Twelfth Night: The Freshman Experience

The student body is going through a lot right now with COVID-19, that is undeniable. However, our freshmen are also going through a huge transition: the shift from high school to collegiate life. I interviewed two freshmen, Liliana Fraser-Shade and Brianna Tomczak, from the Hope College Theatre Department’s production of “Twelfth Night” to get their perspectives on the transition to college theatre. 

Like most freshmen, Fraser-Shade, who plays Sebastian, told me, “You are the little fish in the pond now. There’s so many new people and new faces who are getting used to you as much as you are getting used to them.”  

The first thing that freshmen of the theatre department participate in are auditions. They didn’t really know what to expect, as they held their cold-readings in their shaky hands and walked up to the Stage Manager to tell them they had arrived. 

 “It was kind of terrifying at first because I didn’t know what to expect [but] I met people through it,” Fraser-Shade said. This is an advantage with auditions: you might be nervous and you might not get the part you want, or a part at all, but there’s a chance you’ll meet some pretty cool people. She told me later in the interview that, “I have made some of my closest friends [in this production], at this point.” 

A main factor that makes or breaks theatre for people is the community built within it. For Assistant Stage Manager, Tomczak, this is very true. According to her, the cast of “Twelfth Night” has made her “feel so welcomed.” 

With high school theatre, sometimes students feel that casting is done through seniority, and this can lead to not necessarily the best connections between freshmen and upperclassmen. However, this is not the case in college. Upperclassmen see freshmen as equals. 

“It’s so nice with theatre because no one is in a higher ranking than others. The seniors aren’t like, ‘we’re cooler than you.’ They’ll sit and have a regular conversation with you. It’s been so overflowing with love,” Tomczak said.

This sense of community can transfer nicely to onstage relationships. “Theatre explores interpersonal relationships that normally American society tends to shy away from,” Fraser-Shade remarked.

Theatre can be the connecting block from the minds of artists to society. People gravitate towards theatre because they want to build relationships while making awesome art, because like Tomczak said, “In theatre everyone is there because we love it, we’re all doing the thing we love, we’re not competing against each other.” 

Theatre is not only about the art, but about friendships and bonds that last a lifetime, just like college life. When freshmen come onto campus for the first time, they are opening their lives up to new people–– people that will help them grow and develop the art that is their life. 

The first weekend of performances for “Twelfth Night” is over, and we now wait for the second weekend. You may be on edge about attending a Shakespearean production and need a little push to come to the final set of shows. Well here’s your reason: think of the freshmen who took that blind leap of faith into a new territory of their passion. Why would you not want to support them? 

Shakespeare might be difficult to understand sometimes, but his plays are not always about being able to grasp every single word. His plays are about human interaction, and how people react to difficult circumstances (e.g. “Twelfth Night” characters Sebastian and Viola after the shipwreck, or Malvolio being made a fool by Maria and Sir Toby).  

“It’s interesting getting to put on a role, be a different person to entertain other people. You can explore a lot of different ideas and feelings when you’re in theatre,” Fraser-Shade said. 

As a freshman, I fully agree with these ladies. I was nervous coming to Hope back in August. I was scared that I wasn’t going to make friends, as homesickness loomed in the back of my mind. But theatre has already started to build a little community on campus for me. Being in “Twelfth Night” has been a total blessing. 
So, on the topic of Twelfth Night, Tomzcak is telling you to “Come see it!” You’ll truly have a blast.



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