NU goes to NY

Kristi Webb

The smell of urine stifled the air outside the subway in Penn Station. As the train approached, restless New Yorkers edged their way onto the subway car. Everyone was on a mission – and I was no exception.

My plan: Spend eight days in the city, take dance classes, see the Northwestern Senior Showcase and, most importantly, establish connections with famous NU alumni.

So I looked around the subway car, hoping to catch critically acclaimed performer Stephanie D’Abruzzo or the Tony Award-winning Sheldon Harnick. Instead, my eyes landed on a man with his daughter in a stroller. The man knelt down, bringing himself closer to the young girl, and flipped open a copy of Disney’s Cinderella. As the train jolted from stop to stop, the man calmly narrated to his daughter the story of a hopeful girl with a head full of dreams.

And with journalists pining for The New York Times, actors striving for Broadway and aspiring economists who see Wall Street as the Holy Grail, living and working in New York is a dream for many NU students. While a subway car is no golden carriage, it did transport 23 of NU’s eager musical theatre seniors into New York City to perform for agents this spring break.

New York was painted purple this March. From Times Square to Park Avenue, Northwestern students and alumni were everywhere. Some came for Alternative Student Break, some came home to visit family and friends, but most came to support the 2006 Senior Showcase. At the Forbidden Broadway Theatre on West 47th Street, 23 Northwestern Students performed for talent agencies from all over the city.

“The purpose is to present the best of our students to casting directors and agents to assist them in finding management and representation,” says theatre professor Dominic Missimi, who, along with associate professor and theatre department chair Rives Collins, put the program together. “The students here are given the chance to have casting directors to see them and sign them before they even move to New York.”

Though the seniors’ performance should help them make big connections, NU’s name alone opens doors in New York. Music freshman Brian Rosenblum and I were able to score backstage tours of the Metropolitan Opera and of Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre. It was eye-opening to see exactly how much went on behind the scenes before every performance.

We also got the chance to meet working alumni at the Alumni Showcase, held March 20 at The Millennium Hotel. We showed some purple pride and chatted with writers, actors and directors who are connected to NU, but realized quickly that they were not the focus of the extravaganza.

“Actually, family and friends is not a target audience at all,” says Northwestern alumnus Craig Shemin, a successful film/TV/stage writer who wrote the script for the Alumni Showcase. “We were delighted with the large turnout that we had of students and family and friends, but we were also delighted to have that happen during Spring Break.”

Six hundred alumni attended the showcase, which featured new compositions created by NU alumni and supported by the American Musical Theatre Project.

“(The Showcase) snowballed into a major theatrical event that featured lots of new music,” Shemin says. “(It) was a very special, one-time-only event that, because of its success, I’m sure will become a regular event.”

Music freshman Kristi Webb is a PLAY writer. She can be reached at [email protected]