‘In Pieces’ — a student-led production


Photo courtesy of @oumusictheatredance on Instagram

Varner Hall’s Lab Theatre to welcome the student led production “In Pieces” from Sept 2-4.

Young love is a universal narrative — one that junior musical theater major Cayla Stus is bringing to the Varner Lab Theatre from Sept. 2-4 with Joey Contreras’s latest musical, “In Pieces.”

This show shares stories from the love lives of eight New Yorkers, played by Sarita Alvarado (Alex), Brady Jacot (Austyn), Mark Le Mire (Charlie), Sam VanKampen (Grey), Alexander Hernandez (Hunter), Kendall Burns (Jael), Serelle Karasinski (River) and Cosette Reece (Sam). 

After performing in a production of “In Pieces” last summer, Stus felt a deep connection to this particular show, inspiring her to take a leap of faith and propose it as a student-led production through Oakland’s theater department. For the past six months, Stus and former Gold Vibrations music director Wes Hutchinson have been working to bring Contreras’s music to life. 

Though there was ample time to prepare, the rehearsal process wasn’t entirely a walk in the park. Since the show was cast as summer break was just around the corner, Hutchinson and Stus were left with limited time to rehearse with the actors in-person. Given that the majority of the rehearsal process was conducted over Zoom, the transition back to in-person rehearsals had its complications — whether it be a technical issue involving LED strip-lights or the result of Zoom-related hindrances in musical pedagogy, the directorial debutantes sustained it all.

Regardless of how rocky this transition might have been, Stus had the perfect right hand man in Hutchinson to navigate it all.

“I was ready to hit the pedal to the metal,” Hutchinson said, with an attitude of genuine, undeniable care for the production that sets it apart from the average show produced by the School of Music, Theatre and Dance.

The experience you have while watching this show is dependent on the audience member themselves – who you are, where you’ve been and where you are now.

“I think that everybody can find something for themselves in this show,” Stus said. “Whether it unlocks an old memory, sparks a new emotion or brings up old feelings that you thought you’d forgotten about, or whether you just fall in love with the characters and the music, I think that there’s something for everybody to enjoy about this show.”

Highlights from this show are not limited to the music itself nor to the character development, but also in Stus’s direction. There is a defining moment in the show crafted in a way that makes for a particularly dynamic and meaningful experience for audience members. In retrospect, it’s simply a glance shared between two characters — but watching it happen evokes feelings that some may have forgotten, while others face them presently.

Come with an open mind (and maybe a tissue box) and enjoy the music of Joey Contreras in Oakland University’s production of “In Pieces” in Varner Hall’s Lab Theatre on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 2 and 3 at 8 p.m., and on Sunday, Sept 4 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available to purchase now at etix.com.