Nico Waltenbury, USC News | Posted: Saturday, November 23rd, 2019 12:30pm
Theatre Western has been a focal part of fourth-year Music student Joshua Patrick’s journey at Western. Now the Coordinator of the USC program, Patrick reflected on his experience with Theatre Western before the third night of the 2019 fall play, Present Laughter, on Friday.
“I sometimes tell my friends that I pay my tuition just so I can do Theatre Western,” he joked when discussing all the shows he has done over the past four years.
Patrick’s first interaction with the program was during the 2017 Spring musical, A Chorus Line. He has since been involved in every show, first as a cast member, then as a crew. Arguably considered a natural stepping stone, he was hired as the student Coordinator of the program last spring after serving as the Producer of Chicago.
Theatre Western is a student-run production company supported by the University’s Students’ Council. Each year, the program produces a fall play and spring musical. The cast and crew are primarily Western undergraduate students, but the shows appeal to an audience that extends beyond the campus community. Students, staff, faulty, Londoners, and family and friends of the cast and crew and have enjoyed Theatre Western’s productions since 1982.
In his current role, Patrick acts as the artistic director for Theatre Western as a whole and serves as a co-producer for the program’s various productions throughout the year. Come showtime, Theatre Western’s executive team lends a helping hand to the cast and crew wherever needed. Tactically, Patrick sets policy for the program, helps select and cast the shows, and most importantly, creates a structure that allows for the most personal and artistic growth for students involved.
Patrick describes the program as a learning environment that allows students to explore their passion for the arts, or serve as a stepping stone for those interested in entering the industry post-graduation. He is quick to point out that students from across faculties participate in the shows every year – students from science, engineering, and economics are participating in this year’s show.
Present Laughter has eleven student cast members, supported by nine student crew, plus Patrick. The group have been rehearsing the show every weekend since the end of September, in addition to time each cast member spends memorizing their lines.
USC Student Programs Officer Cecilia Liu, who oversees Theatre Western, explained that the USC’s events and building services team provides support to the program through booking rehearsal and performance space, building the set, and administering the online ticketing system. The real stars of the show, she insists, are the student cast and crew.
“I got to enjoy the show on Thursday and am constantly amazed by what our students are able to pull off in two short months,” said Liu, a graduate of Western’s Music program herself.
“Theatre Western is a catalyst for exposing students from across our campus to the arts at Western,” Liu added, “I’m incredibly proud of Josh for being such an impactful leader for his team and I’m already looking forward to next semester’s spring musical.”
The program is about more than just the two productions per year, Patrick emphasized. He noted that the program is used as an “escape” for the cast and crew. “It helps us get away from the daily struggles of being a student.”
Not only has Patrick made many lifelong friends through Theatre Western, he shared how the program has helped him while dealing with his own mental health challenges.
“I’ve struggled with my mental health for a very long time,” Patrick explained, “but the people at Theatre Western have supported me with so much.”
“These projects allow me to be proud of myself and understand that even though I’m dealing with these challenges in my personal life, I’m able to be a part of something bigger that lets me feel good about myself because I know it’s so special.”
Liu noted that many Western students find fulfillment and validation in the arts. Beyond the impact the program has on individual students, theatre also allows the audience to reflect on who they are as people, and what we are as a society.
“Good theatre creates conversation and brings people together,” Patrick adds.
When asked about his goal as Coordinator of Theatre Western, Patrick’s message was clear: “every day I try to create a fun and inclusive environment for our cast and crew and promote theatre and the arts for the whole Western community.”
Present Laughter, a British comedy by Noel Coward, runs its final show tonight at 8:00pm in the Mustang Lounge. Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased online or at the door, while quantities last.