Have you ever wondered what the Drake University Theatre Arts Department does on a Friday night? Last Friday night you could find them in the Fine Arts Center begging their family and friends for money. Or, as Monica Lani, the master of ceremony for the evening, would say more eloquently, a way to “ask for pocket change to restore a shrinking art.”
“The money goes to Drake Theatre People, an organization for the theater department,” said Ben Ranaan, a senior in charge of organizing the event. “It will help fund events and student productions that don’t get support from the theater department, for props and stuff.”
Each class (first-years, sophomores, juniors and seniors) performed music and scenes from a different decade, and then at the end of the night, the audience could put money into whichever class’s jar they liked best. It was a fundraiser, but also a competition between the classes.
“There was a different leader for each class,” Raanan said. “They were given a decade and then they could assign songs and scenes however they wanted.”
The freshmen opened the evening with selections from the Golden Age of Theatre, the 1940s and ‘50s. The women performed “America” from “West Side Story” and the men did a rendition of “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” from “Guys and Dolls.” Then, Tanaya Thomas and Moria Sutherland did a scene from “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and they ended their section with another Guys and Dolls song, “Kids.”
The sophomores were up next with the Obscure ‘60s and ‘70s. Kent Reynolds and Maura Gillespie sang, “I Won’t Send Roses” from “Mack and Mable,” one of the most memorable scores of all time about a director in love with his lead actress. April Culver and Tyler Lubinus acted out a scene from “Rhinoceros.” Luke Tourville performed “Cell Block Tango” from “Chicago” with six women of the department.
“I think the idea for the fundraiser is incredible,” said Maura Gillespie, a sophomore musical theater major. “It’s really fun and entertaining. Plus, we get to show off.”
The ‘80s and ‘90s consisted of huge extravaganzas: large casts, big props and special effects. Shows such as “Phantom of the Opera,” “Rent” and “Cats” first came out during these years. The juniors presented selections from these shows, but not quite to the extent of a Broadway show.
“Now this is a low-budget production, otherwise all of our fundraising would go to smashed chandeliers,” Lani joked.
Ken Matt Martin, the only male in the junior class, started the spectacle portion of the evening with “Feet’s Too Big” from “Ain’t Misbehavin.” Katie Englen reminisced about the class’s freshman and sophomore years with “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from “Phantom of the Opera.” Lauren Knutson and Briana Wright performed “Take Me or Leave Me” from Rent. And, despite the pleas of her fellow classmates, Carrie Gabbert sang a lovely “Memory” from “Cats.”
In the last decade, there have been many productions that were not quite as amazing. Musicals such as “Shrek,” “Legally Blonde” and “High School Musical” have been the best that the millennium has produced.
The seniors of the theater department chose pieces from some of the better productions in the last decade. “Please Don’t Touch Me” from “Young Frankenstein” was sung by Cayla Marie Wolpers. Makha Mthembu did a scene titled “Tomorrow’s Wish,” and Sierra White sang “A Part of That” from “The Last Five Years.” Raanan sang a touching “Light in the Dark” from “Next to Normal,” and the emcee, Lani, performed a rated R scene from “Professional Sex Ed” titled “Sexual Education.” The evening then ended with “Lesbian Love Story” from “The Wild Party,” sang by Emily Draffen.
The 39 performers raised $559.60 all together. The freshman class won the competition by raising $243.
If you’re interested in checking out the talents of the theater department at Drake, be sure to see the production of “Bare” showing Nov. 11-14.