Following the Trail to Oregon

Marie Sykes:

The Trail to Oregon: known for a long arduous journey across the American midwest in a covered wagon with many dying of dysentery (and other causes), but also known for inspiring the hit 1971 educational game and the Starkid Productions musical. The Break-away Student Productions performs The Trail to Oregon April 14th and 15th.

Breakaway Vice President Ali Wolf ’23, is directing the show. She says Breakaway chose to perform The Trail to Oregon since they wanted a really fun performance. “It’s hilarious, fast-paced, and something you can’t not have fun with.” Trail to Oregon is a fitting match for Breakaway. Beyond being described as “kooky” by both Wolf and Elliot Cetinski ’24, who plays the Father, the original producers, Starkid Productions, is a theater company founded by University of Michigan college students putting on low-budget but high-quality shows.

When it came time for Wolf to draw design inspiration, she said she took plenty from the original game, wanting something “super nostalgic.” But as for other aspects of the show choices, she said “directing a show is kind of like co-parenting a child with like twenty or so people. You all work together to create something from nothing, sometimes it’s harder than others and you’re terrified of messing it up, but in the end, everything is worth it as you have made something you are so incredibly proud of. And I am so ridiculously proud of this production.”

Due to Starkid Productions posting their musicals on YouTube, with other notable titles being A Very Potter Musical and Twisted, plenty of the cast has had prior exposure to their work. Sadie Walker ’25, who plays General Store Guy’s Wife amongst other roles, said that she had seen the show before and had “always wanted to be in a Starkid show” but never thought she would due to how “obscure” they are. Annie Zulick ’25, Baby Ox/Bartender, said she had seen it “multiple times” and had played the game plenty as well. Other members had some familiarity with Starkid in general, but had never seen it. Gianna Daiuto ’26, Mother, had seen it years past but upon rewatching it after being cast said “oh god this is what I have to do.”

When asked about what the cast and crew’s favorite moments of the show were, many answered with a particular song. “Caulk Your Wagon,” has plenty of choreography associated with the piece, Kendra Melniczek ’25, McDoon, said. “Dysentery World” was another popular song, with Emelia Reed ’26, dancer, saying the audience will be “bewildered.” “It Pays to Be an Animal” is a favorite of Zulick’s. Daiuto said her favorite song was “When the World’s At Stake” especially since she’s “not really angry like I am [in] 95% of the show.”

Beyond songs, others added their love of the structure of the show, with Walker saying her favorite part was the “community we all have.” Ben Little ’24, General Store Guy, said he enjoyed “watching everything come together from all ends like design and music and [taking what] we’ve learned from doing department shows and different classes.” Kate Foley ’23, Executive Producer, replied that she loved the “improvised elements” of the show. Every run the ending of the show changes as well as the family member names, so no one ever really knows how the show will run.

For seniors, this is one of their last Ursinus productions. Foley said that she was “excited that we finally have the chance to do a full musical. I feel like this is something Breakaway’s been working towards since I started as a freshman.” She also said she was “ready to pass the torch” along to the next generation. Austin Brzezicki ’23, Family/Horny Ox, said that “it’s pretty surreal I’m going to be leaving soon” and “bittersweet.” Bradigan said that “it’s a great show to go out on.”

One important thing to keep in mind is that it is the audience’s responsibility to pick the names of the family members each night for Father, Mother, Sister, Brother, and Grandpa, Brzezicki made sure to remind the audience. Names have ranged during rehearsal from anything from “Celery” to “Papa Johns” to an attempted “Sadie Walker Doing the Griddy” and more. The more ridiculous the better. “It establishes the run,” explained Emily Bradigan ’23, who plays the brother and said that this was their favorite part.

The Trail to Oregon runs April 14 and 15th in the Black Box Theater at 7pm. Tickets are $3 for students and seniors and $5 for general admission. Tickets will be on a first-come, first-serve basis, though last year’s production of Rocky Horror quickly sold out. To stay up to date with Breakaway, be sure to follow them on Instagram @uc_bsp.