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Behind the Scenes: Spring Theatre Production Opens on April 14


Editor’s Note: Warning; vulgarity used in title.
Communications and Marketing Office student writer Alyssa Samuels ’25 shares her experience as musical director for the spring theatre production of Suzan-Lori Parks’ play
Fucking A, which opens on April 14.

If you were to ask me to describe my life in three words, I would say “music and theatre” without a second thought. From the moment I could physically utter sounds, I performed: singing to my toys, moving them around in stories with me playing every part. But often, my two interests remain somewhat separated; a musician exists in an ensemble, and acting is at home in a staged play. So, when the opportunity to do both at once presents itself, I grasp onto it as soon and as long as I can.

This brings me to my journey of both musical directing and performing in Hamilton's

Alyssa Samuels 25
Alyssa Samuels '25 Photo: Markos Lissarrague '25

 upcoming mainstage production of Fucking A. I have vocal directed before, in high school, but I was always an actor first. I never really had the capacity to make decisions regarding the music of a show, only to teach what had already been approved. Suddenly I was thrust into the role of interpreting the meanings and styles of each song, and even arranging some of them to include instruments not part of the original score. I recognized that I had a chance to create and combine my two passions in a way that was uniquely my own.

From the moment rehearsals for our production began, there was a strong sense of collaboration. This is an ensemble show, but not in the way one would usually expect. Most of the characters interact one on one, in a series of mostly disconnected scenes; however, what the cast does offstage is just as important as the actual plot. The story focuses on dark themes, such as abortion and the inherent corruption present in our prison system, but it does so in a way that is purely Brechtian. Basically, we, the actors and production team, exist to remind anyone in the audience that what they are seeing parallels reality and is not just an imaginary story.                                                                                    

Spring Theatre Production fucking a

Directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Jeanne Willcoxon

Performances:  April 14, 16, 20, 21, 22, 23 at 7:30 p.m.; April 16 at 2 p.m.

Romano Theatre in the Kennedy Center for Theatre and Studio Arts (KTSA) 

buy tickets here 

Everyone participates in our journey to embrace Brecht, from our recent addition of actors playing barking dogs to the technical team’s efforts to project certain lines from the play across screens on the set in real time. None of these stylized features came on their own, or even just from the mind of our director, [Assistant Professor of Theatre] Jeanne Willcoxon. Rather, at every rehearsal, we all came in and “made choices.” On any given day of rehearsal, an actor would add a new motivation or gesture to their character, an assistant stage manager might suggest innovative ways to solve logistical problems with the set, or even me, both as an actor and the musical director, would continually be developing the metaphor of the show by bouncing ideas off anyone who would listen.

As rehearsals went on, we started to focus on replicating the chaotic yet jazzy style of Fucking A’s score with live musicians. In one song, “Hard Times,” I decided to compose a harmonica and bass part to accompany the vocal and piano already in the score. Although I knew next to nothing about harmonica going into the project, I felt I had to take it on to both push myself and to properly express the tragic yet relevant nature of our show. After discussing ideas with Professor Willcoxon, I knew that the harmonica had to become a literal echo of the characters’ woes; the instrument naturally has that mournful tone.

When the lights shine on opening night, I won’t just be backstage going over notes. I will be on stage, making various sound effects, accompanying songs, and performing a small role in scene 19. I love the feeling of being a part of both worlds, as I’ve experienced the work behind the sets, the interpretations, but am still discovering new choices to make as my character in real time. It is, more than the other shows I’ve performed in, apparent to me that theatre is akin to a living, breathing, organism.

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