JustArts: Tell me a bit about yourself and your experience with theater.

Leah Sherin: I’ve been doing theater all throughout Brandeis ... I was in [the] open cast musical my freshman year. And have directed another play before and directed 24 hour, so I was really excited to direct open-cast my last semester.

JA:  What inspired you to pick up this project?

LS:  So the musical was chosen by the whole UTC. Anybody can submit a show and then the proposal board and UTC together eventually make a decision on the show. I was really excited about Mamma Mia! because everybody knows it. Everybody knows the music. And the show is so light hearted and fun and lends itself really well to an open cast, large cast environment. A lot of dancing and singing, it’s a blast.

JA: Mamma Mia! is very well-known, both the play and the theater. When directing this play, what did you do make this production unique from the others?

LS: So it’s definitely a challenge to direct a show that’s so well-known like this, and everybody has an image of what the characters look like. Everybody has their version that they pictured, from the movie and everything like that. So I definitely didn’t want to stray too far from what we think of and love as Mama Mia!. But at the same time getting creative with the design and how we blocked it and choreograph it in a way that works well with the stage, and will work well for the actors that we have. So one of the things I did to structure it that will maybe feel a little bit different from that movie is that we split the ensemble into 3 groups. One is the locals, people who live on island, one is the guests who are at the wedding, one is  this kind of dream ensembles. It’s a little more abstract. 

JA: What it’s like to direct an open cast, where everyone came in with different experience level with theater?

LS: That’s a big part of what drew me to want to do this is that I knew there will be actors from all different kinds of backgrounds, and it was for me all about creating an experience. As much as we want the show to turn out really fun for the audiences, we wanted the experience for everyone involved to be great and rewarding. And I thought a lot about how to structure the show, in a way that would be inclusive and make it work for those who are new to theater, make it comfortable for them and make it exciting for those that have done a lot of theater production before, so it’s about a balance there. I did to try to make it very inclusive is people who [were] really, really experienced dancers, we set up as dance captains for the show, to give them some leadership and to also help out the actors that were less experienced dancers, so they will always have somebody to go to ask questions and kind of things like that to make it more just kind of work for everyone.

   —Luke Liu