Have finals been pissing you off lately? Feel like your grades are already in the toilet? If you’re looking to take a (bathroom) break from reading week, urine luck! Satirical scenes and Malthusian music abound as sophomore Dylan Zwickel’s production of “Urinetown” goes up this Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. in the ’92. The Argus sat down with director and Second Stage member Zwickel, who discussed the value of musical theater and debunked allegations of Second Stage nepotism.


The Argus: How have rehearsals been going?

Dylan Zwickel: Rehearsals have been amazing. My cast is incredible, and so is my creative team.


A: What’s the cast dynamic like?

DZ: It’s such a collaborative process. I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a large cast musical that was this collaborative. Last semester I directed a two-person show, and obviously that was very collaborative because there were three of us. But there are 17 people in this cast, and everyone has contributed something, at least, that everyone now does. Like a piece of choreography. I collaborate really well with my choreographer, and even my scenic and lighting designer has suggestions about blocking. I’m not one of those directors who’s like, “Only my idea counts.” I will take the best idea, whoever came up with it.


A: Has is been hard keeping control of such an enormous cast?

DZ: Yes. [laughs] They’re all so talented, so they’re involved in, like, five other things.


A: As the director of a musical, you have to oversee a lot more aspects of production than someone who chooses to direct a straight play. Do you give your team free reign with things like musical direction and choreography?

DZ: I definitely talk to them about what I want. So my choreographer is Tess Jonas [’15], and “Urinetown” parodies a lot of musicals, so we communicated a lot; for example, “This song’s gonna parody this show.” “Do we agree?” “Yes.” So then, once we agreed on that, she could use whatever choreography she wanted as long as I could stage it properly. Because we have a two-level set—we use the floor and the stage—it was like, is there room for me to put this on the stage or in the house?


A: So why did you pick “Urinetown”?

DZ: The thing is, it’s really a love letter to musicals, and I love musicals. It parodies other musicals to point that out. The content makes a serious topic funny and funny things real and serious, which is something that I feel like musicals can do in a way almost nothing else can. So that’s kind of the connection between the fact that it’s both a musical parody and this really satirical political topic. So I just loved that about it.


A: Have you faced any specific challenges as a result of the campiness and satirical nature of the show?

DZ: Some of my actors have more experience in other types of theater and were not used to the idea of just being ridiculous. Does my character necessarily have motivation to behave this way? No, but it’s hilarious. And you can always find motivation. You can.


A: How has being a member of Second Stage influenced your approach to directing a show here?

DZ:  I think it’s easier to have confidence  if you’re on staff because you’ve seen other people do it. You’re really familiar with the process of putting up a show through Second Stage. So you don’t have to worry about their rules and stuff like that because you just know them. That’s the only way I think it’s advantageous. A lot of people accuse us of staff nepotism and stuff, but that’s really not the case. The thing people always say is, “Well, staff members always get the ’92,” and it’s like, “Yeah, staff members know that if you choose a show that needs the ’92, you’ll get the ’92.”


A: And “Urinetown” clearly needs the ’92.

DZ: Exactly. It’s very possible that a future show that I do will not be in the ’92 because I won’t pick a show that needs it. Or if I really wanted the ’92, I would just pick a show that needed it, and I would get it. That’s the thing that people don’t realize. I would say that being on Second Stage does help with little things, like having keys to the ’92. That helps, and obviously we can’t give that to everybody. But we’re always willing to help people we let in. I would say it’s advantageous just in that I know what’s going on more.


A: It seems like Second Stage generally puts up a lot of what’s considered conventional drama because the department here leans toward the experimental. Do you think student directors are reacting to a lack of mainstream theater?

DZ: When Second Stage first started, the department did really mainstream theater, and Second Stage started as a place for experimental theater. And now, the department kind of looks down upon Second Stage because they’re like, “You’ve gone away from your experimental roots, and now everything you do is mainstream!” And it’s like, “Because now everything you do is experimental. There has to be a venue for what you call mainstream and what I call entertaining.” I just feel like specific department shows are really pretty, but make me feel nothing. A musical will always make me feel something. No musical is just two hours of pure “This is funny!” That just doesn’t happen. And if it does, who cares? Let’s have a good time. It’s not the end of the world. So yeah, I would say that there is a tendency towards more mainstream theater, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and we need a place to do it because the department acts as if it’s terrible.


A: Haven’t there also been a lot more musicals [that have gone up through Second Stage] lately?

DZ: There have been. Musicals are awesome! I don’t know why there wouldn’t be even more musicals—I mean, we can’t afford it, so let’s not have more. But it’s what I want to do with my life. Like, what am I gonna say? “Musicals suck?” No, they’re awesome. I love musicals, so it’s great that there are a lot of musicals lately, and a lot of other people agree with me. It’s like what I said about “Urinetown.” The fact that it can make a serious topic so funny and a bunch of people singing and dancing actually have a really important message is so incredible. There aren’t that many other art forms that can do that. So why wouldn’t people do musicals?

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