Western Washington University's Summer Theatre is producing a student-created musical titled “Untethered.”
The process began through Student Theatre Productions, where Western theatre and dance students connected to cultivate the writing team.
"Untethered" is directed by Western professor Kamarie Chapman with fourth-year students Kaitlin Losansky and Brighid Leonard as playwrights and third-year student Madison LeFever and second-year Sophie Kashman as songwriters and composers.
In 2021, Chapman founded Theatre on the Intersection with the intention to provide opportunities for underrepresented artists to explore and create theatrical productions in a safe and supportive space.
"Untethered" is a queer musical that explores relationships online and offline, thirst for connection and the lengths people will go to avoid painful realities and the problems that arise because of it.
LeFever said recently many theatrical productions have produced “pandemic stories,” which focus on physical isolation. "Untethered," on the other hand, explores internal isolation and being lost in your own thoughts and false realities.
“I think the pandemic allowed some people to avoid reality and others to completely be hit with reality," LeFever said. "This play unravels a lot of those emotions we all felt in a nerdy, funny, loving way.”
LeFever said this play and the cast is special to her because they specifically want to showcase actors whose identities may have been underserved in the past.
“In theatre we often see people playing marginalized roles that they shouldn’t be because in real life they’re not marginalized individuals,” LeFever said. “By making it known that we’re casting queer, plus-sized and BIPOC actors, this play will allow actors to mold into their characters on a personal level.”
For first-year student Ella Hieronymus, being cast in "Untethered" is a chance to channel her queer identity on stage.
She said she recently played a Jewish character in “Falsettos” and enjoyed the opportunity because she wasn’t aware of her Jewish identity, let alone explored it extensively, prior to the play.
“Playing a little boy having a bar mitzvah set me off on this road of self-discovery and I learned so much about my family history,” Hieronymus said. “So now I am so excited to be able to do this again, but with my queerness being the identity factor in focus.”
Director Chapman said seeing the success and attention this student-developed script has received already has been extremely rewarding.
“These folks come in for these auditions who are just so excited about playing roles that were created for them,” Chapman said.
Chapman said the traditional theatre has focused on strict beauty standards that have restricted talented actors from great opportunities.
“We have these actors now that show up and say ‘yeah, I’m fat, I’m pan, I’m all of these identities,’ and now they are eager to play lead roles. I mean, they’re the main character in their own lives, so why can’t they be on stage?” Chapman said.
The writers and composers on the team are also excited to be working with Manuel Zarate through the process. Zarate has been a professional in the theatre industry for over 20 years and is recognized nationally as a professional playwright and director.
Zarate assists Losansky and Leonard weekly to dissect, revise and improve their script, Losansky said.
“This kind of workshopping and feedback quality is an opportunity that not many undergraduate students are able to have. I feel very fortunate and honored to work with someone with such expertise,” Losansky said.
Leonard said it's been an amazing experience witnessing their creativity be appreciated.
“Seeing people’s reactions has been really great because you never know when you write something alone in a room if people will even like it,” Leonard said. “But when the cast enjoys the character they’re playing, it makes me feel proud to be working on this with the other members.”
The stage reading of "Untethered" is scheduled for July 28-30th at 6 p.m. The location will be announced closer to the performance dates. For more information on the musical and the On the Intersection program, visit the website.
Mia Tocas (She/Her) is a reporter for the campus life beat at The Front this quarter. She is a second-year majoring in Public Relations with a minor in Creative Writing. Outside of work and school, she enjoys playing music, spending time with friends, and watching murder documentaries on Netflix.
Her instagram is @milagro.jt