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Drexel and Swim Pony Take Theater to the Streets with “Welcome to Campus” Show

“Welcome to Campus: Not Your Ordinary College Tour” is a co-production by Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and Philadelphia’s avant-garde Swim Pony Performing Arts theater company. Photo credit: C. Shan Cerrone.

February 05, 2014

Most college tours will show you the dorms, the dining hall, the library – but what if a tour could give you a glimpse of what college is really like? Of the excitement, heartbreak and soul-searching that actually goes on during those life-changing years?

“Welcome to Campus: Not Your Ordinary College Tour,” a co-production by Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and Philadelphia’s avant-garde Swim Pony Performing Arts theater company, brings those highs and lows of young adulthood to life through an interactive theatrical tour. With a script based on original stories written entirely by students, the show recreates these real-life experiences that resonate with all of us, from an awkward first date to a fight with a significant other to the moment you realize you’re on the wrong path in life.

This immersive, genre-defying theatrical experience takes place on a walking tour of a portion of Drexel’s campus, with most of the action taking place inside campus venues, fusing Drexel landmarks with very personal anecdotes of student life. The all-student cast will serve as tour guides, as well as acting out scenes along the way.

"Welcome to Campus" is an immersive, genre-defying theatrical experience that takes place on a walking tour of Drexel’s campus. Photo credit: C. Shan Cerrone. “Welcome to Campus” will play from Wednesday, Feb. 19 through Saturday, Mar. 1. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at

“Although it takes place on Drexel’s campus, this show isn’t about Drexel – it’s about those experiences that are universal in the world of being a college student,” said Nick Anselmo, director of Drexel’s theater program. “We hope that this fresh approach – bringing theater to people in an unconventional venue – will engage audiences and allow them to identify in a deeper way with the stories of students trying to answer those quintessential questions about who they are, where they’re going and whether or not they are where they should be.”

The show was shaped by Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony director and Westphal College adjunct voice professor, who is committed to the creation of unique live performances that defy tradition.

“The actors will be telling stories about their lives at Drexel along the tour, and the audience will sometimes notice that these scenes are being acted out in the scenery around them,” said Mackey. “I don’t want to ruin the surprises we have planned by getting too much into detail about the show. All I can say is that ‘Welcome to Campus’ is going to be a lot of fun. Wear comfortable shoes and bring an umbrella, just in case.”

“Welcome to Campus” is made possible in part through a grant from the Samuel P. Mandell Foundation. Performances are planned for groups of approximately 15 audience members, so tickets will be very limited. Some performances are already sold out.  

Students rehearse the final scene from "Welcome to Campus" in Mandell Theater. Photo credit: C. Shan Cerrone.The show begins in the URBN Center Annex’s Black Box Theater (3401 Filbert St.) and culminates in the Mandell Theater at MacAlister Hall (3201 Chestnut St.).

“Welcome to Campus” is being presented as part of the theater program’s first New Works Festival. The festival also will include a reading of a brand new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel “A Tale of Two Cities” by Jane Jones, artistic director of Book-It Repertory in Seattle, Wash., on Feb. 22 at 8:30 p.m. in the URBN Annex’s Black Box Theater.

Also part of the festival will be two nights of new play readings by Drexel students under the direction of theater professor Bill Fennelly, with dramaturgy by playwright and professor Bruce Graham. The readings will take place Feb. 28 and Mar. 1 at 8:30 p.m. in the Black Box Theater. These events are free and open to the public.

Drexel students will be working with Jones, a visiting Rankin Scholar, and Kate Czajkowski, a professional actress currently with the Wilma Theater and a Book-It veteran, who will teach students how to adapt novels to plays in the Book-It style.

“Welcome to Campus” is co-produced by Swim Pony Performing Arts and Drexel University as part of Drexel’s Mandell Professionals in Residence Project (MPiRP), which has provided administrative and production support to emerging and avant-garde Philadelphia regional theater companies through the theater program at Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design while introducing students to the full working process of creating professional theater.

The all-student cast serves as tour guides, as well as acting out scenes along the way. Photo credit: C. Shan Cerrone.Since 2006, theater companies such as Pig Iron Theater Company, New Paradise Laboratories and Azuka Theatre have all staged co-productions at Drexel, featuring students acting alongside professionals as well as in support roles behind the scenes. In each partnership, the theater company’s artistic director has taught courses in Drexel’s theater program and directed the final production. In 2009, The Long Christmas Ride Home, a partnership with Azuka Theatre, won a Barrymore Award.

About Swim Pony Performing Arts
Adrienne Mackey founded Swim Pony in December of 2009 after years of working as a successful solo director and producer of over a dozen original performance works including “The Ballad of Joe Hill” (Eastern State Penitentiary, 2006), “recitatif” (Live Arts Festival, 2007) and “Purr, Pull, Reign” (with Johnny Showcase and the Lefty Lucy Cabaret, 2009). In 2010, Mackey teamed with Jamie McKittrick, a performer, teacher and choreographer, in steering the future of the company. That spring, Swim Pony presented its first full work: “SURVIVE!” a 22,000 square-foot choose-your-own adventure installation exploring how the universe works and mankind's place within it.

In 2011, Swim Pony paired with Barrymore Award-winning actress Catharine Slusar to develop Swim Pony’s second official work: “LADY M” – an all-female re-imagination of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” story with original music composition. This work culminated in a series of presentations (including the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s Classical Cabaret Series and Philadelphia Live Arts Second Thursday Series) and a final production as part of the Live Arts Festival of 2011 performing to nearly 1,000 people over 8 performances. In 2013, Swim Pony opened the eighth season of Shakespeare in Clark Park (SCP) with “The Tempest.”

Media Contact

Alex McKechnie