When University of Dallas student Alejandro Trevino asked a group of us at UD to be a part of the musical “The Last 5 Years” in New Braunfels, Texas, over Christmas break, none of us really knew what to expect. We’ve all done theater in and outside of school for years; but for most of us, this would be the first time we would be doing such a big project, and doing it on our own. We did know that we wanted to give it a try.
There were six of us from UD brought in to work on the project (seven if you count Gabe Hugoboom, who did a year at UD before moving to Los Angeles last year to pursue his career). Senior Thomas Sorensen was set designer. Juniors Michael Jarvis, Kate Chiappe and Amanda Werley were light designer, stage manager and assistant director respectively. Sophomore Dolores Hernadez was Assistant Stage Manager, and I was the costume designer.
Things got big for us a week before we started rehearsals, when we received the news that we had had a write-up on Playbill.com, the main website for any and all professional theater news. This is
something senior drama majors have to read daily in senior seminar to keep updated with regular theater happenings and events. We were so thrilled and excited that I didn’t even care at that point that my name had been misspelled in the article. After that, there were articles and reviews everywhere; it was bigger than we had expected it to be. This was a little scary: People were actually paying attention and would see the work that we UD students did.
We flew in the last week of December. This meant that we had ten days to work on the show, a time exponentially shorter than the normal rehearsal period. Think about it: At UD, we get a full semester (roughly) to work on something. At night, we held production meetings and rehearsals; by day, we all worked on our own individual jobs; during this time I think I visited every single Goodwill in the greater San Antonio area in search of scarves, wedding dresses and light-up Christmas sweaters. We all lived together in the Trevino home, along with the main actress Lindsay Pearce of Glee Project and Glee fame, an extremely sweet and down-to-earth girl, despite the fact that she is on TV and had just finished a musical in LA with Neil Patrick Harris.
Michael Jarvis said, “It was great because we were working with people who were our friends, not just co-workers, but people who were all there to support each other.”
We worked hard through everything, late nights and early mornings. There were some stressful days and some good days, but the whole time we were having an amazing experience.
Opening night was one of the greatest moments of our lives: People came in by the hundreds to see the show from all over the United States and Canada, and they lined up for hours after the show to get pictures with Lindsay. Not to mention, we had a five-minute standing ovation. The production team had the first row in the balcony to ourselves. We sat together and watched the show for the first time as audience instead of production team, and, if we do say so ourselves, it was amazing. When it ended we all hugged and squealed and confused the group of young tween Glee fans sitting behind us (who I think assumed that we just really, really loved the show). It was interesting to look and see all those people there; all I could think was, “Wow, why would they want to come see something we did? We’re just students!”
Upon returning to school, I went into the drama office where Professor Kyle Lemieux, chair of the department, saw me.
“Jessie!” he said. “How was San Antonio?”
“It was a great show,” I replied.
He responded, “I don’t care about the show being good, I just care that you guys actually did it.”
And in the end, I think that’s what we got out of the show most of all, that we could do it. Maybe, despite our inevitable years spent playing the roles of waiters and baristas once we graduate with our degrees in drama, we can continue to do it. So here’s to “The Last Five Years,” the next five years, and what they hold. This isn’t just for the drama majors and their future endeavors and adventures, but for the rest of UD as well. And here’s to Playbill spelling my name correctly the next time around.