PEMCo performs “Urinetown”
Morgan Johnson | Thursday, February 8, 2018
The curtain will open this weekend on the Pasquerilla East Music Company’s (PEMCo) production of “Urinetown.” The student-run musical theater group will perform the satirical show Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. on the Washington Hall main stage.
“Urinetown” is a musical about a town that has undergone a drought. In order to compensate for the lack of water, a water company requires citizens to pay to use the restroom. The show follows the inevitable monopolization of bathrooms and the chaos and humor that ensues. Freshman Gabrielle Evans, who plays Hope Cladwell — the female lead — said the play is a coming-of-age story for her character.
“It’s a weird premise at first, but when you think about it, it’s all about conversation,” Evans said. “The female main character grows up in a sheltered bubble and the show is her journey with the audience to open her eyes to what is going on around them.”
“Urinetown” was entirely student produced. Students designed and built the set, props, costume, lights and audio and directed and choreographed the musical as well.
PEMCo executive producer senior Kelsey Dool thinks that the show’s political commentary is necessary to create a conversation on Notre Dame’s campus about conservation and respecting others’ beliefs.
“It’s a satire so it’s shedding light on some flaws in society,” Dool said. “It doesn’t take a particular side though it’s satirizing everything from capitalism to populism and musical theater itself. Our director mostly wants people to get out of ‘Urinetown’ that being totally committed to one side of an argument is dangerous. He wants people to see a need for conversation especially since this is such a polarized time in society and people are not listening to the other side.”
Evans also said despite the show’s facade of comedy and musical numbers, the actors are focused on conveying its deeper themes and relevance.
“It’s an important show for everyone on campus to see because it has to do with taking care of the environment for ourselves and for the future,” Evans said. “It gives a real perspective on what could happen if we are irresponsible with our choices.”
Director and sophomore Patrick Starner thinks that the tongue-in-cheek nature of the show and its self-awareness makes “Urinetown” unique.
“It takes such a ridiculous and over the top premise and makes it down to earth and relevant,” Starner said. “In theater you get the dichotomy between drama and comedy but here there’s a happy medium. Yes, it’s funny and you’re going to laugh, but at the same time it’s encouraging you to think about the different themes.”
Rehearsals for the musical began in November and the cast has used this week as a technical week to finally rehearse on the main stage and organize lighting and sound.
Over the past few days, PEMCo has been actively promoting the show on campus through several platforms, including social media and hanging flyers in bathroom stalls.
Freshman Nick Townley — who plays Bobby Strong, one of “Urinetown’s” male leads — said the show’s humor is critical in effectively demonstrating the overarching themes and goals of “Urinetown.”
“The audience can expect some quick timed jokes,” he said. “The comedy is very timing based. Also, make sure to go to the bathroom beforehand because it is a privilege to pee.”
Junior Mario Simone — who plays Caldwell B. Cladwell, the other male lead — said the cast and crew are always upbeat during rehearsals, which has aided PEMCo in preparing for the performances.
Senior Denise Dorotheo, PEMCo‘s marketing producer, also noted that underclassmen compose a majority of students involved in PEMCo’s performance of “Urinetown.”
“This is a really young cast so people would be impressed to know that the male and female lead are both freshmen,” she said. “They’re doing an amazing job. It’s their first year and they’re really stepping up to the plate.”
In addition to this weekend’s production, PEMCo also has a fall and spring show, an end-of-year revue and performs cabarets at Legends.
One of Starner’s goals for the production of “Urinetown” was for the cast to also have a strong part in directing the show. Throughout rehearsals, he emphasized the importance of the actors’ individual voices and opinions shaping the ultimate production of the show.
“For me working with the cast is always about what they want to bring to the show because I’m not in the business of having a director that says this is how a certain character is going to be,” he said. “That discourages the cast from getting personally invested in the show. I’m a firm believer in collaboration and they’ve brought a lot of nice ideas to the table. This show is not my show in any way, shape or form. It’s everyone’s show.”