This semester, Oglethorpe University Theatre students bring you the Broadway showcase “UnPlug Broadway”!
Since the pandemic began, theatre performers have had a tough time finding ways to perform safely. Not only was it hazardous to pack an audience into a theatre, but it was also difficult to get together for rehearsal. Despite this, Oglethorpe artists have continued to innovate performance, with a digital, student-written play last year and a limited-capacity, socially-distanced performance of Eugene Ionsesco’s “The Bald Soprano” last fall.
By this semester, Associate Professor of Theatre Matt Huff had hoped campus life would function more normally, but the threat of COVID-19 remained. Oglethorpe Theatre needed a new way to allow students to practice their craft, while performing safely and having fun. With the help of an Oglethorpe theatre alum and a local musician, their newest endeavor “UnPlug Broadway” was born.
“UnPlug Broadway” is a showcase of classic and pop musical theatre songs that have been stripped down and re-imagined into acoustic, folk or bluegrass songs. The show includes performances from eight students and features songs from Hamilton, Mama Mia, Wicked, The Little Mermaid and More.
“UnPlug Broadway” made sense logistically. If a performer fell ill or needed to quarantine, their part in the show could easily be cut. It was the perfect show to perform — fun and energetic, while still being safe.
The students had a blast working on it and the rehearsal process was very collaborative,” says Huff, “I couldn’t be happier with what they created.”
“UnPlug Broadway” student performers included Asim Javed ’21, Caroline Gammage ’23, Veronica Mitchell ’22, Wynne Kelly ’24, Zion Glenn ’23, Tiara Evans ’24, Joy Carpenter ’24, and Rachael Morris ’24.
Though the students intended to perform the showcase for a small crowd, campus entered a two-week partial lockdown due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases at the time of their performance. Luckily, the entire performance was recorded and made available online.
It was OU alumna Jessica De Maria ’11 and local musician Chance Michael Wall who helped Oglethorpe students a develop the show. When De Maria was brought in to help brainstorm a program, she suggested using Wall’s arrangements of popular Broadway songs that would eventually become “UnPlug Broadway.”
“I absolutely adored working on this project,” says De Maria, “It’s always a great pleasure to me to return to Oglethorpe in any context and I was thrilled Matt asked me to put something together for his students.”
De Maria, who graduated from Oglethorpe with a degree in Theatre and a minor in Shakespeare and Renaissance Studies, has been a working professional actress in the Atlanta area since 2012. She has appeared on multiple stages throughout the city, including Alliance Theatre, Horizon Theatre, The Atlanta Lyric Theatre, Theatrical Outfit and more. In addition to acting, she has found work as a writer and director, with her first co-written show going to the 2016 New York Musical Theatre Festival and her show “VIVIAN” produced at the Lyric Studio in the Square in 2017.
“These students were warm, collaborative, kind and so very gifted,” says De Maria, “They were always up for a challenge and honesty worked ridiculously hard in and out of the rehearsal room.”