Campus Life

Welcome to Penn State: The musical

First-year Penn State students learn about college life through theater and song

The cast of 'Results Will Vary*' on stage at Eisenhower Auditorium during a summer preview performance of the interactive theater production. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa — Within hours of getting keys, moving into a dorm room and saying goodbye to parents and family members, more than 3,500 first-year Penn State students will venture out of their rooms to an interactive experience that should set their emotions in high gear, and hopefully prepare them for a smoother and smarter transition to college life. 

Stepping out of the ordinary activities of New Student Orientation and Welcome Week, Penn State leaders have opted to give the incoming Class of 2022 a debut theater performance that tackles tough — but very real — scenarios, like finding academic success, avoiding pitfalls, alcohol use and other realities of life on a college campus.

By students, for students

Not shy about discussing sex, consent, alcohol, drugs and peer pressure, the interactive theater experience titled “Results Will Vary*” was written by students for students — making the show as true to life as possible.

A mix of actors, vocalists, writers, dancers and musicians were recruited from Penn State’s School of Theatre to write and produce the show from scratch. The show uses storytelling, sketch comedy and songs to educate first-year students about what is generally one of the biggest transitions in their young lives, complete with awkward moments and difficult challenges.

"We’re transporting ourselves back in time to channel emotions we had when we attended New Student Orientation (NSO), and sharing what we know now and what we wish we knew then," said Jasmine Forsberg, a cast member and sophomore in the School of Theatre. "Having current students talk directly to new students is what makes the show more relatable than a pamphlet or seminar. We're really striving for new students to be able to see themselves in our stories. It's personal for the audience, and for us."

During Welcome Week, first-year Penn State students at University Park will attend a debut performance of Results Will Vary*, an interactive theater production that explores realities of life as a Penn State student. Written and performed by students in the School of Theatre, the show uses stories, sketch comedy and songs to explore topics like diversity and inclusion, alcohol and drug use, sexual assault prevention and consent, and more.  Credit: Curtis Parker

The eight-member cast spent the summer infusing their own experiences, voices and advice into the 30-minute production.

The show flows from sketch, to song, to punchline like an episode of "Saturday Night Live" — mostly funny, but at times serious. A mix of rap, '90s R&B, ballads and pop songs — like "Residence Hall Rap Battle" and "Falling in Love at Penn State" — examine issues like transitioning to life on a big campus, solving problems with roommates, and engaging with peers on social media with civility.

"Our show is unique in that it is entirely written and performed by students, since they're truly the best experts on their own experiences," said Sonia DeLuca Fernández, associate vice provost for educational equity. "We specifically wanted the cast to use language they use in real life, in order to give the audience permission to engage in topics they might not have been previously exposed to, such as making decisions about whether to drink at a party or how to have respectful conversations related to diversity and inclusion."

A cornerstone of the production focuses on safety, minimizing risk, sexual assault prevention and consent, decision making, bystander intervention and the University's Responsible Action Protocol, and specific examples for when and how to call 911 or campus police — with a '40s-inspired chorus line repeating the police phone number throughout the show.

“We’re already talking about these topics as part of NSO and Welcome Week, but this show is a visual and emotional way to package and deliver these messages so they resonate with students more fully,” said Dan Murphy, director of Student Orientation and Transition Programs. “From the get-go, we want students to feel like they're part of a community and to know what the expectations are for being in this community."

Whether it's dealing with homesickness, understanding the importance of consent, or getting locked out of a residence hall late at night, Murphy said he wants students to walk away from the performance better prepared to face a variety of situations after having identified with at least one character, scenario or song in the show.