One of Northwestern’s great traditions is the Waa-Mu show, named after the Women’s Athletic Association and Men’s Union. The first show took place in 1929 and ever since then Waa-Mu has been a tradition in which students create their own musical from the ground up and perform it for the community. Their most recent show was called Gold and was based on the 1936 Olympics in Berlin; I attended it this past Saturday.

Cahn Auditorium, where the performance was held, was full of students and community members—during intermission I noticed University President Morty Schapiro on the other side of the auditorium. Gold focused on the stories of individual athletes in the games and the high expectations that the Olympics bring (if you read my post on the class I’d teach at Northwestern, you’ll know that an Olympics theme was particularly intriguing to me). Of course, since it was the 1936 Olympics in Berlin there was an undertone of political unrest. For example, some of the characters were journalists and had to find a way to get past some of the censors and reveal that Berlin was not as pleasant as it looked at that time. Additionally, some of the athletes were not allowed to compete because of ethnic and religious discrimination, and the show highlighted the pain in training so hard and being denied a chance at competition. Beyond the story, I was particularly impressed by the set and the choreography. I enjoyed the scenes involving basketball practice and games; the student choreographers did a great job capturing what the sport looks like and translating it into dance fitting a musical.

Of course, it isn’t possible to talk about Waa-Mu and not highlight the incredibly talented students who make it possible. This was the 84th show and everything about it was organized and created by students. One of my friends worked on choreography and a girl in my discussion section was one of the co-chairs for the show. I, for one, have no idea where to even begin with creating a new musical, but students like them decided to take on the mantle and go for Gold.

–Jason Smith

photo source: Waa-Mu Facebook.

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