The Founding of FYP
At the University of Virginia, first-year students often find it difficult to become involved with theatrical productions in the Drama Department. In these productions, first-years must compete against upperclass drama majors - and even graduate students - for acting roles. In the spring of 1977, with the urge to provide first-year students with their own spotlight, University of Virginia campus minister Ed Golden cast first-years in a performance of the musical Godspell at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. The show was a tremendous success, representing the first unofficial production by the student theater group that would become First Year Players (FYP).
Though he personally was not a performer, Ed Golden loved theater and knew it could be a positive, creative outlet for first-year students who may be unable to get involved elsewhere at the University. He also recognized that a student-run group would provide artistic and leadership opportunities for upperclassmen. When Golden became Assistant Dean of Students for the First Year Residence Life Program in 1980, he recruited students Cathy Cannon and Bonnie Gelazek to formally lead an organization that would produce a musical each spring. The group First Year Players was officially formed in 1981. Featuring a cast of first-years and performing mainly in the U.Va. Law School auditorium, FYP's early productions included Guys & Dolls, Brigadoon, and Fiddler on the Roof.
Golden left U.Va. in 1985 and eventually became Vice President for Student Affairs at Syracuse University, where he founded another branch of First Year Players in the 1990s. At the University of Virginia, the original FYP group became an entirely student-run Contracted Independent Organization (CIO), producing one musical every semester in the Student Activities Building. Productions have ranged from classics such as Damn Yankees and Grease to less traditional shows such as Sugar, Big River, and Victor/Victoria.