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By Liam Hofmeister ’CAMD 19

We stepped off the bus and were in the heart of it all. New York City.

We – 33 theatre majors – stood for a second to take it all in. We grabbed our bags and began our “New York Theatre Experience,” an intensive weekend education in making theatre. It was a look into the future – a first glimpse of what it might mean to live and work in the theatre capital of the world.

Some Northeastern students had never been to New York. Before attending our first Broadway show, we had time to explore. Some went to Central Park, others the museums like MoMA or the MET, and others just walked the streets, soaking in the city.

We hit the evening performance of the Tony-nominated play Hand to God, written by Robert Askins and directed by Moritz Von Stuelpnagel. In the play, a troubled young man finds respite in his ragged sock puppet; that is, until the puppet becomes possessed by the devil. Hand to God dove into unresolved desire and the courage to tell the truth with a vulgar, raw style. On the final beat, we all stood to applaud the performance.

Afterward, we spoke with Moritz. He also went to college in Boston and had some wisdom to impart. He said success was simple: it does not rely on one. It relies on all, and it relies on sharing with others. Moritz said Hand to God was the result of friends and artists wanting to work together. The play’s goal wasn’t to win awards; it was to make good theatre with other artists who were proud of one another. I think we left that night with a new appreciation for our fellow students’ work and a new readiness to support one another.

The next morning, students interested in technical theatre went on a backstage tour of the Metropolitan Opera House, and the rest of us went to Playwrights Horizons, the famed Off-Broadway writers’ theatre dedicated to producing American plays. We met with Karl Baker Olson, who started his career in Boston and is now the assistant to the artistic director at Playwrights Horizons.

Coming out of college, Karl said he thought he was going to be an actor, as did many of the Northeastern students in the room. But he eventually found that acting was no longer fulfilling, so he began to work in casting and production, which eventually became more rewarding. Now, he is helping to create some of the most important contemporary theatre in New York, and he could not be happier.

We ended our New York theatre experience with a matinee of Invisible Thread, a new musical written by another Boston theatre alumnus, Matt Gould, and his partner Griffin Matthews. It’s the story of their own experiences volunteering in Uganda and the struggles they faced in helping a group of children get an education. We spoke with the pair after the show, and they told us that they hoped their musical informed audiences about the realities of life outside of a first-world country. Great theatre is a well-posed question, and we left that show with many questions (and some answers) about the capacity of theatre to change the world.

And just like that, it was over. We hopped back into our bus and were Boston-bound. We were exhausted, but ignited with inspiration. For the entire five-hour ride home, students discussed their experience and the work they wanted to create. We left New York a little less afraid. Some people outside of theatre say how hard a world it is to work in, but they don’t understand that theatre is multifaceted. Will we all become Broadway stars? No. Northeastern students pursue theatre for love, not fame. Being in the world of theatre, ready to change the world with theatre, is what really matters to us.

Photo: Theatre students with Karl Baker Olsen from Playwrights Horizons.