Gillian Herszage’s Final Bow: Inside SCDS Spring Showcase Auditions

By: Emily Goldberg  |  March 27, 2024

By Emily Goldberg, Publication Manager and Layout Editor

When Gillian Herszage (SSSB ‘24) speaks with her fellow Broadway-loving peers, more often than not, it’s with Hamilton lyrics. Being the President of the Stern College Dramatics Society (SCDS) requires fluency in such musical numbers. With SCDS’s spring musical theater showcase right around the corner, eloquence in theater songs has never been more of a necessity for Gillian.  

The Beren campus music floor echoed with the sound of auditionees rehearsing such songs just minutes before SCDS Spring Showcase auditions began. The YU Observer was fortunate to attend showcase auditions firsthand. In the audition room, the desks that once lined a music classroom were pushed to the side, backpacks strewn all over the floor, a grand piano sitting in the corner of the room, and music notes scribbled all over the whiteboard. 

SCDS Showcase kickstarted in the Spring 2022 semester and has happened every year since then. The production is composed of song and dance numbers directed and choreographed by SCDS members. Female students and faculty will have the opportunity to attend the final production on April 10. “What’s special, I think specifically about showcase, is that not everybody is a theater person,” said Gillian. “SCDS has so much talent in our community and it’s really special to see [everyone’s] vision come to life.” 

As one anxious student walked into the audition room, she threw her backpack on a chair and nervously approached Gillian, who sat behind the teachers desk beside her fellow directors Miri Granik (SSSB ‘24) and Sarale Goldberger (SCW ‘25). “Remember, yes, you are auditioning for us, but we are still your friends,” Gillian reassured her peer. “It’s like playing American Idol on the trampoline on Shabbos afternoons.” The three began to type notes on their computers, clicking the only sound in the now quiet room before the auditionee began to sing.

After the audition was complete and the door slammed behind the student, Gillian immediately whispered to Sarale and Miri as the three chatted excitedly amongst themselves. “That was great,” said Gillian. “I’m really excited for this show.” 

In an interview after auditions, Gillian elaborated on the goals of showcase. As Gillian entered the art classroom where this interview with the YU Observer was conducted, she sat down on the cushiony black couch with excitement and jumped right into explaining the perks of showcase. “Showcase literally happens over the course of three and a half, four weeks,” said Gillian. “It is a lower commitment [than the fall play] and so people are more excited to be there.” 

The theme of this year’s showcase is a journey through time, which might sound “broad,” but is actually crucial in a theme. “Not everybody can do the Disney Princess track,” affirmed Gillian. “Getting to do a showcase rather than one show with one style gets to have all [different types of] people in it and people are getting to play a character that they have never gotten to play before.” 

Gillian then elaborated on the importance of having multiple different styled numbers which allows students to spotlight their unique talents. “Every kind of voice should get the chance to perform,” said Gillian, as her computer lay on the couch futon, the stickers on her case contrasted against the dark black leather – two of them reading “and everything was Ragtime” and “#GIRLBOSS.”

One of the most crucial aspects of showcase is that it is spearheaded solely by students. “It is… a tremendous leadership opportunity, which is something that I really believe in in all aspects, but definitely in the arts,” reiterated Gillian. “This is student run, so we want you to feel comfortable and we want you to know that we are your friends; even if we don’t know you yet, you are part of our community by being here.” 

Many different types of girls with different personalities and backgrounds came to audition for showcase. Together, they form a special community built on their love of the arts. “We don’t see a lot of opportunities like this on our campus, or really, in the broader religious world anymore,” said Gillian. “What we do have is beautiful but it’s just infrequent.” SCDS is an extremely important club for women on the Beren campus to showcase their musical talents in a space that respects Halacha. “Everyone who wants to create should be able to create.” 

One of SCDS’s other main goals is to foster an environment where students feel confident and excited to perform onstage. “Students who, three years ago, were like ‘I might sing something’ are now like ‘let me direct a number,’ and that’s really special,” emphasized Gillian. “⁠⁠I know that being on stage in a group number like our showcase makes people feel like they are a part of something special.” 

Eliana Diamond (SCW ‘25), Vice President of SCDS, is grateful for Gillian’s leadership over the past year. “I’ve loved working under Gillian this year and getting to see first hand her dedication to bringing the arts to Stern through all her perfectly executed SCDS programming,” said Eliana. “It’s definitely going to be very hard filling her shoes next year.”

As Gillian reflected on her time with SCDS, she looked down at her hands with a sad yet grateful expression. “It’s crazy because I’m 22 years old but I’ve been doing this since I was eight years old and it could all be ending on April 10.” As Gillian’s final bow with SCDS approaches, she hopes that SCDS will continue to have an impact on Beren campus students for years to come. “Going forward, I hope that the community aspects of SCDS stay the same…and that the drive to create stays at YU.” 

During auditions, it was evident that Gillian has had a great impact on the SCDS community over the past few years. One auditionee exclaimed,“Everyone knows Gillian, she’s a celebrity!” Miri confirmed to Gillian, “They (all the students) all know you already.” For Gillian, “at the end of the day, this is what college is all about; being with your friends in these classrooms late at night.” Yet, she continued, “Creation doesn’t end when college ends.” 

The supportive environment of SCDS could not have been more apparent during auditions. “We are with you. We are a team,” said Gillian. “The kind of atmosphere that [SCDS tries] to create is: we are your friends and we are singing with you.”