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 upper-class drama majors - and even graduate students - for acting roles. In the spring of 1977, with the urge to provide first-year students with a spotlight, the University of Virginia's 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 was not a performer, Ed Golden loved theater and knew it could be a positive, creative outlet for first-year students who may not be involved elsewhere at the University. He also recognized that a student-run group would provide artistic and leadership opportunities for upper-class students. 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 established 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.
From its humble beginnings back in 1977, First Year Players has since expanded into the biggest student-run theatre CIO on grounds! We are known as a gateway to the UVA theatre scene for first years and transfer students, offering both a theatrical and social outlet for new students. Traditionally, FYP puts on a new musical every semester, which is organized entirely by upperclassmen. First years and transfers are allowed exclusive access to cast auditions, but both tech and pit are open and welcoming to any student on grounds. "Casties" rehearse in the evening on weekdays and Sundays, and "Pitties" have two rehearsals a week based on the pit director's discretion. "Techies" meet once a week on Wednesdays throughout the semester, planning out how they want to approach their artistic vision for the show. Social events are also a large part of the First Year Players experience. The main goal of FYP is to create an environment in which first years and transfer students feel supported and loved. We strive to make every student we meet more comfortable and at home at UVa. Because of this, we put a great emphasis on a variety of social events, ranging from large gatherings to smaller groups. Everyone can "Find Their Place" in FYP!
Historic events have proven that the spirit of First Year Players is indomitable. In the early morning hours of March 31, 1998, the group encountered a daunting situation. In the Student Activities Building (SAB), where all FYP shows are performed, a water pipe pulled out of the wall, flooding the entire building. FYP could have lost all of its sets, costumes, props, and electronics, but luck spared most FYP property from damage. Still, repairs to the SAB would be devastatingly expensive, and FYP was expected to cover them. But despite this potentially demoralizing setback, as soon as the organization had permission to re-enter the building, every FYP member began working tirelessly to ensure that the show – Guys & Dolls – could open as planned. On the evening of final dress rehearsal, an unexpected donation from the Z Society appeared at the door, sparing FYP from spending all of its savings and show proceeds on the SAB repairs. Through the determination of the cast, staff, and tech crew - combined with the generosity of the Z Society - First Year Players triumphed. Even thousands of gallons of water could not wash away the dedication and spirit of FYP!