Offstage and Outside the Theater: Reflections on YC Students’ Field Trips for Urinetown

By Annie Sears   

It’s not every day that you get to see a musical about pee, but the Young Conservatory’s current production of Urinetown provides just that. Characters dance across the stage with their legs crossed as they harmonize about their “privilege to pee” or lack thereof, having audiences howling with pee-your-pants laughter. This satire is hilarious, but it’s also deeply political and requires intellectual engagement. Characters break the fourth wall, directly asking audiences to reevaluate their views on economic disparity, police brutality, and environmental sustainability.

Director Jessica Bird wanted actors to grasp the musical’s relevance firsthand. So A.C.T.’s Education and Community Programs team organized several field trips to help students make ties between their real-life community and the community portrayed onstage.

YC students at GLIDE. Photo by Elizabeth Brodersen.
Students partnered with GLIDE, a church that maintains several community service programs aimed at breaking the cycles of poverty and marginalization, including a free meal program, violence-intervention groups for both men and women, pro-bono legal advice, HIV/Hep-C testing, and other forms of advocacy for those in crisis. In 2016–17, GLIDE served 726,500 free meals and provided services to over 14,000 individuals. “By meeting people that I would normally walk past on the street,” says Ayra Demirovich, “by looking them in the eyes and hearing their stories, my capacity to empathize with every human being grew.”

YC students at the Eco-Center. Photo by Stephanie Wilborn.
The Boys & Girls Club also took cast members on a walking tour of the Tenderloin. “Our guides showed us the beautiful parts of the neighborhood, as well as the parts that most San Francisco locals assume are bad,” says Gabrielle Milman. “I loved seeing the beauty inside of a neighborhood that is misunderstood.

By visiting the Eco-Center at Heron Head’s Park, YC students engaged in hands-on learning about the Bay Area’s water conservation initiatives. “The field trip has been eye-opening and beneficial,” says Karima Karkori, “not only to the development of the show but to my own view of the world.”

Through these excursions, students explored both the serious and the silly aspects of this clever comedy. Want to see it for yourself? Urinetown: The Musical runs through August 18 at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater, 1127 Market Street, San Francisco. Click here to purchase tickets.

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