Arts Muse

Shining the Spotlight on Campus Productions

Stella Newing chats to CHMS about the important role that performance-based societies play in campus life

Photo Credit: Greg Tiani. Showing Fergus Piper and Rosie Pudney rehearsing for Legally Blonde

University of York boasts a wealth of theatre and performance-based societies, from CHMS to Drama Society, from Pant Soc to Gilbert & Sullivan Society. All offering a variety of opportunities to students, these groups play a vital role in campus life. One of the biggest dates in the calendar, CHMS's February show, is just over a week away. I asked director, Immy Wood, what an audience can expect from their production of the hit musical Legally Blonde. "High standard," she tells me. "The talent of our auditionees was outstanding and casting was such a difficult decision to make. It should leave the audience in high spirits. It is an extremely positive and uplifting show."

Many students involved in theatre-based societies attribute their wellbeing to the time they spend preparing for shows and note that it has a beneficial effect on stress. Rather than add to the taxing demands of university life, Fergus Piper, who plays Warner in Legally Blonde, and is treasurer of CHMS, finds his involvement in the society an antidote: "It gives me a relief from the academic stresses of my degree and also helps me to be more productive in other areas of my life because of the time management needed." 

"We are all very busy but being in rehearsals has such a huge buzz," Immy enthuses, "Both because of all the lovely cast and also the amazing positivity of Legally Blonde as a show. We are able to balance the time we need to make the production a high standard but also ensure the students' welfare." 

When I ask what kind of creative opportunities a show as large as Legally Blonde presents, Fergus explains: "There's so much more that goes into a production than just performance. Set builders work hard to create a set for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre and students are also providing tech such as mics and lighting. It's a great platform to collate a wide range of skills." 

Musical Director of Legally Blonde, Corey Gerrard adds: "The committee of CHMS and previous members of creative teams are always willing to offer support and advice, meaning that anyone can form a production team without much experience in a particular role."

CHMS and similar societies often prove vital in shaping students' future plans. "Not many theatre companies have over 90 auditions," says Corey. "It's amazing to see so many students who don't study performing arts courses wanting to pursue a career in this industry. Various CHMS Alumni have gone on to work in theatre professionally."

"These societies are amazing," states Immy. "I have seen so many people grow in confidence both on stage and within themselves because of them."

Legally Blonde is showing at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre 21-23 February. Tickets available at: https://www.josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/eventids/1100

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