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Hannah Choi / Senior Staff Photographer

Director Shelly Farmer, BC ’14, re-imagined “Candide” to follow a theater troupe that was itself performing “Candide” for the Columbia Musical Theatre Society’s fall performance of the show.

This article is part of a special issue looking back at the 2012-13 academic year. Read the rest of the issue here.

With productions featuring everything from nudity, to cannibalism, to "Generation Meh," Columbia theater has had a wild year. Let's take a moment to look back at some of the best productions from the fall and spring.

In November, Columbia Musical Theatre Society took a big risk when the cast bared all in a massive production of "HAIR: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical." The show was "larger than anything CMTS has done in recent history," co-producer Allie Carieri, CC '15, said.

The unusually large cast of 27 students (the average for a CMTS show is nine to 12, according to Carieri) was carefully selected from a group of over 170 students who auditioned.

The creative team struggled at first over the question of whether to include the traditional nudity at the end of the musical's first act. CMTS eventually decided that keeping it in would serve the shows thematic purpose, though including nudity is uncommon for student productions.

"The nudity is not about nakedness," Carieri said. "It's about what being nude implies, which is a combination of confidence and vulnerability."

Acted entirely on a bare set, save a multipurpose chest used mostly to store props, CMTS' "Candide" brought its audience around the world this fall.

"I don't like having too many sets in a black box space," director Shelley Farmer, BC '14, said.

Farmer reframed the show in an innovative way, recasting the characters as members of a theater troupe rehearsing "Candide." She hoped that this meta-theatrical move would "suggest that maybe art is one of those [philosophical] systems that we use to make sense of the world, but in actuality, it sort of simplifies the way we see things, and we really can't comprehend the world in its entirety."

XMAS!7: ApocaChristmas
Even though that Mayan apocalypse thing turned out to be a bust, the Columbia community can be thankful for the fear and anticipation because it led to "XMAS!7: ApocaChristmas."

In the opening scene of the annual December production—described as a "JV-junior varsity Varsity Show" by co-writer Bob Vulfov, CC '13—"a gruff, brandy-sipping Santa Claus kind of lays out a story to teach students and people who are stressed out before this time of year an important, delicious lesson."

From there, the story moves to a mailwoman (Molly Heller, GS/JTS '15) who continues to deliver Christmas packages even after an announcement that the world will end on December 24. She eventually gathers a ragtag group to assist in her mission, and the group must contend with evil thieving orphans to accomplish its task.

COLLEGE: The Musical
As students returned for the spring semester, the theater season kicked off with "COLLEGE: The Musical," a play written by Drew Fornarola and Scott Elmegreen. The pair decided to update the play, written in 2006, bringing it to Columbia over winter break to workshop it with about 20 students.

The three-week project culminated in a staged reading of the musical, which was revised with the help of undergraduates serving as assistant producers and writers. Working with the writers, as well as producer and director Laura Pietropinto, CC '00, helped many of the participants realize that "it is possible to have a successful career in the arts and theater," assistant producer Adrian Alea, CC '15, said.

With an aesthetic inspired by turn-of-the-century carnivals, the Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group's production of the "Thyestes" absolutely savored the creep factor. The group continued its annual tradition of putting on a full-scale classical play in its original Latin, with Seneca's play about a Greek king who feeds his nephews to his brother for revenge. The ancient work was brought to life with extravagant costuming, original musical, and delight in the horrible and absurd.  |  @RachelLouie

HAIR CMTS Candide XMAS!7 College: The Musical Thyestes Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group theater