MUSKET’s productions are often as eccentric as the group’s name: the Michigan Union Shows, Ko-Eds, Too.
The troupe’s origins date back to 1908, when it was called the Michigan Union Opera Company. The name was changed to MUSKET in 1956, when women were added to the group and the focus was shifted to performing musicals.
Today, the group puts on two shows per year and stands out on campus as the only musical theater troupe that is entirely student-run.
The student staff of MUSKET consists of four producers, who stay on throughout the year, and a changing set of marketers, directors, actors, orchestra members and stage crew, who vary by show.
This group differs from most campus productions because it often offers parts to students from different schools and departments in the University, according to Music, Theatre & Dance senior Trevor Sponseller, one of MUSKET’s producers.
“What’s really cool is that we get a lot of theater and musical theater people, and then we get a lot of really talented people from LSA and engineering and nursing and education, completely different majors,” he said.
In choosing such a diverse cast, members of MUSKET say they are trying to promote the ultimate goal of the troupe: to produce a student theater that offers theatrical opportunities to all.
Because the group is student-run, Sponseller said it also has more freedom in the musicals that it chooses to perform.
“We like to do edgier shows, stuff that tests the boundaries a little bit more than the department shows,” Sponseller said.
In the past, MUSKET has performed shows like “Assassins,” “Urinetown,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “The Full Monty.”
Maintaining that edgy theme is MUSKET’s selection for this fall: the rock musical “Hair.”
The musical follows the lives and tribulations of a hippie tribe living in Central Park in New York City in the 1960s. The characters deal with complex issues like sexuality, identity and the Vietnam War draft.
LSA sophomore Lance Fletke, who plays one of the leads, said he knew from the beginning that this year’s performance would be a “powerful show.”
“These are powerful people, each and every one with a story, each and every one with a history, and baggage, and experiences, and joys and pains,” he said. “And we’re all coming together to pour ourselves into this show.”