As night falls on the University of Georgia’s campus, the basement of the fine arts building is alive with undergraduates bustling to produce their one show of the year: “Company.”
UGA’s Next act organization is comprised of only undergraduate students tasked with organizing and producing just one musical theater show almost entirely on their own. This organization carves out a space for eager undergraduates who want to showcase their stage talents, because most main roles in the UGA’s Theatre Department are filled by master of Fine Arts students.
Emma Mathews is a junior theater, accounting and marketing major from Atlanta, who is one of the five Next Act board members. This group of undergraduate students design the costumes, manage the props and prep their instruments in anticipation for their once-a-year spotlight.
“Company” is a 1970 musical comedy from playwright George Furth with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
“We wanted to give people who have non-acting talents a place to showcase them and places for roles to be reserved for undergrads,” Mathews, who also serves as the show’s general manager, said.
“Company” begins with the introduction of Bobby, as his friends throw him a surprise party for his 35th birthday. Bobby, being the only person in his friend group who isn’t married or about to be married, finds himself bombarded with invitations and comments regarding his single status.
Zachary Pareizs, a sophomore entertainment and media studies major from Augusta, is the director of “Company.” Pareizs views the show as a series of vignettes exploring Bobby’s lack of commitment to relationships, to himself and to life in general, touching on serious subjects while still remaining humorous throughout.
This is the first time Pareizs will be directing a full-length piece completely solo.
“It’s a very daunting piece to start with,” Pareizs said.
While the production is big, the cast itself is relatively small which demanded many hours from those who wished to take part in Next Act’s show.
“All of the actors have been working so hard every day and there is so much work and talent that goes into this and every piece of theatre,” Pareizs said.
Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim is a legend in the theater world, known for works like “Into the Woods” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” “Company” is one of Sondheim’s lesser known pieces.
“It’s a musical that spoke to my humanity,” Pareizs said. “A lot of times I think musical theater can be put down on by proper theater and theater as high art, and people think of musical theater as this sort of commercial art form. I think ‘Company’ ... speaks against that.”
To Pareizs local shows offer intimate settings that may often get overlooked in favor of film and TV shows.
“I think there is something really special and really personal about having an experience that is just your own,” Pareizs said. “When you’re in a theater show you’re seeing a performance that only exists at that moment, in that room with only the 100 other people in the room with you and you know that everything is happening in the moment and its special.”