American Music Theatre Project to showcase three original student-produced musicals

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Graphic by Carly Schulman

The three student-produced musicals showcased by the American Music Theatre Project premiered April 1.

Diego Ramos-Bechara, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

Writing a musical involves countless hours of writing, scoring and planning, sometimes taking years to perfect — but a few Communication students completed that process in a matter of months. 

Select students enrolled in the Theatre Department’s Creating the Musical module will showcase original musicals in an online exhibition premiering April 1, hosted by the American Music Theatre Project. 

According to the Creating the Musical module’s website, students explore the art of book writing, lyric writing and composition, while also developing collaboration skills. Students finish the module with a capstone project, which involves creating an hour-long musical from scratch. 

“You can take a lot of classes focused on music direction and orchestration, as well as classes focused on songwriting and how a song fits into musical theater,” said Communication senior Ruchir Khazanchi, a student in the module. 

Khazanchi is one of seven writers whose work will be showcased in the AMTP exhibition. He co-wrote a musical entitled “A Bridge to the Moon,” which portrays the struggles of two siblings expected to work in service of their island nation while grieving the loss of their mother.

The team decided early on they did not want to stage the show over Zoom. Because the three writers were in a COVID-19 pod, they filmed the musical in-person.

“The three writers self-performed, self-accompanied and played multiple characters so that we could film the show and present it as a filmed product as opposed to a virtual show,” Khazanchi said. 

Other students in the module decided on a different modality for their musicals. Lorenzo Pipino, a Bienen senior and writer for the show “Change My Mind,” had actors record their scenes at home on their phones. He then edited and mixed the scenes and music into the final product. The show follows a young woman working for a doctor who developed a procedure allowing anyone to change a physical or emotional aspect about themselves.

“It felt like trying to film six different movies at the same time and making sure that they all look and feel the same, which is never an easy task,” Pipino said. “All of this goes before looking at line delivery, lighting and score composition, which never happens in regular films — yet it was a huge component of our process.” 

Pipino said he draws inspiration from what he feels in the moment, instead of sticking to a writing formula.

Communication junior Samara Malik, the director of the show and a Daily reporter, said she was grateful to be involved in “Change My Mind” and praised Pipino’s leadership. 

“(Pipino) would let us read the script and let us figure it out ourselves,” Malik said. “If he saw something in our performance that he didn’t see before, he would modify the script to preserve the actor’s interpretation.”

Communication senior John Ertman — a writer for “Alone,” a show about the fallout of a teenage pregnancy — said he had to put in more effort in a campus theatre production than usual. 

The virtual format, Ertman said, challenged him more than an in-person experience, which allowed him to grow as a writer. He said his goal was to make the plot so engaging it distracted the audience from the performance being a virtual one instead of live.

“It’s disappointing that we can’t have a cast in the same room and talk to everybody,” Ertman said. “At the same time, what this allowed us to do was really focus on the musical storytelling.” 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @D_Ramos42 

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