By Samantha Brandbergh
After four years of writing songs, developing a script and painting a vision, senior musical theater major Colby Dezelick’s original musical Between the Lines is making its way back to the Rider stage.
Between the Lines is a musical about a young artist, Girl, portrayed by senior musical theater major Samantha Funk, who is pressured by a company to paint in a way that fits its standards.
“[The musical] follows her journey in choosing whether she wants to go that route, or another route of trying to go against what everyone tells her and try to be true to herself,” Dezelick said.
Although the character of Girl presented Funk with some challenges, she was able to channel her character through the similarities they share.
“I think both Girl and I are very passionate about what we love, our art, and will do whatever we think is right to achieve success in our craft,” she said. “At first, I didn’t completely understand her point of view on decisions she would make throughout her journey. However, as the story has developed more through rehearsals, I think Girl becomes justified in her decisions and relatable to others.”
This is not the first time Between the Lines has had a presence in Rider theater. Dezelick began the writing process his freshman year with the help of his friends.
“We were just singing songs and then it evolved into this show,” he said. “We initially [performed] it my sophomore year, and it was just me and a bunch of friends — it still is — but that’s how it always was.”
The musical, originally performed in the Spitz Theater, “was just a ‘song cycle’ of all of these songs that lined up to this storyline,” as Dezelick described it.
The performance in the Spitz consisted of the small eight-person cast, with Dezelick at the keyboard, and “someone to flick the light switch on and off.”
After receiving positive feedback from friends, family and peers, Dezelick knew that the musical had potential to grow.
“I wrote more of the script, wrote more songs, brought more people on board, and it grew,” he explained. “So, we did it again last year in the Yvonne Theater, and got another great response.”
The new version of Between the Lines will be performed in the Bart Luedeke Center Theater on Dec. 16 and 17.
“It’s growing even more,” Dezelick said. “It’s still about friends singing songs and reading scenes, but it’s just evolved into a more professional version.”
For Funk, Between the Lines has proven to be a “refreshing” endeavor.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be originating a character and singing new music we haven’t seen or heard of yet in the professional world,” she said. “It’s so easy to be involved in a show and look up videos on YouTube from past productions all around the world, but for the most part, everything in this version of Between The Lines hasn’t been seen, heard, or done before.”
Between the Lines is, in part, about the students, but Dezelick noted how important Rider’s musical theater faculty were during the process.
“They are so open and willing to work with the students and try and provide for them in any kind of course of action, not just in the classes they require, but allowing people to really try and explore all facets of theater and the arts,” he said.
Although directing and writing a musical is a rewarding experience for Dezelick, the process can be “tricky.”
“As a writer, you want to say, ‘I love everything I’ve ever written.’ But as a director, you have to look at it and wonder if something really serves the story that we’re telling,” he said. “Especially for this version, I try and blend the text with my directorial vision of it, so it’s very clear and concise and the two mesh together very well.”
Despite evolving from him at a keyboard in his sophomore year, to a full cast complete with a band and choreographer, Dezelick wouldn’t change a thing about the process.
“What I’ve learned from doing the process has been so gratifying,” he said. “The ignorance of when we first started was, obviously, terrifying looking at it now, but I think every mistake has led to a new discovery; the beauty of it has been the evolution.”
Watching his show come to life, particularly the music, has been Dezelick’s proudest moment.
“Being able to write a song and see it fully realized on stage is very special to me,” he said. “It’s been a soundtrack to our four years here, in a way, so it’s really cool to hear songs that are still in the show that were the first songs I’ve written. Each song kind of has a memory box of all those different things, so I think that’s the most special thing.”
Additional reporting by Emily Klingman.