Students, parents and faculty filled the University of Virginia’s Chemistry Building Auditorium this weekend to see admissions essays from the class of 2017 come alive – with a little help from student improv artists and comedians – at Spectrum Theatre’s annual production of “Voices of the Class.”
Each year, the “Voices of the Class” cast and crew receive a batch of application essays written by students in the first-year class – stripped of any identifying information, – that are compiled by deans from the Office of Admission. For two weeks, these students develop comedy sketches based on quotes and themes from these essays.
This year, 17 cast and crew members worked collaboratively to create a fresh production, based on essays from the class of 2017. Their sketches ranged in subject matter as they tackled the college essay-writing process, U.Va. social life and encounters with awkward roommates.
Actor and director Denise Taylor, a third-year government and Middle Eastern studies major in the College of Arts & Sciences, said that writing is her favorite aspect of the group’s creative process. “This show is also extra special because some of our sketches include musical comedy, and writing and composing those parts was a lot of fun for me,” Taylor wrote in an email.
After two weeks of writing, the cast and crew rehearse for two more weeks before presenting their sketches to the newest members of the U.Va. student body.
Not only is “Voices of the Class” an opportunity for students to write and produce original material, but it also serves as an informal welcome for students beginning their first year. “I know what it’s like to be a first-year, and this is a really great tool to help first-years acclimate to their new environment,” said the show’s executive producer, Lauren Lukow, a fourth-year drama and arts administration major. “It exposes them to the theatrical and arts scene at U.Va., and it also gives them a really good picture of … what the next four years are going to be like at U.Va.”Many of the cast members are involved in other improv or sketch comedy groups around Grounds, including the Whethermen, Amuse Bouche and La Petite Teet. For students such as second-year Charlotte Raskovich, “Voices of the Class” serves as “an extension of the other comedy groups at U.Va.”
University President Teresa A. Sullivan attended the last performance of “Voices of the Class” on Sunday. She chatted with students and parents before and after the performance and posed for pictures with the cast and crew.
“I think these kids have a future in improv,” she said. “They are in the tradition of Tina Fey.”
— by Dana Cypress