Back in 1995, I was a college freshman. One night I was sitting around the dorm with some friends (including Steve Huff, Dara Horn and Michelle Chen) complaining about how hard it was to get involved in theater in your first semester – especially if you wanted to write, direct, or play the lead. Somehow, we decided that the best solution was to write, compose, direct, produce and staff an entire musical using only first-year students. That way there’d be at least one production where high-level roles were open to freshmen. And so The Freshman Musical was born.
Over the next six months, we wrote an original musical – with no experience. We composed an original musical – with no experience. We directed and produced and arranged and rehearsed our little hearts out. We stapled all our sets to the floor because someone bought the wrong size staples for the staple gun. We made horrible puns and forgot what it was to sleep. And eventually, the curtain went up on Shakespeare in the Yard, our mashup of Shakespeare and Kafka and Harvard culture and adolescent angst. I can still sing at least half the songs.
Today, Steve sent me the link for this year’s Freshman Musical production. Meaning: sixteen years later, they are still going.
Looking back, what amazes me is that we didn’t wait for anyone’s permission. We didn’t wait until we knew how to do it right. We didn’t create it thinking we were making an institution. We just made something neat, because it was fun, and we could, and we wanted to. And it turned out that we made something awesome.
Recently, I’ve been so absorbed in finishing my dissertation that I’ve been saying no to starting things. But actually, starting things is awesome in a completely different way.
I think that’s my life lesson for today.