Applause rang out in the Abu Dhabi Theater earlier this month as NYU Abu Dhabi students, faculty, and staff attended the annual Presidential Welcome and Real AD Show, a production that depicts the realities of being an NYUAD student.
NYU President John Sexton opened the night with his welcoming address, celebrating the growth of NYU Abu Dhabi, which received its fourth freshman class this year, thus completing the student body for the very first time. Praising the students for their numerous talents and accomplishments, Sexton challenged them with the task of creating a community — both inside and outside the walls of Sama Tower.
I remember when I was a freshman I was really homesick, but the show really helped me to think, 'Maybe I'm not the only one who's feeling like this,' and that's what I hope they got from it.
Following Sexton's message, 16 cast members filed onto the stage, marking the beginning of the Real AD Show. Through song, rap, monologues, and dance, the cast illustrated issues relevant to the NYUAD student, from dealing with roommates, fighting procrastination, coping with homesickness, and accepting failure. The show repeatedly reminded students that support is always readily available. "NYUAD is a community from which you can seek help and get it," said sophomore cast member Mahlet Kassa.
The show's script and choreography were created entirely by students, who spent their summers in New York composing, scripting, choreographing, and rehearsing the show alongside theater professionals Michael Ulreich, Stephanie Hsu, Ryan Amador, Stephanie Wells, NYUAD Associate Professor of theater Rubén Polendo (who is also the director of the University's theater program), and director Elizabeth Swados from NYU New York's Tisch School of the Arts.
"I hope that the freshmen felt that we could relate to them somehow and they weren't the only ones who feel the way they do right now. I remember when I was a freshman I was really homesick, but the show really helped me to think, 'Maybe I'm not the only one who's feeling like this,' and that's what I hope they got from it," said cast member and sophomore Noor Al Mahrooqi.
"If there's a specific topic that touches either freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior in a significant or impactful way — if we made them feel included, if we made them feel accepted or understood, even if it's just one person in a crowd during a song or skit — then we feel that we have done our job," said sophomore performer Geo Kamus. "The takeaway is to laugh at the problems that you have. Everyone is going to face problems in their lives, but the only thing we can do about it is have fun and accept them."