For over three years, the completely student-run Underdog Workshop Theatre organization has had one goal for the New Paltz campus, as addressed in their Instagram bio: “To create more opportunities for actors.”
The club has been surpassing that goal, by consistently putting on plays even when COVID-19 rendered all performances online in 2020, including two student-written plays titled “Dorm Party” and “Cake.” Not only is Underdog creating a platform for budding actors, but they are paving the way for new writers and directors to get experience as well.
Underdog’s last full in-person performance was a version of “The Laramie Project,” held at the Reformed Church of New Paltz for two nights in October of 2019. Their last cabaret was “Broadway Cares,” a collaboration with Miami Theatre Players that took place in November of 2019.
After the two aforementioned virtual plays, posted on their Instagram account @npunderdogtheatre in March and April of 2020, the organization is back to in-person rehearsals for the upcoming cabaret “Broadway Cares…But Villains Don’t.”
The cast consists of New Paltz students that were given either a solo or duet from various Broadway plays and musicals. All of the songs are from the villains of said plays, adding to the Halloween theme since the cabaret is debuting in October.
The president of the club is third-year Olivia Rhode and the vice president is third-year Heather Michaels. Rhode is also directing the cabaret.
Auditions for the play were held in September. Caitlyn Schmidt, president of the New Paltz all-female acapella group The Sexy Pitches and member of Underdog, landed a role as “Carrie” from the 70s musical of the same name. She is very excited to take on this role.
“Not many people know that ‘Carrie’ was made into a musical, and I’m happy this incredible musical is being highlighted in the cabaret,” she said.
Schmidt complimented the theatre group’s great online presence throughout the pandemic. She starred in “Cake” as Julie, the main character Martin’s uninterested and unrequited crush. She enjoyed working with Underdog throughout the pandemic.
“It was a great way to keep theater alive while live theater was not really accessible,” she said. “This semester, [the club] is extremely low-commitment, as we are able to rehearse our songs on our own, and then come to rehearsals to receive notes! This club allows people with busy schedules to still be involved, and Olivia is extremely flexible with working around her cast, which is another reason I came back this semester.”
Michaels is also excited to perform in the upcoming cabaret, along with continuing her position of vice president in the club.
“Theatre has always been a huge part of my life and I’m so glad that I can continue to fuel my passion in college,” she said. “It has really helped me grow in the areas of communication and time management skills, which I am also so grateful for!”
Rehearsals for the cabaret are just getting started, but Michaels already has a plan for the process of practices.
“We are going to have rehearsals spread out throughout the semester, where each cast member has 30 minutes to perform their song for the director, and get some feedback on their performance,” she explained. “We will then have to do full run-throughs of the show before the actual performance.”
Michaels also mentioned that all of the money made from this cabaret will be going towards Broadway Cares/Equity Fights, an organization that helps individuals who are in need of medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance. Not only did it inspire the name of the performance; it is also a charity that the members of Underdog are very inspired by.
“I think the cabaret will send out the message that we can continue to do what we love while also supporting important causes that are so beneficial for the well-being of others,” Michaels added. “The performance will be so much more rewarding to us, knowing that our hard work is supporting such a wonderful cause, and hopefully the audience will also learn the benefits of supporting this wonderful organization.”
Schmidt also feels that “Broadway Cares…But Villains Don’t” will be a nice way for the audience to support live theatre.
“The show will be highlighting a lot of talent, and is giving the opportunity for everyone to perform, when we have not been in front of a live audience in so long,” she said.
“Broadway Cares…But Villains Don’t” does not have a set date yet, but follow @npunderdogtheatre on Instagram to stay posted.