Student-produced ‘First Date’ musical navigates awkwardness in dating


Mia Wang/Iowa State Daily

“First Date” is a musical comedy that portrays a blind date between Aaron, played by Lincoln Klopfenstein, a junior in music, and serial romancer Casey, played by Rachel Ward, a sophomore in performing arts. The crew has its final dress rehearsal on Wednesday night.

Averi Baudler

All over the country, dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble and Hinge sit at the forefront of today’s college campus dating culture. As these apps continue to gain popularity and college students increasingly embark on dates with various strangers, it seems there is no shortage of awkward or uncomfortable ‘first date’ horror stories. 

This relatable theme is exactly what caused Davis Vande Steeg, senior in performing arts, to pick the musical “First Date” as the show he wanted to direct in his final semester at Iowa State. 

“I started the search for a student-produced musical last October,” Vande Steeg said. “I went through a series of different musicals and landed on ‘First Date,’ because as we’re all going through college … we start to go on more first dates and try to find the one.”

Each year, the theater department allows students to apply to direct a full-length show through their ‘Student Produced’ program. In order to be chosen, Vande Steeg had to assemble a creative team and submit various materials to show he was serious about making this musical come to life.

Vande Steeg went through an application process and submitted the show he wanted to do along with all of the paperwork. He also had to submit a concept statement explaining everything the show covers and how it impacts students’ lives.

Though student-produced shows are not new to the theater department, “First Date” marks the first time a student has decided to direct a musical instead of a play. 

“I’ve always wanted to direct a musical … and no one’s ever really done a musical for ‘Student Produced,’ so it was a very different experience,” Vande Steeg said. “I had to talk a lot with faculty members about what we would need to do and how we’d need to do it.”

“First Date” follows the story of Aaron and Casey, who are set up on a blind date as they navigate first impressions, social media in dating and awkward pauses through musical numbers.

As a part of the ‘Student Produced’ series, Vande Steeg works with a cast and crew made up entirely of college students, which he says is exactly what this show needed.

“We’re all in college and we know what it’s like to go on dates and always be on Facebook and Twitter and social media, I felt like this was the kind of crowd that we needed to center the show upon,” Vande Steeg said. “By having it be all college students it works really well because it’s something we can all relate to and understand very clearly.”

Andrew Roskos, senior in performing arts, serves as the stage manager for the show and says that working alongside his fellow college students is an enjoyable aspect of “First Date.”

“I would say my favorite part about this show is how amazing the cast is,” Roskos said. “They are extremely hard working, kind, and very patient while Davis and I try to figure out how we are going to work around certain events.”

Rachel Ward, sophomore in performing arts, plays the role of Casey in the show and agrees that working only with college students is not only fun, but a way to showcase all of the talent that can be found on Iowa State’s campus.

“It’s honestly amazing and I think there’s something really cool to be said of our university to have an entire cast and crew and pit of just college students,” Ward said. “I’ll look around at rehearsal and just be in awe of all of the talent around me.”

Vande Steeg says “First Date” will offer audiences nearly two hours of non-stop, relatable fun and says he believes everyone will be able to identify with at least one of the characters on stage.

“It’s such an intimate show and the meaning of it is so close to heart for a lot of people because they can see it and go ‘I know exactly what you’re going through, dear,’” Vande Steeg said. “You really get connected with the characters and it’s a show we can all relate to.”

“First Date” opens Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with an additional 7:30 p.m. performance Friday and a performance at 5 p.m. Saturday. A matinee performance will be held on Saturday at noon. All performances are in Story Theater Company with general admission seating. Tickets are available at the door with prices set at $7 for adults, $5 for students.