By Sarah Steighner
Penn State New Kensington students had the opportunity to go see the musical, “Wicked” at the Benedum Center on Jan. 23 on a trip organized through the campus activities board.
PSNK’s Student Life and Campus Activities Board (CAB) planned the trip through the event series “Penn State in Pittsburgh.” Penn State in Pittsburgh is simply a series of events that CAB came up with to allow students to experience activities and events in Pittsburgh through opportunities their campus provides.
According to Corey Bobak, marketing chair of CAB, planning for the trip started back in July when CAB sat down to see what events were coming to Pittsburgh that they might want to offer students the opportunity to attend. According to Bobak, this Broadway musical seemed like a good event to plan considering that one of CAB’s main goals is to “have students experience things they normally don’t get the chance to.”
In order to plan for this trip, CAB contacted other Penn State campuses in the region to see if they would like to attend as well. After Penn State Fayette and Dubois agreed to participate, CAB organized the specifics of the event in order to receive funding so that the price of the tickets would be more affordable to students.
CAB bought the tickets well in advance, around Sept., and the tickets went on sale to students Dec. 1. According to Student Life Coordinator, Lauren Blum, PSNK sold 39 out of the 40 tickets they had available. A total of 28 students attended, and 11 tickets were sold to the staff and friends or family of students.
Tickets were bought at a group rate from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust at a cost of $75 per ticket. They were resold at the original price to staff and friends or family of any student. Meanwhile, students were able to buy tickets at a discounted cost of $50.
Thrilled with how successful the trip was, Blum stated “This was a great event, the students loved it, the staff loved it, and it was a great regional experience for our students!”
A bus was provided for students as transportation to Pittsburgh the day of “Wicked.” The bus left campus around 4pm. Students had the option to either take the bus or drive down themselves. Bobak said he estimated that about half of the students took the bus while the other half drove.
Considering the show did not start until 8pm, those who went down early had time to have dinner at any of the local restaurants before the show. Between 7 and 8pm, students started arriving at the Benedum to take their seats in the back lower level of the auditorium.
As the lights in the theater dimmed, excited chatter diminished into silence as the curtain opened and the opening act began. Laughter and applause were frequent, as were the smiles on people’s faces from the entertainment throughout the show.
Halfway through the performance, an intermission took place. During the intermission, conversation regarding the show, musical arrangements, and sets was overheard. Drawn in to the spirit and enthusiasm of the musical, PSNK student Craig Synan claimed the show was “wicked awesome.”
PSNK sophomore Mikaela Dunegan said she was grateful for the trip after stating that if it had not been offered through the school, she probably would not have went. Having previously seen musicals, including Wicked and The Lion King, Dunegan said before she agreed that being able to purchase a ticket to the show at a discounted price along with transportation being provided was what made the trip affordable.
Thoroughly entertained by the show, Dunegan said that her favorite part was most likely the musical number “For Good” because of how heartfelt it was. “I have come across a lot of people that even though we may not have stayed in close contact, I feel like I am who I am today because I have crossed paths with them,” said Dunegan.
Having seen “Wicked” previously, Dunegan said that she believed the performance to have been the best from what she remembered. IUP student Breanna Wilson said she has had similar thoughts on the show. Wilson had previously seen Wicked two times before on Broadway before recently seeing it again in Pittsburgh at the Benedum.
Wilson said one of the only differences she noticed between seeing Wicked on Broadway and at the Benedum was that the stage was smaller in Pittsburgh. Furthermore, she claimed to have noticed that the props might not have been as steady or well placed at the Benedum. This was something she said she noticed in particular during a scene where an actor jumped upon a statue and said it looked as though it might topple over.
Wilson also brought attention to certain personality and acting twists that were different in some of the actresses and actors from when she saw the show on Broadway versus at the Benedum. However, she noted that she realizes each show has its own bit of individuality, and that it did not take away from the musical at all.
Highly amused by the musical, Wilson said that “The talent is always amazing and the puns are hilarious. I always catch myself laughing at the little things that nobody else around me in the audience even notices.”
After the show, those participating in the “Penn State in Pittsburgh” trip from all three campuses went down to the front row seats to participate in a question and answer session with some of the actors.
Students had to opportunity to directly interact with and ask the actors questions about their training, the musical itself, and the preparation that went into the performance.
Dunegan said she took away some insightful information from the question and answer session. She claimed that what she enjoyed most about the information session with the actors was “how even though they are extraordinary actors, they are also everyday people who worked extremely hard to get where they are.”
This question and answer session was made possible by the planning of Student Life and the Campus Activities Board, along with a $3 fee per person.
Overall, the trip was a great success. Once again, CAB provided a well-organized and thoroughly entertaining event for the students of Penn State New Kensington.