Conversation with the Cast: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Production of “JOY!”

6 min read

Lily Mellitz ’26

Contributing Writer

In the realm of entertainment, where creativity takes center stage, there emerges a new production called “JOY!.” “JOY! is a celebratory spectacle,” said Peter Kyle, professor of dance and chair of the theater and dance department. “We are bringing together world-class circus artists, student and professional dancers from both Trinity and the local Hartford community, as well as the amazing acapella group, SoVoSó.”

“JOY!” is led by Tandy Beal, an acclaimed Santa Cruz-based choreographer, director and producer. Her career highlights include directing the Moscow Circus in Tokyo, choreographing “The Nightmare Before Christmas” for Tim Burton and crafting 65 life-sized puppets for Frank Zappa. As part of Trinity’s Bicentennial celebration, “JOY!” will grace the Goodwin Theater at Trinity’s Austin Arts Center, with three free performances on Oct. 13 and 14.

Trinity students and faculty from diverse creative backgrounds united for this project. I had the privilege of speaking with some, beginning with the audition process.

“I have performed since I was two and have participated in many auditions over the years,” said Jade Mellitz ‘26. “My audition was probably the most low-key and supportive atmosphere I have ever experienced during a show’s selection process. Professor Kyle was supportive, enthusiastic and welcoming. We moved a lot, talked a lot. It was very different from most auditions I have experienced.”

“I came into the audition seeing some new faces and old ones that were surprised but delighted to see me,” shared Ayouba Swaray ‘24. “Our instructor, Peter Kyle, had us go through a series of clowning-esque workouts and warmups. The energy of our group made me excited for the production to come as it will be a zany, electric, energetic performance that lies at the perfect intersection of dance and acting.”

In the world of theater, a competitive attitude has long been the norm. Every performer knows all too well the stress of the audition, the anxiety of the callback and the agonizing anticipation of the casting announcement. While this intensity may entice some and deter others, JOY! sets itself apart by championing inclusivity, community and creativity. As Steven Shen ‘25 eloquently stated, “‘JOY!’ is a production that is completely different from anything I have ever done. The energy and general good vibe of the show is immaculate. All the production members are trying to create a fantasy world together and welcome the audience to join in.”

Next, we explored the mystery behind the curtain, where the rehearsal process offers a peek behind the scenes.

“The rehearsal schedule can be busy, depending on the number of pieces you are in,” Mellitz explained. “I am in three pieces and I have rehearsals four times a week. I love it, though. It is so much fun. You bond with your castmates and learn so much from the instructors.”

“Rehearsing for “JOY!” has been an interesting and new process,” Amanda Rivera ‘27 told me. “The way rehearsals are structured are a bit different than what I am used to but fun to be part of. I am used to performing ballets and have never been a part of a production that was not ballet. This is very new for me but has been enjoyable thus far.”

Brayden Esler ‘27 commented, “Throughout the rehearsal process for “JOY!.” I have been able to engage in several different styles of dance which I have not tried before. I have learned many different techniques and practice methods for each section, and I have become much closer with all of the cast members.”

“I would say that it is very exciting,” Junny Nguyen ‘26 said. “The piece that I am in has a lot of physical contact and we have a lot of teamwork and chemistry. We really trust each other in these dances.”

Throughout my conversations with the cast, a prevailing theme emerged—an overwhelming passion, enthusiasm, and deep affection for this project. As Nguyen captured in this statement, “I feel like a huge part of the production is in the name, “JOY!.”” Everyone really has a lot of fun practicing, acting and dancing. Fun is the main theme, and I feel like we really enjoy the moments we are in rehearsal.”

Esler also expressed his enthusiasm. “I am super excited for the upcoming performances of this awesome project. It is surely something you do not want to miss.”

Finally, I asked the artists about their hopes for both the audience and the cast during the journey of “JOY!.”

“The audience should expect to be dazzled by what is happening visually, physically and musically,” Kyle stated. “This event will, and this might sound a little simple in this day and age, remind us of what brings us joy. It will remind ourselves of what it is to have a sense of wonder about who we are, where we live, where we work, what we do together and how we are in community together.”

“Tandy Beal and Professor Kyle are very talented and experienced artists,” Aprajita Agarwal ‘26 eagerly shared. “The tools and sensitive insights given by them have helped me understand this piece beyond the technical and aesthetic detail. With every section being so unique, ‘JOY!’ is going to be a tasteful blend of music, dance, circus and whatnot, and I am hopeful and confident that the audience will be able to connect with ‘JOY!’ as much as I did.”

Lastly, Shen promised, “Even though the show has not been put together fully, I have full faith that this show is going to be the best visual and audio experience the audience will ever have.”

“JOY!” is more than just a production; it is a celebration of creativity, unity and the sheer delight of artistic expression. As the curtain rises on this remarkable endeavor, it promises to captivate hearts, awaken wonder and bring joy to all who experience it. Do not miss your chance to be part of this electrifying journey.

To reserve tickets and for more information, please visit https://www. showtix4u.com/event-details/76094 or contact Austin Arts Center in Hartford, CT https://www.trincoll. edu/austin-arts-center/.

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