On a brisk February night, the unfamiliar melody of a song drifts through the bottom floor of the University of Georgia’s Fine Arts Building. A minute later, several voices rise in harmony from the rehearsal room down the hall.

Wyn Alyse Thomas, a UGA theatre student, and the cast of her brand new show called “First Semester: A Musical” are hard at work.

Thomas and the cast began rehearsals back in January. Since then, the students have been meeting five days a week to workshop the production in preparation for the show’s debut in March. 

 Why It’s Newsworthy: “First Semester: A Musical” is the first student production, funded by an alumni grant, to earn a spot in the UGA Theatre department’s production season.  

The show is made possible by a grant from a group of alumni from UGA’s Theatre and Film Studies department. Each year, they provide funding for one new student work as part of the New Georgia Group.

Although it’s not the first time a student work has received the grant, Thomas is the first recipient to receive a slot in the theater department’s regular season of productions. It is also the first co-production between the Thalian Blackfriars, the student run theater group founded in 1893, and the UGA Theater Department, according to Thomas. 

“It is really student run. We have student directors, student musicians, actors, everything. We have the faculty as resources, which is great, but we really get to be in control of our own artistic stuff which is really cool,” Thomas said. 

A Playwright Since Childhood

Thomas, 20, is a Double Dawg from Buffalo Grove, Illinois, majoring in theater and nonprofit management with certificates in musical theater and film and media scoring. She began writing at 13 years old and wrote her first play after the Parkland shooting in Florida. 

“I wasn’t allowed to go to rallies or anything, so I was like, well I know how to write, and so I wrote a play about gun violence,” Thomas said.

She has written several other works including “Commitment Issues: A Musical” and plays such as “Write Their Wrongs,” “stand. Up. HIT!,” and “Scared.”

Thomas is no stranger to awards. Her play “Write Their Wrongs,” won ENOUGH!, an independent project that conducts a yearly talent search for young playwrights. Her play “Scared,” was also a finalist for “ENOUGH!,” and is currently a semi-finalist for Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF).

Inspired by Personal Experience

When asked about her writing, Thomas said that most of her ideas are based on personal experience and that includes “First Semester: A Musical.”

It tells the story of a character named Alicia, a very driven but anxious college freshman. She has a “type- A personality,” and is trying to navigate her first semester at college and the challenges it presents, Thomas said.

Thomas shares her role as director for the show with UGA junior Sydney Rainwater, 20, a journalism major from Calhoun, Georgia. The co-directing pair met back in 2022 during the UGA production of “Brighter Than the Sun,” another student original, written by previous recipient of the New Georgia Group Grant, Collin Hendley.

“Wyn has the vision for her show, and I am responsible for executing it with her guidance,” Rainwater said.

Thomas and Rainwater both mentioned the show’s sets and costumes will likely continue to change leading to the final production, but will both bring a realistic feel to the show.

“We are really just kinda trying to put ourselves on stage in a lot of ways,” Thomas said.

Ramping up for Opening Night

The cast and crew will move to the theater on March 16 and hold tech rehearsals from March 18-20.

“I am so excited to share it with audiences, especially in a college setting,” Rainwater said. “Everyone knows what we are talking about,” she added. “Everyone is going through this right now, so I think that is really powerful to see reflected on stage.”

The show will open at the Cellar Theatre in the Fine Arts Building on Thursday, March 21, 2024 at 8 p.m.

“I wanted to create something that was relatable. I wanted people to see something and just be able to see themselves,” Thomas said.

Tickets and other information are available here.

Katie Harrill is a fourth year student majoring in journalism

 

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  • Show Comments (1)

  • Judy Moon Denson

    We are excited about being in the audience Saturday night. WYN Thomas is our granddaughter. We drove from our home in Mississippi to see and hear the musical in person!

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