Every year, the 46 groups in the Performing Arts Council (PAC) put on productions for the Penn community to enjoy. From a cappella to dance (and everywhere in between), these groups provide a creative outlet for hundreds of students and entertainment for thousands. While many of these groups write, choreograph, or compose their own shows, others take a completely different route; this subset of groups applies for rights to various theatrical pieces, which they then perform on campus. These productions range from Broadway musicals to slapstick farces, from operettas to contemporary tragedies. Here, we look ahead to the shows that have been licensed to various Penn groups this semester.
A Raisin in the Sun (African American Arts Alliance)
The mission of the African American Arts Alliance (4A) is “to promote awareness of Black culture through the arts, specifically focusing on theatre.” In this capacity, 4A has produced some amazing shows since its founding in 1991, including “Stick Fly,” “The Colored Museum,” and “Once on This Island.”
This semester, 4A will be putting on Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play “A Raisin in the Sun.” Premiering on Broadway in 1959, the play has won 5 Tony Awards. It details the experiences of the Youngers, a black family seeking to better their lives in 1950’s Chicago. The play touches on important issues of family obligation, housing discrimination, and identity.
The Addams Family (Penn Singers Light Opera Co.)
Penn Singers is a four–year musical theatre company that performs a Broadway–style show in the fall and an operetta in the spring. Founded in 1957, the group performs ensemble–heavy pieces under a professional director; upon joining, membership lasts for the duration of one’s time at Penn.
This semester, Singers will be performing “The Addams Family,” a musical comedy by Andrew Lippa, Marshall Brickman, and Rick Elice. The show details two days in the life of the creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky Addams family, and the drama that ensues when Wednesday invites her new boyfriend and his family over for dinner. It draws its inspiration from the work of Penn alumnus Charles Addams (C ’30), whose comic strip served as the inspiration for numerous films and television series.
Heathers: The Musical (The Pennsylvania Players)
Among the oldest groups at Penn, the Pennsylvania Players has been in operation since 1936. Producing a musical in the fall and a play in the spring, the group also organizes a 24–hour theatre festival every winter. Players is among the few professionally directed groups at Penn, hiring a new director every semester.
This fall, Penn Players will be producing “Heathers: The Musical,” by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, based on the 1988 film “Heathers.” This rock musical details a series of tragic events at Westerburg High School, touching on serious issues like teen suicide and bullying. The musical comedy has become a cult classic, with numerous regional productions and a premier on the West End this fall.
Peter and the Starcatcher (Quadramics Theatre Co.)
Quadramics Theatre Co. bills itself as “the group focused on enjoying life and getting the best experience possible out of working on and performing a great show.” Every year, the group produces a straight–play in the fall and a raucous musical during Spring Fling.
This fall, Quadramics (or Q, as it’s affectionately known) will be performing Peter and the Starcatcher, a 2009 Tony–nominated play by Rick Elice that provides a backstory for the major characters of the novel “Peter Pan” by J.M. Barrie. With music interspersed throughout, this show has shipwrecks, mermaids, a mysterious treasure chest, and much more!
The Prince and the Wooglefoof (Stimulus Children’s Theatre Co.)
Described as Penn’s “premier children–oriented theatre group,” Stimulus Children’s Theatre Co. (Stim) produces shows targeted at a young audience. Apart from their main stage shows every semester, the company has a strong community service aspect to it as well, performing shows and holding theatre workshops at local elementary schools.
This year marks Stim’s 30th anniversary at Penn. For this occasion, they’ll be producing The Prince and the Wooglefoof, a new musical written by Penn alumna Jessica Penzias (C ’12). Based on Brian Anderson’s book “The Prince’s New Pet,” this musical tells the story of a young prince in a sad kingdom of gray, who discovers a mysterious, colorful creature!
Thom Pain (iNtuitons Experimental Theatre Co.)
“WE WILL ALTERNATE YOU.” That’s the motto of Penn’s one and only experimental theatre group, iNtuitons. Founded almost four decades ago, this group has carried out its mission to bring the avant-garde, the unusual, and the strange to the Penn community. Though they’ll be performing in Houston Hall this Fall, the group has also taken advantage of more alternative settings for its performances, such as Stouffer College House and the PAC Workshop.
For their Fall show, iNtuitons will be producing “Thom Pain,” a one–person show written by Will Eno. This extended monologue is told by the titular character, an extremely unlucky person, who details the many misfortunes they have gone through so far.
Tick, Tick… Boom! (Front Row Theatre Co.)
Front Row Theatre Co. is among the most prolific performing arts groups on campus, producing four shows every year (NSO, fall, winter, spring). Front Row strives to perform “socially relevant student theatre” with every performance. Their most recent shows include “Loot,” “She Kills Monsters,” and “Speech & Debate.”
Front Row has yet to announce their show for this semester, but they are preparing for their NSO production of Jonathan Larson’s “Tick, Tick… Boom!” This musical serves as an autobiography of the “Rent” playwright’s life in the 1990s, as he struggles to find success as a composer in New York City. The performance is free for freshmen and will take place in the rooftop lounge of Harrison College House on Friday, 8/31 at 8:00 PM and 11:59 PM, and Saturday, 9/1 at 8:00 PM.