The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

W&L theater department takes on Broadway

A group of W&L students saw six plays and met playwrights in a fully-funded trip to New York City
Lin-Manuel Miranda
Students met “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda while in New York City.

Washington and Lee students got to meet “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda on a theater-focused trip to New York City over February break.

The 10-student trip was sponsored by the university’s department of theater, film, and dance, at almost no cost to students. The Richard B. Sessoms Fund for Student Experiences covered the tickets to shows and hotels, while students were responsible for a $50 deposit, meals and subway fares.

“I never really had the opportunity to see much live theater,” said Hana Chang, ‘26. “As someone who likes to act and write, I was looking forward to seeing how watching all these plays could inspire me in both aspects.”

Jemma Levy, the trip leader and associate professor of theater, said that by bridging accessibility, the trip can expose students to a theatrical variety, including different kinds of plays, locations, playwrights and styles in a short period.

The six-day trip included two Broadway shows and four other performances at smaller local theaters.
The first production, “The Ally,” written by Tony award-winning playwright Itamar Moses, is a two-and-a-half-hour play follows college professor Asaf as he spirals into different activism conversations after his student asks him to sign a social justice petition turned manifesto.

“The Ally” predominantly centers around the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. The play was completed before the Oct. 7 invasion in 2023.

That same evening, the Washington and Lee cohort attended a student production of “The House of Bernarda Alba,” written by Federico García Loca at Fordham University.

The Spanish drama takes place in Bernarda Alba’s household, where her five daughters get driven mad by each other as the youngest and oldest daughters get seduced by the same man, all while facing Bernarda’s controlling traditional values.

During their third day in New York, students caught their first Broadway show: “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

The musical tells the tale of vengeful Benjamin Barker, a former barber and recent ex-convict, who was falsely imprisoned and separated from his child and deceased wife.

In addition, the Washington and Lee group also saw the world premiere of “Sunset Baby,” a one-act play by Dominique Morisseau.

The story follows the heroine, Nina, who inherited letters left by her late revolutionist mother. They were written but never mailed to her absent revolutionary father, who reconnects with her in hopes of reading them.

Back on Broadway, students saw the one-act musical “SIX,” performing a modern re-telling of the stories of the six wives of Henry VIII competing between who suffered the most throughout their marriage through a pop concert show to become the leader of their band “SIX.”

The last show students went to see was an adapted stage play by David Farr, “The Hunt,” a 2012 original film by Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm.

The one-act show occurs in a small rural town in London where Lucas, a kindergarten teacher, struggles after getting accused of sexual assault by one of his students who got rejected for her advances toward him.

In between shows, Levy asked students to reflect on what they’ve seen during the trip from a production perspective.

“Those kinds of conversations are really important in terms of the learning process for students,” Levy said.

Students also attended an acting workshop hosted by Theater Mitu, a Brooklyn-based company led by Rubén Polendo, The workshop focused on exercises incorporating non-Western practices to share stories.

Students also went on an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Metropolitan Opera, led by alum Henry Strouss, ’61. Students got to see dressing rooms, practice spaces and costume shops.

This year, there was more free time for students to explore the city on their own.

During that time, the group met Grammy and Pulitzer Prize winner, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is known for “In the Heights” and Broadway hit “Hamilton.”

Levy says she enjoyed hearing about students’ adventures alongside their in-depth conversations throughout the trip.

“This is one of the things that we can give back to say thank you [to all the participants in the performing arts],” Levy said. “I recommend it.”

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