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The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

A backstage pass to The Show


What the crowd doesn’t normally see is that Bethel University’s annual tradition of Welcome Week theatrics takes plenty of behind-the-scenes coordination. 

By Soraya Keiser and Sarah Bakeman

6:45 p.m.

Maddie Kurth tapes a sign reading “Do Not Enter Do Not Enter! Please” on the left hallway door of Benson Great Hall in black pen and loopy letters. Although it’s typically the main entrance for Vespers, choir performances and chapel, tonight it’s reserved for Welcome-Weekers-turned-actors. Backpacks and water bottles are strewn along the floor as volunteers decked in all black rest against the walls, talking in hushed tones and scrolling on phones. In 15 minutes, The Show will start and Kurth will take on multiple roles throughout its run time: a ticket collector, a Nelson dorm resident and a powderpuff player.

“Lord, I thank you that you created humor and you created joy. And Lord, I pray that we would be a reflection of that joy.” – Rachel Lane, Community Committee Head

Kurth is part of Welcome Week, Bethel’s annual collection of events centered around welcoming freshmen and celebrating a new school year. One of the highlights of the week is The Show, a student-made production embracing campus humor through skits, stereotypes and inside jokes. 

Community Committee Head Rachel Lane quickly shushes the cast and crew before explaining that she wants to pray before the performance. 

“Lord, I thank you that you created humor and you created joy,” Lane said as a part of the prayer. “And Lord, I pray that we would be a reflection of that joy.”

The prayer is followed by a scattering of “Amens,” followed by clapping hands and a chant echoing off the stuffy, narrow walls of the hallway.

“Dedicated, dedicated, downright motivated!”

7:00 p.m.

Stage Manager Macy Castilleja stands behind a jittery group of actors. The lights dim and Castilleja waves her hands in excitement before clasping them to her chest. After hours of prep, it’s finally happening. The Show is about to begin. 

Olivia Nienaber mikes up a Welcome Weeker playing the part of a Bodien resident. With only eight microphones to share between all of the actors, Nienaber has a spreadsheet taped on the wall detailing who needs microphones at each scene switch during the performance’s runtime. | Photo by Bella Haveman

“The hair hat is missing!” Castilleja yells down the hallway as first-scene actors are miked up by Olivia Nienaber. 

7:11 p.m.

Bethel Student Government finishes their portion of the evening and Welcome Week actors posing as freshmen dorm cheer captains run out onto stage with flags to participate in The Amazing Race, which is the theme of this year’s show. Eight minutes later, after introducing all of the freshmen dorms and their respective stereotypes, Emma Studenski turns back to the crowd. 

Emma Studenski laughs between improvised lines as she hosts The Show. Studenski took on the role only four days before the performance. “It was really something special,” Studenski said. “The community came around and supported me in this role even when I didn’t think I could do it.” | Photo by Kathryn Kovalenko

Media-production-major-turned-show-host Studenski knows the plot and general flow of the show. However, the bulk of her lines will be improvised. Only four days earlier, the original host could no longer fill the role, and Studenski was asked to fill in. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, the commuters!”

She turns, but the spotlight remains empty. After one more try, Sydney Lapp runs out carrying the commuter flag. One of the most obvious jokes of the night is that commuters are always late, and always seen with a Starbucks cup or empty Celsius can in hand.

The technical crew had to be prepared for two alternate endings to The Show. Depending on if the cheers were louder for Nelson or Bodien Hall, the crew was ready to shine either blue or orange lights on the stage. After an on-stage faceoff between dorms, The Show ended with a victory for Nelson. | Photo by Bella Haveman

7:22 p.m.

Past a backstage filled with a drum set, choir risers and lots of wires, stage left is the darker twin to stage right. Emma Lovell emerges grinning from the darkness, having just banged a DC cart across the stage, mimicking the regular interruption across the Brushaber Commons.

Lovell is part of the Communications and Marketing Committee, which means that she is typically behind the scenes dealing with social media, designing T-shirts and procuring fanny packs for the crew.

“My goal was just not to fall,” Lovell said, having fallen in rehearsal a few days prior. But her 15 seconds of fame went off without a hitch and she quickly returned to the hallway of actors waiting for the next scene.

7:29 p.m.

Stage Manager Emily Lewis listens to the echoing, distorted audio of the scene playing out on stage as she stands in the safety of backstage. 

Dressed in all black, Stage Manager Emily Lewis laughs with a bundled-up Alyse Peterson. The backstage area is a mess of broomball sticks, hats and gloves as actors prepare to act out a scene about intramurals. | Photo by Bella Haveman

“This is my favorite part,” she says.

Lewis applied for Welcome Week while sitting on a red chaise couch on Benson’s stage. The couch was part of the set for “The Marriage of Figaro,” Bethel’s spring opera. She had stage managed and set designed not only for this performance, but also for Bethel’s fall 2022 production of “The Tempest,” spring production of “Steel Magnolias” and Festival of Christmas, all while being a nursing student. 

“Anything theater-related is my side gig. I have a passion for healthcare,” Lewis said. “I want to be a trauma nurse. I want to put people back together.”

Lewis tells Castilleja she wants to do set design for Bethel’s next musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” as well as Festival of Christmas. She mentions she was a dancer for 15 years, so maybe she can also create some of the choreography for the musical. 

“She does too much,” Castilleja said, even though both of them had spent the days before spray-painting props and creating flags and signs on lunch breaks while listening to worship music. Lewis describes the experience as “restful.”

7:39 p.m.

After opening the stage door for actors decked out in winter clothes and broomball sticks, Kalin Johnson moves to watch the performance through the two-way mirror built into the wall. As her stage crew partner Christiana Kimbell runs to get more props, Johnson has two jobs: watching the show for cues and making sure the door is opened at the right time. She quickly runs from the two-way mirror to let defeated Edgren broomballers exit stage left. 

Christiana Kimbell watches the performance through the two-way mirror on stage left. As a member of the stage crew, Kimbell helps make sure that props are in order, cues are followed and set pieces are moved at the right time. After running through the scenes so many times, Kimbell has the entire thing almost completely memorized. | Photo by Soraya Keiser

After watching so many run-throughs, Johnson and Kimbell practically have it memorized.

7:44 p.m.

Luke Daenzer is momentarily unrecognizable as he sprints off stage. Removing the helmet of the Roy the Lion costume, he gestures wildly for help instead of using words – in true mascot fashion. He can’t unbutton the back of the costume himself. 

And after standing under spotlights and returning to a muggy, body-filled hallway, he’s eager to get the fuzzy outfit off. A girl decked out in Nelson-orange clothing undoes the clasps, freeing Daenzer. 

Welcome Weekers run through the end-of-show dance routine the day before the final performance. The routine was choreographed by Ally Stackhouse and Rachel Lane, featuring blackflips, aerials and a pop-song mashup. | Photo by Bella Haveman

In 15 seconds flat, Daenzer abandons the Roy suit, leaving the shell of the mascot on the floor. He puts on a gray hoodie to go with his black joggers, but his tennis shoes are missing. After taking a moment to think, he lifts the leg of the empty Roy suit and locates his shoes. Sliding them on, he finds a Bodien sign, holds it up and gets ready for the next scene.

Daenzer joins a crowd of other actors in black, orange, yellow and blue – the colors of the freshman dorms – as Lewis yells a “You’ve got this!”

7:45 p.m. 

President Ross Allen joins the cast and crew backstage before his entrance on stage. His wife Annie Allen is all decked out in orange Nelson swag.

“Surprise!” Annie says, resulting in a chuckle from Allen and the crew. 

“Where did you get all that?” Allen asks as he moves over to allow her to see more of the performance through the two-way mirror. 

Playing out on stage is a homecoming battle between the last two remaining halls — Bodien and Nelson. Studenski announces celebrity guests on the stage, and Allen and Annie appear with cheers from the crowd.

After another round of applause, Allen and Annie make their way back to their seats as the scene continues. 

Nelson is crowned the winner of The Amazing Race.

8:02 p.m.

Dan Magu is the first to reach backstage after the homecoming scene. 

“Water, water!” he yells.

It’s a first-come-first-serve policy, and a line quickly forms at the drinking fountain.

Another actor yells, “I can’t get it off!” as he attempts to pull gray sweatpants off over his shoes, revealing black shorts underneath. 

Jessie Smith runs through the four-minute long end-of-show dance routine during a rehearsal the day before The Show. Welcome Weekers started rehearsals a week before the final performance, devoting hours to memorizing and synchronizing the choreography.  | Photo by Bella Haveman

8:25 p.m.

Backstage becomes a traffic jam as people quickly trade their hall colors for the all-black uniform of a Welcome Week dancer. Soon all of the cast and crew are out on stage, putting their remaining energy into dance moves choreographed to a pop-filled musical mash-up. 

“I met so many really amazing people that have taken me in and brought me in, and I wanted to give this year’s freshmen that sort of experience.” – Macy Castilleja, Stage Manager

They finish with another chant and lots of cheering before exiting stage right. Castilleja is overjoyed by how the evening panned out. 

“I didn’t love high school, so coming in as a freshman last year … I was so determined to make Bethel my home,” Castilleja said. “I met so many really amazing people that have taken me in and brought me in, and I wanted to give this year’s freshmen that sort of experience.”

Despite the success of The Show, the cast and crew aren’t done. Only after strike — the time when the set is dismantled, props are returned and the stage is cleaned — are they free to go

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