Penn State students are back at the University Park campus. Last week, nearly 300 freshmen attended “Results Will Vary*,” a theatre performance that put a new spin on student orientation. The show explored issues students might face and resources the university has to support them.
“Results Will Vary*” was written and performed by eight students in the Penn State School of Theatre. The songs and sketches ranged from light-hearted topics, like falling in love and working out, to heavier ones. Rather than adults communicating information about sexual assault and consent, drug and alcohol abuse, when to call 911 or the campus police, and more, this information was presented to new students by their slightly more experienced peers.
The eight-member student cast reflected on their own experiences as freshmen to put the show together. Jasmine Forsberg, a sophomore majoring in musical theatre, wrote a song about a resource at Penn State that is close to her heart.
“For me personally, I knew that I wanted to include something about CAPS, the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, just because I took advantage of that resource my freshman year,” Forsberg said. “And the cast and I wanted to address this stigma behind therapy and let the audience know that you’re not weak if you go and talk to somebody.”
Susan Russell, Co-Director of the Center for Pedagogy in Arts and Design, believes in the power of the arts to make information accessible. She said that belief is what ultimately led to the creation of “Results Will Vary*.”
“One day I said out loud, in a meeting, ‘I just want to emphasize the power of the arts in helping create a level playing field to understand information,’” Russell said. “And that day it was a confluence of energies… And all of a sudden this giant, beautiful, piece of possibility came into material form.”
The idea for the show came from Penn State faculty, but it was quickly turned over to the students. Dan Murphy, Director of Student Orientation and Transition Programs, said it’s important that “Results Will Vary*” is by students, for students.
“One of the things that I think is so great and what is so powerful is that the language of the show is the language of students,” Murphy explained. “We knew that if we got too involved in the process that it wouldn’t be authentic, they wouldn’t bring the same passion to the stage that they would as if they were talking to their friends or talking to their peers.”
Jess Raskauskas, a first-year student at Penn State, said that receiving these messages from fellow students made the show more meaningful.
“Knowing that it’s written by students made it easier to understand because it’s things that I can see realistically happening to myself,” Raskauskas said. “Seeing where I am and seeing where they are only a couple years ahead of me made it easier to understand and made me more hopeful that I’ll grow in the future.”
Cast member Forsberg hopes students who saw the show were not only able to see themselves in it, but that they’ll also be able to remember what they learned as a result. She said there were many things she forgot from her New Student Orientation, or NSO.
“There’s some sort of relatability to having the message come from somebody your age,” Forsberg said. “And it’s very important to me that this message is being given to these students because there are some things in this show that I didn’t even know and I’m a sophomore here, so I only had NSO a year ago. And some of that stuff I didn’t even remember. I think it’s really important that they know their resources and how to navigate the Penn State campus.”
Murphy is hopeful that communicating this information through music will help students remember. More than 2,000 students saw a preview of the show during New Student Orientation in June. In a survey afterward, ⅔ of them identified CAPS as a resource that stood out to them, and ⅔ of them could recall the university police phone number, which is repeated throughout the show.
Eventually, the plan is for every incoming freshman to see “Results Will Vary*” as part of New Student Orientation.