Synergy: A reflection from senior Cole Paul as he exits stage left

Over the years, we have asked seniors to write a guest blog post detailing their experience as they complete their final mainstage production with us. This year, Cole Paul was given the task of looking back on his experiences both on and off the stage. You can read more about Cole Paul here, as he is one of our student instructors. 


Cole Paul

“I began AWIP helping backstage for the Jr. Production of Alice in Wonderland. Looking back, it was kind of on a whim– some of my friends were doing it, so I figured “why not.” However, my relationship with the company morphed into something so much more. I became a cast member of Mary Poppins that year, which led to me applying for, and filling, the position of Media Director, which is by far my longest (a position I still fill) and most involved position with the company. I continued the next year as a cast member of White Christmas. This year, my senior year, the production was Newsies.

 

 

Cole Paul in “White Christmas” (wearing the red hat)

 

In the beginning of the year I had been offered the position of Assistant Director for Newsies and gladly took it. In addition, I also took up the position of helping with light design as well as continuing my responsibilities as Media Director.  Thus began my dilemma: I had had such a great time as a cast member in my previous two shows; I loved the parts I had gotten. Yet here I was picking up all of these other responsibilities for the show, which left me wondering what to do.

 

There were pros and cons on both sides, as there is for most hard decisions. On one hand all of the assistant directors before me had been cast members. Being part of the cast was a tremendous amount of fun; plus, most of my closest friends in AWIP were going to be cast members, so there was that. On the other hand, I loved the story of Newsies and I wanted to put everything I could into it. I eventually came to the realization that if I was going to do this, I wanted to put everything I could into it, even if it meant taking a step back from the cast to focus on the other elements of the production. Much to the surprise of those around me, I decided not to be a part of the cast. In retrospect, it was a great decision for me personally. I was able to spend more of my time on helping with the design and scene-work of the show than I would have otherwise. But despite all this, I was still able to have that bond with the cast because I was there every week, working on scenes with them. I got the best of both worlds. During the show, where former Assistant Directors would have been acting, I stayed backstage and ran cues, which turned out to be a lot of fun. All in all it was a great experience.

 

Cole Paul as Media Director, wearing a costume as part of the Junior Production in 2017

As the director of AWIP, Jen Roca, pointed out to me, it’s kind of poetic– The fact that I sort of ended where I started: backstage. I think the reason it happened, on paper, was because of the reasons I listed in the previous paragraphs. In a more romantic way though, I feel like I’m always more attracted to the process– the making of something– as opposed to the final product. I always find myself wanting to learn what was going on behind the scenes of a movie or show that I really like. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a process to the cast side of things, but that was a process I had already experienced. More or less, I hadn’t truly known the behind the scenes side of an AWIP Mainstage before. As someone who has now experienced many aspects of a show like that, it has allowed me to appreciate it in a new way. So much hard work is put into a multitude of areas of this show that, in the end, culminates to one unified item. The cast finally getting to show the weeks- no, months of hard work that they’ve poured into this show.

 

 

Cole Paul assistant directing

 

The stars backstage: the set designers, costume department, prop designers, all the people who make this show happen but never step onstage to bow. The synergy of cast and crew, audience and show; it’s a truly beautiful thing to see and experience, and a great honor to have been apart of.”