Variety show returns to center stage: “You Learn”


Photo by Leah Desserich

Sloane Shabelman and Madeline Hussey

The lights dim, and an audible hush falls over the crowd. Eager faces lean forward in anticipation, all eyes on the curtained stage ahead. Slowly, the curtain parts, followed by a swell of applause. A single spotlight lights center stage. The suspense of the moment grows, and the outside world fades away. This will be a V-Show like years past; this will be a V-Show like none other.

Joe Karlovsky, Comedy Troupe director for the V-Show, loves this first moment of the show.

“My favorite part is the first time [comedy troupe goes] on stage,” Karlovsky said. “Comedy Troupe doesn’t have a lot of space to envision how their acts will look before an audience, so the moment they get to bring their creativity to stage is highly anticipated.”

This year’s theme of “You Learn” was chosen by the directing staff as a way to reflect on and move past the difficulties of these past few years, Robert Shellard, choir director and co-director of V-show, explained.

“We were looking for a way to come back after Covid while still being amidst Covid,” Shellard said. “[We thought about how] the last two years we’ve all had are very unique in terms of human experience, and what have we gained from that? We have been given the time and energy to do [so much], as well as space to learn. So that’s where the theme came from.”

In addition to Comedy Troupe, Karlovsky is an act director for three other groups, including senior Sloan Greenfield’s sing-along act. Greenfield’s act is unique because it incorporates the audience’s participation, which has never been done in a South V-show before, she explained.

“My act is a call and response with the audience with a song that is called ‘The Song for the Divine Mother of the Universe’ by Ben Lee,” Greenfield said. “This song is meaningful to me because I learned it at camp and I formed a connection to it. I thought it’d be a really cool idea to [sing] it as a call and response with the audience. I was really excited to bring something new and unique to the show.”

Greenfield also hoped by doing a call and response, her act would fit this year’s V-show theme, she said.

“I thought teaching the song to the audiences was a perfect way to incorporate the theme,” Greenfield said.

Karlovsky helps acts stick to the theme by helping them prepare, running through their skits, and making them ready to perform. He helps with coming up with lighting ideas as well as cutting down or refining acts to fit the stage and the allotted time allowed for them.

“It’s just this collaborative effort to rehearse and practice so that when we do go on stage, we’re ready to go,” Karlovsky explained.

Freshman Lillian Geimer is one of the few freshmen in the Singer Dancers act. She enjoys the dancing aspect most, as she has been studying ballet for 10 years.

“I’m super excited because of what I’ve experienced so far,” Geimer said. “I’m most excited about being able to dance on stage with all these amazing people. I’m also excited to see the whole show come together with the sets and the costumes.”

Geimer’s older sister, class of ’21’s Olivia Geimer, also performed in Singer Dancers and spurred her sibling’s interest in V-show.

Geimer loves working with the other students and learning the dances and different skill sets. She shared how grateful she was for the experience, even during a nerve-wracking audition.

“It was definitely a very positive environment,” Geimer said. “Normally, auditions are very stressful, but everyone there was super nice and kind and supportive. And it was just radiating positive energy and everyone was bouncing off of each other.”

Another act in V-show is the original song “Snow”, performed by its writer junior Maren Conaghan. Initially, the very thought of auditioning with her song filled Conaghan with intense fear. However, she was eventually persuaded by friends, family, and staff to take a chance and audition, and she is now excited to share such a meaningful song with others.

“[My song] comes from a really deep place and it means a lot,” Conaghan said. “I think a lot of people will hear it and relate to it. And that’s all that really matters to me is if the song helps someone or makes people feel [less] alone.”

Shellard is the act director for Conaghan’s act, which includes juniors Henry Najem and Terry Trager on the electric guitar. He thinks the song beautifully represents the past few years in the pandemic.

“I’ve loved seeing students reflect on the last two years,” Shellard explained. “For example, [Conaghan’s] piece displays a lot of  the journey that she went through throughout quarantine, Covid-19, separation from others, remote learning, and things like that.”

But actors and their directors are not the only people whose talent make the show possible. There is a whole group of people working tirelessly behind the scene to make the actors both seen and heard, as well as construct the set the actors use, senior Grace Scheltens said. She is the crew’s stage manager this year and helps call cues for everyone.

“During the show, there’s a lot of lights,” Scheltens said. “There’s spotlights and then there’s cueing for the lights to go out and come back on.”

Though stage crew members have different roles during the show, they are  a tight-knit family and get along really well, Scheltens said.

“I love stage crew; everyone’s really nice [and] supportive,” Scheltens explained. “We’re also on a similar wavelength with building the set.”

Through weeks of work, the crew incorporated the theme of the show into the set they built, so everything in the show can tie together and flow seamlessly, Scheltens explained.

“We tried to make a set that looks like an academic hall or a college vibe or library,” Scheltens said.

The crew puts a lot of work into building the set and lighting and miking  the cast, which brings them closer together as a community, Schelten explained.

More than ever, Shellard is grateful to have a live performance with real people after the past year of streamed shows due to Covid-19, he shared. He is excited to recreate the environment of years past.

“I just love seeing students come back together and collaborate again, whether in an ensemble, like backup singers or Comedy Troupe, or putting together their own acts,” Shellard said. “To me, that’s the joy of the show, and we lost that last year. So I’m glad that students are again learning the value of that and seeing just the joy that they can create together.”