NSTV to honor memory of alumnus in film premiere

Christina Chaey

Nobody expected Sam Cassel’s life to end at the age of 28, when he and his girlfriend were hit by a drunk driver in Los Angeles in December 2007. Cassel, Communication ’01, was vice president of development at Scott Rudin Productions, a renowned film and theater production company.

Northwestern Sketch Television, NU’s sketch comedy film group, will dedicate its May 24 premiere to Cassel, who NSTV members say improved the show’s production quality and reached a broader audience, taking the group to new heights in his years at NU.

“This is really our way of remembering his accomplishments in NSTV,” said Communication junior Samantha Soto, executive producer of the 2008 show. “NSTV is really a family, and we’re just remembering a family member who was dear to us.”

The group will open the show by talking about Cassel and showing one of the sketches from his time working on NSTV. Members will also collect donations at the end of the show to benefit Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“We miss him every day, and every time somebody does something like this it’s so wonderful,” said Sam’s mother, Susan Cassel, in a slightly trembling voice. “It’s an affirmation of the person that he was and the person that he could have been, so it’s always bittersweet. I’m really grateful to the kids at Northwestern who thought that this was important.”

Cassel acted, wrote and produced for NSTV from 1997 to 2001.

Cassel was NSTV’s “gold standard,” said Jake Szymanski, Communication ’04. Szymanski, who acted and wrote for the group as a freshman when Cassel directed the show as a senior, remembers when Cassel called him the night after he auditioned seven years ago.

“Sam called me that night and was like, ‘Hey, we really want to make sure you’re on the team because you like this stuff as much as us,'” Szymanski said. “He reached out and said it was great that I was so into comedy.”

Working on the show was an “all-consuming passion” for him, Susan Cassel said.

“I think most of his life outside of class work was working on this TV show,” she said. “He loved going to Northwestern and he loved the TV show.”

He would work so hard to produce a good show that he wouldn’t sleep the night before, said Susan Cassel, who said she attended the premiere the year Sam directed.

“I know it’s a word that everyone in the world uses, but their shows are just awesome,” she said. “I know that Sam would be loving this. He would think this was so cool that he was going to be recognized in this way by the school he loved.”

Saturday’s show will serve as another way for Cassel to help build community through comedy, Soto said.

“Life sometimes passes us by, and we just have to remember the great things in life,” she said. “For Sam, it was comedy and making people laugh. We’re just trying to do the same thing.”

[email protected]