Nov. 9 to Nov. 11, the College of William and Mary’s student-run theatre group Mint Theatre Company presented “The Journal” in Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall’s Studio Theatre. Featuring various tales and stories from undergraduate students told through the lens of the two main characters Aaron and Blake, the show employed authenticity and humor in its storytelling to guide the audience through an unfortunate first date, grief, midterms woes, Ultimate Frisbee dance-offs between contestants in cow-printed attire, experiences with anxiety and depression and, of course, longing for an available laundry machine.
Mint Theatre Company was founded just about a year ago on Nov. 14, 2022 by Anya Ruzicka ’25, who took to the stage for the first time in her undergraduate career for “The Journal.” After working behind the scenes in student-run theater productions during the spring of her freshman year, Ruzicka worked to create a home at the College for original, student-written plays and musicals.
As the group’s second-ever show put on just shy of its first birthday, “The Journal” was brought to life through cast-wide collaboration and guidance from associate professor of world Theatre Claire Pamment. Cast member Maggie Walters ’27 said that much of the show’s content was inspired by cast members’ experiences as college students.
“We started with an idea of creating a show that talked about college realness. We wanted something that college students can relate to, and from that we came up with the idea of using the journal as a way to tell, like, multiple different stories,” Walters said. “At first, our concept was based around one singular person and their life throughout college, but as we went through the writing process, it turned more into trying to show all of our experiences to capture more of a collective group rather than just one specific group.”
Walters also noted that the show focused on collaborative casting in order to equally distribute scenes and stage time among actors as well as prioritize each actor’s comfort with their scenes.
To further maintain an inclusive, welcoming environment, the group notably also did not require auditions for “The Journal,” which allowed members of any experience level to contribute to the show in any way they wanted, including as writers, actors and producers.
“One of our biggest ‘rules’ was ‘don’t say no.’ Don’t say no to yourself when you have an idea, like, even if you think it’s stupid, just say it,” Ruzicka said. “And then, also, don’t say no to the group, right?”
One of the most unique aspects of the “The Journal” was its split between scripted and improvised scenes, leading to novel variation in each of its showings that cast member Ryan Cunningham ’27 said was a highlight of working on the production.
“Definitely for me, it’s been that every time we’ve met there’s always something new, there’s always something different,” Cunningham said. “I mean, we’ve run the show – I don’t even know how many times this week, and every time there’s always a little surprise in there. Something to keep you on your toes that just makes it all the more exciting.”
At the Nov. 10 showing of “The Journal,” audience members dissolved into deep laughter at the show’s depiction of comedic scenarios like a first (and definitely last) date. However, the show also made space for more solemn scenes, a major point of emphasis for many in the production.
“…We placed [scenes] in a way that we thought would spread out more of the serious topics amongst more of the humorous topics while also making sure that they were still impactful on the story itself with transition scenes in between them,” Walters said.
While the comedic scenes often drew laughs from the crowd, to many watching the show, what especially stuck with them were the more serious moments.
“I liked a lot of the more emotional [scenes], like the one about anxiety and also just grief about death in general,” attendee Sasha Kovtun ’27 said. “That’s very interesting.”
Walters said she hopes viewers leave knowing that college is not a linear journey. Many aspects of that journey, however, can be shared experiences. Laundry is to be lamented. Puzzles are, well, puzzling. Quiet hours are not always quiet. Sometimes, only the promise of celebratory ice cream can incentivize additional studying.
“We just want them to leave with this idea that college doesn’t have to be this perfect journey,” Walters said. “You don’t have to come into college with a plan, and you don’t have to stick with that plan. You can if you want to, but you don’t have to. It’s a whole journey about ups and downs. It’s about finding yourself.”