In January, a small group of freshmen started working on a musical. They had no money or support. They carry on a tradition in its fifth year, the freshman musical. From May 6 to 8 in the Jones Great Room, they’ll show the Northwestern and the Evanston community how far they’ve come.
Reefer Madness starts out like a corny love story of a sweet but awkward boy named Jimmy and a cute, wholesome girl named Mary Lane. Their relationship is happy and nauseatingly perfect, until a sketchy older guy and his group of cannabis-crazed friends introduce Jimmy to reefer.
North by Northwestern sat in on a rehearsal of Reefer Madness’ first act to see what the freshman musical is all about. There were no props or costumes, and there wasn’t a set. Still, this group of freshmen, who occasionally would break out with lines from Sassy Gay Friend, created the atmosphere of the musical as they acted and sang. Afterward the director, Communication freshman Michael Janak, provided some insight into how the freshman musical works.
What is the freshman musical?
It started as a way to showcase the talent all the freshman class, showing the upperclassmen what we can do. The weird thing about the freshman musical is that we literally start from scratch. We have no funding at all. We’re thinking of starting a theater board for the freshman musical to help get it started for next year.
How did you sign on as director?
Desiree Staples [Communication freshman ensemble member] took it upon herself to get the ball rolling with it actually. She said that it’s a tradition here, we need to start doing this. Then we gathered as many freshman theatre majors and people outside of theatre as we could, and tried to spread the word about it. We had a meeting, voted for who we wanted to be director and music director.
Why did you choose Reefer Madness?
Our first choice was Hercules the musical, which doesn’t exist. And there’s no way to get rights to it, and it would’ve been highly illegal, so we went with our second choice, which was Reefer Madness.
How long have you been working on the musical?
We had elections in early January, right when we got back from winter break. A week after that we had to go about deciding who was going to be designers, who was going to be on our production teams, and who would be our cast members, so we had auditions.
What’s the hardest thing about working on the freshman musical?
As I said, we have no funding. There’s no theater board to go to for all of our problems. We’re all freshmen, so none of us have cars or apartments to put our things in, so storage space is a really big issue.
What’s your favorite part of being director of Reefer Madness?
My favorite — this is going to be really cheesy — working with all the cast members. I’m so surprised these people haven’t been snatched up by other shows. They’re so incredibly talented. I love working with them. Other than that, just day to day, I love the camaraderie that we have as a team now, and I love that we started from scratch. I think it’s going to be a big payoff.
Obviously you wanted talented singers and actors, but were there any other criteria for choosing cast members?
Bob [Kalas, Weinberg freshman and producer] wanted skinny people. Seriously though, you had to be a freshman. You just had to be able to bring it, I guess.
What do you want people to think when they watch Reefer Madness?
The play is extremely heightened. It’s a satire of this propaganda video from the 1930s that said that when you smoke marijuana you become insane and addicted, you turn into a zombie, and you kill people. People are going to say that’s not what marijuana does to people. That’s the idea.