For students, anxiety about their place in school and the world are par for the course. Impostor syndrome lurks in questions like “am I good enough for this?” and “do I deserve to be here?”
“You’re The Shit,” Spotlight Musical Theatre’s latest student production, grapples with these worries and answers them with a resounding “yes” — you are smart enough. Yes, you deserve to be here. It tackles imposter syndrome head-on, celebrating students and reaffirming their worth.
The show follows main character Erica as she begins her first year of college, tracing the pressures she faces in the new setting. It centers around the feelings of imposter syndrome she experiences at school and how she eventually begins to combat them.
“It really boils down to this feeling [that] everybody tells you, when you’re about to go to college, that these are going to be the best years of your life,” said Kendall Packman PO ’22, who plays the character of Thomas. “There’s so much pressure to succeed both academically … but also to succeed socially.”
Not only is the show student-centric, but it’s completely student-written and produced. For playwright Annika Hoseth PO ’23, who also plays Erica, the process of writing it began over a year ago, in the midst of a fully virtual school year at the 5Cs. Feeling limited by the experience of doing theater over Zoom, she turned to songwriting as a way to reconnect with musical theater and reflect on her college experience so far.
“I just kind of started falling in love with [writing] and using it as therapy, almost, and a creative outlet, from just having a really tough year,” Hoseth said. “Then by the end of the summer I had a full script, and I think I had pretty much all 13 songs.”
Hoseth didn’t set out with the intention of sharing her writing with others, let alone turning it into an on-stage production. However, as she began writing, she started to feel like the show’s message was important for other people, especially 5C students, to hear.
“I think especially at … a rigorous group of schools like the 5Cs, a lot of us have impostor syndrome and are trying to do so many things [and] trying to just really be the best students and everything [we] can be, and put a lot of pressure on [ourselves],” she said.
After Hoseth made the decision to produce the show, she turned to Spotlight MT for help bringing it to life. There, she found a group of enthusiastic, high-energy people to help with all aspects of the show. For cast member Nisha Saboo PO ’25, who plays Ashley, the passion shared by the cast members has made the production process a delight.
“Everyone is so incredibly open [and] everyone is so willing to have fun,” Saboo said. “A huge part of the show is that it’s meant to be silly, high energy, funny, crazy. So the best part about that is, although we have emphasized the importance of setting boundaries, everybody brings everything to the stage — everybody is willing to try new things.”
“I think that’s the trick of imposter syndrome, that it makes you feel like nobody else feels that way, when everybody feels that way.”
Those involved with the show want it to remind people that, no matter what it may feel like, imposter syndrome is not an isolated experience.
“I have never met anyone at college who has not felt the imposter syndrome feeling,” Packman said. “And I think that’s the trick of imposter syndrome, that it makes you feel like nobody else feels that way, when everybody feels that way.”
As the cast and crew developed the show, they focused on making it a reassuring and fun experience for the audience. Part of that process has included developing the show’s comedy, songs and dance to make them as engaging as possible.
For choreographer Rosie Corr PO ’23, the inclusive nature of the show has been reflected in the choreography process. Instead of being a separate process, the show’s choreography was developed in direct dialogue with Hoseth and other members of the show.
“One of the most fun parts for me is deciding where the dance is going to mirror the story and the mood and where it’s going to contrast a little bit,” Corr said.
Close attention to detail is reflected in the show’s name — “You’re The Shit” — which plays on the dualities of the phrase’s meaning.
“[Sometimes] you tell yourself, or other people might tell you, ‘you’re the shit,’” Hoseth said. “Sometimes you believe it [and] sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it’s a more surface level statement, or sometimes it comes from somebody who really knows you … it was something that could mean something different at the beginning of the show versus the end of the show.”
The show’s collaborative, cheerful process reflects its core message: it’s okay to have fun and love yourself, no matter if you’re succeeding or failing. Its upbeat delivery is also designed to make the viewing experience engaging, encouraging and, above all, joyful.
“I think it’s just a really fun break in your day,” Saboo said. “It’s an incredibly funny show. It’s sharp, it’s silly, it’s over the top and it’s everything that live theater should be.”
“You’re the Shit” runs April 28-May 1 at the Seaver Theatre Large Studio. Seats are first-come, first-serve.