Sidney Harman Program presents ‘And Then There Was Us’

Maya Demchak-Gottlieb

Baruch College’s student production for this fall is an original musical titled “And Then There Was Us.” The production is written by students of the spring 2021 Sidney Harman Program in collaboration with Stew, the Tony Award-winning playwright who was the semester’s writer-in-residence. The production will run from Nov. 15 through Nov. 21.

“This is an original play so we get to bring it to life,” Rupali Begum, an actor in the production, said.

The production is a compilation of five different stories united by the shared theme of self-discovery.

“It’s little bits in one big show. Every piece has an important tie-in and they all get tied together,” Zahra Jean, who is also acting in the production, said.

The different stories are also all relatable; in sharing their voice and their stories the writers of the production connect with their audience.

“It’s a story about you,” Begum said. “Everyone can relate to one part of the story in one way or another.”

Sable Gravesandy, a writer for the production, also shared how the writers drew inspiration from their own life experiences.

“Even though all of our stories have different ages I think everybody is trying to work through traumatic moments in their lives or situations in which they’re being forced to confront something that perhaps they didn’t know about themselves,” she said.

While each of the writers created their own story, they worked in collaboration with each other.

“In class we gave each other a lot of feedback. We heard each other’s stories and told each other what we liked and what we thought the other person could work on,” Gravesandy said.

The rest of the production was also a collaboration between different creatives. The writing, music, staging and performers all worked together to create the finished show.

“Stew wrote the music and the students wrote the lyrics and then we’ve been figuring it out as we go along and changing things based on the staging that Chris is doing and what the students have discovered in the room,” Greg Kenna, the musical director for the production, said.

The cooperative nature of the production team played a vital role in tying the individual shows together. The students involved in the production emphasized the impact of the community created —especially after the pandemic drastically limited participation in the arts and prevented in-person collaboration.

“It’s a group, it’s a family, we all work together, we’re a team,” Rebecca DiSaverio, an actor in the production, said.

The actors in the production were also passionate about their roles. Actor Michelle Medina, who plays Candy in the production, described the connection she feels with her character.

“I’m her and she’s me. When I’m on stage I’m not Michelle, I’m Candy,” she said.

The writing in the production is designed to make the characters relatable to the audience as well as the actors.

Writer Nicole Nelson described the concept behind her story. “This is a series of monologue rants based on the people in New York City that many of us view as ‘crazy’ leading us to dismiss them. Therefore, I wrote these monologues so the audience can hear the things they need to, despite not wanting to,” she said.

“I wrote everything I’ve always wanted to say but never had the courage to say out loud.”

The production concludes with a final song that epitomizes the show as a whole. Baruch student Ursula Hansberry wrote the final song in addition to contributing several other original songs to the production.

“I ended up writing a song that was about just being young and not really knowing where you’re going and being told that’s okay. I think it’s good for people our age to know that you don’t need to know,” Hansberry said.

The shared sense of exploration conveyed in the stories provides a glimpse into the challenges faced by everyone who’s on a journey of self-discovery.

“I am excited for the audience to see these young voices and their stories come to life,” Christopher Scott, the director for the production said.