"The Wild Party" incorporates 1920s party lifestyle with today's college culture

By Jen Lassen
Arts & Life Editor

Who knew that 1920s vaudeville parallels a stereotypical college weekend?

Although it was a way over-the-top representation, the theatre department’s production of “The Wild Party” set out to define–and show the dangers of–a liberated lifestyle.

The musical, set in 1928, explores the craziness of an evening after everyone’s lives are seemingly falling apart. At this point in time, vaudeville performance lost its luster, drugs offered solace to desperate burnouts and hopeful wannabes and people were rapidly giving up on their dreams. It was a bleak time for most; any glimmer of happiness seemed to come in the form of letting loose without any restraints.

Cast members Eve Carlson ’12 and Michael Strauss ’14 starred in the production as Queenie and Burrs, respectively. These two vaudevillians set the party and plot in motion, making one destructive decision after another and bringing their guests down with them. These decisions included taking cocaine, having sex with random party guests and guzzling down gin and other kinds of alcohol.

This production was intended for mature audiences only, as stated on the tickets for the show.

“We haven’t really done something like this before; it explores one social ‘taboo’ after the other,” Pat Shane ’12 said. 

One of the least verbal characters in the musical, yet one that required the most discipline to seem authentic, was Sally, played by Hannah Cordes ’15. Sally, a morphine addict, depicted how jaded and damaged one can become after years of making careless choices.

“I had to push myself a lot; it was definitely a challenge [to play Sally] … We practiced six times a week for four hours a day, but it was crazy fun,” Cordes said.

Each character was individually developed to seem as real and personal as possible. Assistant director Victoria Moyer ’13 worked on character development with each member of the cast.

“Each character had to go through different ‘therapy sessions’ and interviews to really explore each character. It’s a completely different side of musical theatre; there are so many elements to it,” Moyer said.

Costume and design was also a major element of this production. From the intricate beading to the gossamer fabric characteristic of the 1920s, the costume design department worked diligently to create authentic pieces of clothing for the actors to wear. 

“It was difficult finding the right type of fabric. Everything was so sheer and delicate in the 1920s; that type of fabric is hard to withstand the stress actors put on it. We used silhouettes that were completely authentic,” assistant costume director Jessica Napoli ’12 said.

Representative of the destructive decisions many college students make on campuses nationwide, “The Wild Party” performance came at a very relevant time and offered a warning to University students.

“The characters in the show [made] destructive choices. I felt that it was a real, rewarding and truthful show. It has helped me to understand the University attitude more,” John Thiel ’13 said.

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