbing, but still it made sense somehow. The times when we studied harder than our exams because that one dialogue was extremely important. The times when choosing a costume for Wharton 54 was easier. The times when we didn’t hesitate to embarrass ourselves in front of the group. The times of no boundaries but pure joy, hard work and support to the team because in theatre “If you screw up, I screw up.”

I have always loved the stage – it gives me an adrenaline rush that is unmatched. As a nurse in the play, I had a small role, but it was still my first acting experience. Yet, the backstage gives me more inspiration than the front stage. As a stage manager, I learned more than I did sitting in my MGMT class. There are so many opportunities to develop different skills sets as a stage manager –

  • Thinking on your feet – There is no time to lose: keeping track of set changes between scenes, getting props ready in time, changing mikes in less than 30 seconds, and making sure people entered from the right side in a scene. There are hundreds of things to keep track of.
  • Resourcefulness – How do you take what and who you have available to make things happen? Theatre is a lean machine.
  • Communication – Asking people in the wings to (politely) shut up and not move anything.
  • Grace under pressure – If something goes wrong, it’s a live production. You have to let mistakes go, and focus on what’s coming up next.
  • Organization – Coordinating everything: the space, the notes, everyone’s mental and emotional state.
  • Motivation & Trust Building – The cast relies on you to hand them the right things at the right time. The cast relies on you to tell them they did a wonderful job in the scene. The cast needs to be motivated even if the previous scene was not perfect. At the end, the show has to GO ON!
  • Leadership – I witnessed great leadership from the director and the co-presidents who did an incredible job in keeping things on track and being flexible without being complacent.

This whole experience was a great learning for everyone. The hard work, commitment and passion that everyone has brought to the table were commendable. We can’t wait to meet again as a family and celebrate this journey. And lastly to tell you a secret, our GroupMe has everyone’s stage name in it, and I know some of them only by that name ☺

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