UR’s International Theatre Program premiered their new show “Fellowship” at Sloan Theater on Sept. 29.
Written by Sam Chanse, directed by Dominique Rider, and commissioned through alumna Natalie Hurst ‘74 and the New Voice Initiative, the show exhibits the interpersonal conflicts between four women of color as they navigate both a liberally-sensitive workplace and how the differences between them and their colleagues affect their insecurities and treatment of each other.
“Fellowship” was initially scheduled for performance in the Spring 2020 semester prior to its cancellation due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Three years later, it is here for its long-awaited moment in the literal spotlight.
“We’ve had, I don’t know, two and a half casts, three directors, two design teams — I mean, it’s had three years of gestation, but had one playwright who flew all the way from California to be here,” said Artistic Director Nigel Maister about the show and playwright Chanse, who was lauded after the show. “I’m really, really thrilled and glad that [“Fellowship”] had the chance to flower and see the light of day and be brought into the world at the University of Rochester.”
Due to performances starting about a month into the start of classes, the actors in the show auditioned last semester and started rehearsals on Aug. 26. Similarly, some of the crew has been part of various stages of the production of “Fellowship” over its three-year postponement.
“It’s really fascinating, from both a personal point of view and an acoustic perspective — I was actually part of building pieces of the set when I took a technical theater class in the Fall 2020 semester,” said junior and Audiovisual Engineer Svetlana Pack. “There were no shows going on, for obvious reasons, so the only thing we could do was build flats for Fellowship in advance. There was something really poetic about getting to come back and work in a really strong technical capacity on a show that I contributed a little bit to start with.”
Students both old and new were in attendance for the show and subsequent celebration due to its premiere being, in part, the kick-off to Meliora Weekend. When asked about their thoughts on the performance, alum Jillian Breithaupt ‘21 expressed their connection with the subject matter of the show.
“I didn’t know anything about it going in, so it kinda caught me off guard. I think it tackles a lot of modern systemic issues in a very specific way which was really interesting […] Edie’s character, and the mention of ‘oh, common Western European last name!’ Well, Breithaupt fits right in there, so I really identified a lot with that. And, being from a middle class white family, the issues of that and feeling like you don’t belong, like you haven’t been affected as much by issues like that definitely resonated with me.”
DDespite its expedited timeline and recurring setbacks, “Fellowship” resulted in an overarching success for the Theatre Department and its contributors.
“The feeling of it all coming together — the sound, the costumes, everything just transforming — it’s just amazing,” junior and costume shop intern Isabella Kelly said. “Once you get to a point where you know exactly what you’re doing after hours of experimentation, you feel this sense of satisfaction that is unrivaled by anything else. It just feels fantastic.”