Jada Gee (left) practices blocking with Alaina Saliba (right) prior to the cancellation of UD’s spring musical “Chicago.” Photo from Grace James
Throughout the past couple of weeks, the University of Dayton has had no shortage of challenges. From the cancellation of March Madness to the abrupt transition to online learning for students and faculty, the UD community has had to face a lot of disappointment. This disappointment has also extended to student artists and performers.
Last Wednesday, the faculty directors of UD’s performance of “Chicago” made the difficult decision to cancel the show. It would have run in the Kennedy Union Boll Theater April 23-25.
I was a member of the cast in the ensemble. All of us had been rehearsing tirelessly for two months; determined to push ourselves as singers, dancers and actors. We were all concerned with learning our specific parts, but anyone with a theatre background knows that putting together a show is a team effort from beginning to end.
Rehearsing for a show is not an easy, straightforward process. Things almost always take longer than expected; choreography takes longer to learn, lines take longer to memorize and harmonies are challenging to get right. But, we (the cast) all endure these challenges for that ultimate payoff: the performance.
There is nothing quite like live theatre. I have yet to find something else that emulates the raw energy that comes with performing onstage with your cast. At least for me, performing is a fantastic blur; loud, brassy music emanating from the orchestra pit; vivid, bright colors of costumes twirling as we all dance in unison; and the thunderous wave of applause that hits you as you abruptly stand still, trying to catch your breath and take in the sound.
Of course, I am devastated that my senior musical has been cancelled. I am sad that I will never get to stand on the Boll Theatre stage and hear that one last wave of applause with my friends by my side. One of the first memories I have at UD was auditioning for my freshman musical, “Grease.” I was hoping that “Chicago” would serve as a great last memory that would tie my college experience together with the same group of friends that I hope to keep in contact with long after I graduate.
It could seem like all the time my cast mates and I spent rehearsing the same scenes over and over again will be for nothing. After all, we will never get that exhilarating payoff, that moment onstage as the applause begins and adrenaline fills you from your head to your toes.
But as I reflect on my time as a theatre actor, I realize now that the performance isn’t actually the best part. No, the best part lies in all those in-between moments during rehearsal where your castmates become your best friends.
Thinking back to all the musicals I’ve done from elementary school through college, my mind doesn’t first go to the performances themselves. Rather, I think of a moment in rehearsal where the cast couldn’t stop laughing at a joke someone made, or when we all gathered around a piano to sing together for fun before our work began. I think of all the bizarre selfies my friends and I have taken backstage, or the way my heart leapt with excitement when I saw everyone in costumes for the first time.
Moments like these are why I, and I’m sure many others, come back to the theatre time and time again—not for the performance itself, but for all the in-between moments that make theatre so special.
Even though the cast of “Chicago” did not get the final bow we all hoped for, we did get to grow and have fun together as university students doing what we love. And for that, I am truly grateful.