Teviot’s New Amphion was the perfect location to hold an interview with Julia Weingaertner, the current president of the EUSOG. The background chatter and ambient music parallel the mood of a theatre’s auditorium, making for an apt setting for talking to the president of a society specialising in musical theatre. To put the rumours to rest, EUSOG is so called because the society originally staged Savoy operas which were performed at the Savoy Theatre in London. Julia unashamedly confessed she “didn’t even know it was called the Savoy until [her] second year!”
EUSOG stages three productions each academic year, the first of which will take place in November at the Pleasance Theatre. Julia’s enthusiasm could not be contained when she announced this year they will be doing ‘Into the Woods’ – a “popular musical” which she hopes many people will come and see. Down the line, a cast of 20 to 25 will perform a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta in March at the Teviot Debating Hall. The show is a collection of dramatic works written by W.S. Gilbert and composed by Arthur Sullivan during the Victorian era, whose work still remains adored today. Julia emphasised how getting cast for Gilbert and Sullivan is “such a good way to get your foot in the door”, which is how she started out. In particular, the show offers “such a good opportunity for a load of freshers and a load of new people to come in” to showcase their talent. For anyone even remotely interested in musical theatre, it appears that as soon as one gets involved with a show, “doors start opening”.
The Savoy Opera Group also perform during the Edinburgh Fringe. This year at the Fringe the group put on Neil Simon’s award-winning Broadway hit, ‘Sweet Charity’. Julia was in the audience this year gone, but two years prior, was cast in ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’, which she described as, “so insanely stressful, but so much fun.” The very act of rehearsing and performing every day makes it an “intense process”, which“isn’t really normal”, but the final opportunity to perform to a crowd of different people is “so rewarding.” “There’s so many opportunities for new people to get involved,” assured Julia — no matter one’s background in musical theatre — “what you really need is the passion,” a passion that Julia herself certainly is not without. For her, it’s her enthusiasm and self-proclaimed “obsessive personality” that make her perfect for the role. Ever since Julia joined the Savoy Opera Group, her experience has been characterised by feeling “really included”. The “strong sense of community” that the company radiates is “one of the things that’s most important” to Julia, who, being “really shy” in school, knows how overwhelming joining a new society can be. Especially with the majority of students at the University of Edinburgh not being local to the area, Julia emphasised the importance for Edinburgh to become everyone’s home from home. Julia believes that EUSOG’s highly inclusive and supportive community feels “like a family”.
Musicals are something to enjoy, but the production process can also be utilised to help deal with the daily struggles of life. Julia shared how despite having a tough time last year, musical theatre provided her with the support she needed. “I really appreciated having musical theatre as something to channel my energy into,” she recounted.
From acting to choreography, costume design to sound and lighting, there is something for everyone. At the end of a spectacular production, a standing ovation and demands for an encore is every member’s goal. Despite her passion, Julia humbly made it known that she’s “not some pro” — no one at EUSOG is. It’s simply “a big group of people who love musicals.”