NEW YORK — Broadway cast members extended words of encouragement to Michigan State University (MSU) in a compilation video posted to YouTube Wednesday morning.
Cast members from multiple productions including Moulin Rouge, Hamilton, Jesus Christ Superstar and more extended their condolences and support in response to last week’s tragedy.
“I just want to say go MSU, Spartan Strong,” says award-winning playwright Lynn Nottage. “In moments like this, we need our artists to be second responders. It's really important for us to come together as a community and use the tools that we have to amplify and tell our stories.”
The video received many responses from Spartans who voiced their gratitude for the messages delivered in the video.
“I’m the stage manager of Sweat at MSU,” one commenter wrote. “We were in the rehearsal when we had to go into lockdown. This means everything and more.”
Another wrote, “I am an MSU professor in international business law and sustainability. I am so touched by this kind of support for our students.”
Wes Haskell, the man who uploaded the video, is a 2012 graduate of MSU. He is currently the associate company manager of A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical.
"I was an MFA in Acting student at Michigan State University," says Haskell. "And ever since [I graduated], I've lived in New York City. I was an actor for a while, and now I'm actually a company manager for Broadway shows."
He says he first heard about the shooting in a push alert from the New York Times.
"It went away, and I was like, 'Wait a second, was that what I think it was?'"
Haskell reached out to alumni to learn as much information as he could. He tells us he had been near shootings while living in New York City and San Francisco — but the shooting on MSU's campus hit closer to home than any other.
"There's something about it happening on that campus where I ... felt so safe and comfortable and protected," he says. "I just have such a deep connection still to that campus, even though I haven't been there for 10 years."
Haskell wanted to help in some way, which was how he came up with the idea for the video.
"I was sitting there and I thought, 'You know what? Broadway loves to support one another. What if I just send an email out to all the company managers that I know ... and say, "Hey, any chance your company could have, like, five minutes to just sit down and send a really sweet 15- to 32-second video to the Department of Theatre at Michigan State?"'"
It took a lot of coordination, but Haskell tells us everyone was more than willing to lend a hand.
"When the videos really started pouring in ... I teared up a little bit," Haskell recalls. "Every time I watched it, I couldn't stop crying. So it was really special. Very, very special."
He says he knew the video would mean a lot to the MSU community after the impact it had on him.
The message from Lynn Nottage in particular left him with goosebumps.
"I've never thought of artists and theatre as being a second responder, but that's absolutely what artists are," says Haskell. "We just want to uplift people; we want to make sure that they feel better, that they can hopefully understand their feelings a little bit more through theatre and through the arts."
He hopes theatre students and faculty come away from the video with one important thing in mind:
"We all have the power to impact each other, and we all have the power to make a difference," he says. "That's what artists do."
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