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“Into the woods” to grandmother's house

Last weekend I went to see a production of Into the Woods, put together by Columbia Medical School’s theater group, the Bard Hall Players. I will preface by saying that it was the highlight of my otherwise busy and uneventful week, and also by letting you know that it is already too late to see the production. The set has been dismantled and the crew has moved on with their lives. This isn’t so much a review of the show as it is a tribute to the group.

Around ten months ago, as I was in the end stage of my PhD, starting to write my thesis and tearing my hair out one lonely strand at a time, I decided to stop merely watching BHP in action, and to actually take part. I signed up for some small roles in two productions and immersed myself into doing the best job I could. In the process I met people with incredible talent, and incredible passion. Everyone had a contribution to make to the show, regardless of previous theater background – commitment was the only requirement. The BHP members, whether grizzled veterans (makeup can do amazing things) or first timers like myself, all quickly became part of a family. We bonded over late night rehearsals, inside jokes, theater traditions, and the trials and tribulations of working on an advanced degree. I learned that saying “endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography” ten times fast is difficult. Don’t look it up!! And in just a few months, we put on a whole production.

Every year BHP puts together three shows, mostly musicals and plays. Everything is student run, from directing, stage managing, set design and building, lights, costume design, program design and compilation, soundboard and orchestra pit, stage managing, and advertising. The set is built in one weekend. The production runs for three days, four shows, and the set is dismantled in a few hours the evening after the final show. And many of these people have acting and singing roles besides. Did I mention these are medical students, dental students, PhDs, public health students, and the like?

To learn more about BHP, take a look at this recent piece in the New York Times.

The level of talent is incredible, and this is evident from just going to see a show. But having been a part of the group, this weekend was personal for me. I understood the amount of time and energy that goes into this show. I wanted to see the familiar faces, and to be there to cheer them on and share in the joy when they succeeded in creating an immersive and compelling evening for the audience. They did it in spades!

Of course, all happy people live by the motto “work hard, play hard.” After the show I joined in the post-show celebration (there is one every night) and was reunited with several other recent graduates who, like me, came to see everyone perform. Despite my short tenure as a thespian, I was welcomed with open arms. That evening I felt like a student again, and actually wished that I still were. Need I say more?

For any of the BHP crew reading this – you guys were terrific. And you most certainly made my week. I will continue to come watch and support for as long as I am able.


PS: If someone kept a program from The Crucible and can send me a photo I’d mighty appreciate it.

PPS: If you find any glitches on my website or have ideas for improvement, please let me know, either using the email form at the bottom of the page, or however you know to do so. Thanks kindly!

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