School of General Studies senior Mark E. Rosenthal recently performed in the 113th Annual Varsity Show. He is the first GS student ever to serve as a member of the principal cast in the storied Columbia institution, a musical created, produced, and directed by undergraduates. “As a GS student I thought about not auditioning, that there was no way they’d cast a GS person,” he said. “I thought, ‘They have their own group and don’t want to include anyone,’ but I’m glad that wasn’t true.”
With its grueling creative, rehearsal, and production schedule, working on the Varsity Show is a substantial time commitment, but one that offers unique opportunities. “The actors were so good—they’re some of the funniest people I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. “Over winter break we took a ski trip to Vermont, with the entire cast staying in one cabin, and it was great. But the show itself was the best thing—just being onstage in front of a thousand people at a time, and to have them losing their minds, laughing themselves silly. I couldn’t finish several of my lines, because people were laughing so hard.”
After auditioning and not being selected for the 112th Varsity Show, Rosenthal performed in a Barnard production of Cloud 9, as well as The Beggar’s Opera and Urinetown, which “got me the Varsity Show,” he said. He also considered starting a GS-specific version of the Varsity Show.
Born in New York, Rosenthal moved to California with his family and spent 20 years there before returning to New York to attend GS. A drama and theatre arts major who gave a reading of his senior-thesis play the day after the Varsity Show wrapped, he’s torn between playwriting and acting. “Pursuing playwriting seems like the adult thing to do, and I can generate my own work,” he said. “But acting is so much easier, even though the life of an actor is really hard. But I’m considering using money I don’t have to get headshots and go on auditions. “I wish I had another year here. I’ve been walking around, and strangers have been coming up to me to tell me how great the show was or that they want to write something for me. It would be interesting to see what next year would be like.”