Student Life

Footloose Musical Continues Student-Led Performing Arts Revival


It’s been a strong couple of years for the performing arts at AUP. Following on from last year’s student-led Spring Arts Festival, the VIVRE performing arts club has this year collaborated with AUP’s Office of Student Leadership to put on a production of Footloose, based on the 1984 musical film of the same name starring Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer. The musical tells the story of the lives of high-school students in a fictional small American town called Bomont where dancing is banned. AUP’s production ran over the two nights of April 13–14, 2023, in the American Church in Paris.

“The students chose the play specifically because it’s about protest,” said Safia Benyahia, AUP’s Student Leadership Coordinator. She directed the performance and helped VIVRE coordinate other aspects of the production, drawing on her previous theater experience; she holds a theatre degree from UCLA and has previously taught drama. Student volunteers organized props and costumes and handled marketing and the financial side, as well as performing on stage and in the band – in some cases both at once! Students also took on the roles of stage manager (Rebecca Deuchler) and choreographer (Madison Ponder). “It's a fantastic leadership development opportunity,” said Safia.

Oscar Padula ’22 played leading man Ren McCormack, the out-of-towner who arrives in Bomont ready to shake things up. Oscar, who is currently studying for an MA in Global Communications, having graduated from AUP’s major in the same subject, explained that putting together a whole musical from scratch was a daunting task: “Once performance day came, we realized how much work we’d put in. Even with all the talent in the group, we recognized it was an amateur production – so we tried to have fun on stage for the performance!” The energy and enthusiasm were clear on the night, with sold-out performances on both evenings.

The cross-community collaboration involved in the production also saw the inclusion of staff and faculty – and even one alumnus, Henry Rohlf G’21, who performed as part of the cast. Anthony El Ghazal from the Multimedia Office, for example, provided his talent for drums, as well as rented microphones. Professor Jurgen Hecker, the Program Coordinator for the journalism major, organized the musicians and played keyboard during the show.

The musical is also a call back to AUP history: the White Mask Theater club ran from 1997 to the late-2010s, and they put on an annual musical production, with shows including Grease, Chicago and Guys and Dolls. These performances often saw cameos from AUP's very own Marc Monthéard, today Vice President for Student Services and Security. In a nod back to his days treading the boards with students, Marc cameoed once again in Footloose as the disapproving high school principal, intent on stopping underage dancing.