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Georgetown’s Performing Arts Underdogs: Inside the World of (no) Pressure Creatives

Walking into McShain Hall to interview the minds behind (no) Pressure Creatives, an Asian American performing arts group on campus, I found myself in the middle of a melancholic scene. Stage managers intently watched along as lead Mara Goldstein buried her head into her knees while another actor attempted to comfort her. The melancholic atmosphere in the room quickly dissipated as director Sherri Wu ended the scene, a cue for a series of dynamic stretches and warm-ups. The first few notes of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” played from her phone, and she laughed before quickly changing the song to something slightly more school-appropriate: Britney Spears’ “Womanizer.” Chatter and laughter filled the air as the group then performed a series of high kicks.

My initial introduction to the group––this seamless transition from the serious to silly––embodies the chameleon-like nature of (no) Pressure Creatives. Fit for “entry-level performers,” as described by executive producer Lucas Lin, the group is a radical endeavor for embracing one’s identity and finding a welcoming community in a university plagued by highly competitive, exclusive club culture. Lin described the group as a “no barriers endeavor,” and this sentiment is best reflected in the executive leadership of (no) Pressure Creatives. Wu, for example, was a dancer in last year’s production with no directorial experience. Now, she’s directing this year’s production, Autumn Leaves. Associate producer Minato Shinoda’s story is similar. She told me during our interview, “No Pressure [last year’s show] was the first time I wasn’t performing on stage and was doing the producing side.” 

Passion, rather than padding your resume, is the key to being a part of (no) Pressure Creatives. Lin also highlighted that, “[(no) Pressure’s] main goal is to provide a space for Asian Americans in performing arts, especially in college. “Asian Americans aren’t as represented, or aren’t as encouraged to pursue performing arts careers, talents. It’s something that a lot of us feel,” Lin stated.

The unique internal struggle between conforming to societal expectations and following one’s passions even played a large part in the group’s name. Beyond the fact that its first production was called (No) Pressure, the group’s initials form the acronym NPC, the same as the increasingly popular term “non-playable character.” “Sometimes I think,” Lin grinned, “not me trying to be deep or anything but sometimes day to day, we like to be very conscious and in control of our lives, and other days we like being an NPC and going with the flow.” Lin continued, “Writing scripts, doing things we have to do for school, for our professional lives, versus things we want to do like this production or passion projects. Straddling that line fits that idea of no pressure and creative NPC.”

While awaiting university recognition as a performing arts group, (no) Pressure Creatives has emerged as an underdog amongst campus performing arts powerhouses. Lin described last year’s titular production, No Pressure, as “very very grassroots and very grungy” with the group encountering a “lot of speed bumps.” Ahead of the group’s upcoming production, Autumn Leaves, the group pushes on, undeterred. “It’s difficult to say: hey, we’ve existed for less than two years, but please join our show,” Lin joked.

While discussing the inspiration behind the play, Wu told me, “The very basic idea of Autumn Leaves started with the jazz bar.” The play is centered around a family-owned jazz bar, telling the story of the challenges in passing the establishment down from one generation to the next. “The show mainly focuses on the difficulties that they encounter with that transition, as well as figuring out what was messing up [the relationships] between [their] family members,” Wu summarized. Lin also noted that the musical focuses on strong themes of “legacy, responsibility, and of course, one’s place in the family versus place in professional development.” Jokingly, Wu added, “There’s a little bit of capitalism and gentrification sprinkled in.”

“I hope that everyone feels empowered,” said Goldstein, the lead. The group overwhelmingly cited the importance of Asian American representation in Autumn Leaves as an overarching motivation for the production. “I want our audience to feel empowered by our cast of Asian Americans but also feel very seen and heard by the story we’re trying to tell,” Wu said. While the story is centered around an Asian-American narrative, it deals with themes such interfamilial strife, generational divides, and trying to find one's place in the world that are relatable to all audiences.

Beyond Autumn Leaves, (no) Pressure Creatives has high hopes for the future. “I’m pretty confident that as the years go on, we’ll only continue to grow and find our place in Georgetown,” Lin noted. Embodying the grassroots spirit of (no) Pressure Creatives, Goldstein said that she hopes to write for the production in the future. 

Writing, songwriting, directing, and casting an original musical from scratch is already an ambitious endeavor. Yet, who knows what else the group has up their sleeves?

Autumn Leaves will be playing on April 4th and 5th in Gaston Hall.


Victoria Parage-Riboul is an undeclared freshman in Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. She is a writer for the Indy. She is a college radio enthusiast and funky ring wearer.


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