“Significant Other” takes the stage under student leadership

Anna Vande Krol, Arts and Entertainment Editor

On Feb. 17, “Significant Other” had its opening night. It was produced by Viterbo’s Conservatory of the Performing Arts and directed by Mary Trotter, an adjunct faculty member for the Theatre and Music Theatre Department here at Viterbo, and Yassie Bonner, a Viterbo musical theatre major in her senior year. The play is a story told through the lens of Jordan Berman, a gay Jewish man living in New York who wants to find love but is faced with the struggles of watching his friends have significant others while he remains single.  

“It’s described as a romantic comedy, but it is so much more than that,” says sophomore musical theatre major Zach Sullivan. Sullivan, who portrayed Will, Conrad and Tony, and understudied Jordan, describes “Significant Other” as a complex show, stating that “The variety [that] the show carries [is that] it’s funny, it’s serious, it’s sad [and] it’s playful.” Another cast member of the show, sophomore musical theatre major Bailey Millimaki who understudies Laura, Vanessa and Kiki, says this show “takes you by surprise,” adding that “it ends in a way you don’t think that a comedy would.” 

“Significant Other” is about a story that has many layers to it, and the journey Jordan goes on is one that often is not told. This is one of the main reasons why Mary Trotter chose to co-direct this show alongside Bonner. Trotter became a part of Viterbo’s Conservatory program last fall. She currently teaches Directing and Acting II. Before Viterbo, she was working full-time as the head of the BFA performance program at the University of Central Missouri. “Coming here, I was thrilled to be able to have this part-time work and still continue my career in academia,” Trotter states. 

However, she didn’t always want to be a teacher. “All of my family were teachers,” Trotter recalls. “But then I got to teach as part of my assistantship [in grad school], I got to teach acting for non-majors. And then, I was just hooked. I just really like not just teaching theatre, but teaching in general, at the [college] level. This is a level that students are doing so much self-discovery and figuring out what they want to do with their careers.” Trotter loves mentoring and working with students, and this is another reason why “Significant Other” was so enjoyable, because she got to collaborate with Bonner.  

Her experience while co-directing “Significant Other” has been both fulfilling and challenging because of how the setting is arranged. “This show is done in an alley format, so the audience only sits on two sides. It’s not a traditional theatre setup,” Trotter explains. “So, blocking in an alley is also more difficult because you’ve got to be able to see pictures from both sides so that you’re serving both sides of the audience. That’s certainly been a challenge, but [the alley format] has been a really fun challenge.”  

The actors had their share of difficulties, too, especially with Sullivan and Millimaki who took on many roles. “It’s a process, you know, you’re gonna have ups and downs. But at the end of the day, in the overall arc, you’re learning so much, especially with a play that has to do with the Jewish faith [and the] LGBTQ+ community,” Sullivan says. Trotter appreciates all the work these students have put in to tell such a meaningful story from such meaningful characters. “[They did] a really good job of honoring them,” Trotter says.  

“Significant Other” was another successful show produced by the Conservatory. If you missed this one, check out Viterbo’s website and the Instagram account of the Viterbo Fine Arts Center to learn more about their upcoming shows.