by Sophia Tran (’24) | March 29, 2021
From Thursday, March 18, to Sunday, March 21, Saint Francis’s annual student-run musical hit the stage with a new COVID-safe format, showcasing the sweet, bluegrass-style musical Bright Star. Yet the transition to a virtual performance did not inhibit students from organizing a stunning show. From its swinging bluegrass tunes to its moving romantic story, Bright Star was one full package.
Jack Whitlow (’21), the director of Bright Star, shared the reason he chose this specific musical to direct. “I first saw the show about two years ago, and I remember it being a show like no other… I’d never been so blind-sided by characters on stage,” he recounted. Bright Star revolves around a middle-aged woman named Alice Murphy. Taking place in the 1920s and 1940s, the story switches from Alice’s time as a wild, flirtatious teenager to a successful magazine editor in Asheville, North Carolina, as she finds a surprising revelation about promising writer Billy Cane. Jack knew that this unique storyline would be perfect for his talented peers to take on when the applications for the student-run musical came along. He also had his own goals to establish a firmly inclusive musical for all the students: since this musical is the Concert Version, all student performers would have a chance to be on stage. There was high importance put on not only the leading actors but also the ensemble.
Along with the thrilling Southern story they performed, the students behind the show have their own stories to tell in the making of their production—the crew had their share of accomplishments and obstacles. Especially in the midst of a pandemic, Jack had his fears as a director. It was hard to figure out the best way to run the musical, whether it be finding time to rehearse together or safely showcase the final product. One specific challenge students encountered while preparing for the show was safely maneuvering throughout the scenes. Every single move counted, and the distance barrier made it difficult to direct everyone at once. Despite challenges like these, Jack believes that creating the show virtually was a victory of its own. Students taking part in the show were still able to grow closer to one another through cast bonding time during rehearsals, where they played games with each other from Among Us to Kahoot.
More than 100 people watched the sensational student-run production of Bright Star. Jack was proud of the work accomplished by his cast and crew after months of hard work. He shared what he was proudest to see as its director: “Each and every performer gained a new work ethic to use towards putting on this show,” Jack said. “Just seeing this dream of mine become a reality, I think the biggest takeaway is that nothing is ever out of reach… I feel like I’ve proven that, the actors have proven that, and I certainly believe my team has proven that.”