Penn State adds musical to New Student Orientation

Steph Krane
July 23, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Getting a school ID, staying overnight in a residence hall and scheduling classes have all been integral parts of New Student Orientation (NSO) at Penn State since 2013, the first year an overnight orientation program was held. But students in Penn State’s incoming class of 2023 will be just the second class to experience a new addition to NSO: a live musical.

Students who began their Penn State career at University Park in 2018 had an opportunity to view the musical, titled "Results Will Vary*," during their Welcome Week programming, but in 2019 all incoming students at University Park are being treated to a refreshed performance.

The musical's title is a nod to the many different experiences students have at Penn State and is being performed at every NSO program this year by a group of about a dozen theater students. Topics range from consent to staying safe at a party to deciding where to sit on the first day of class and are accompanied by song, dance and a recurring tune with the number for University Police.

Students learn about recreational opportunities from the “Gym Jam” and are provided with a list of first date ideas in “Falling in Love at Penn State.” A residence hall rap battle provides information about the five housing areas available to first-year students, multiple songs deal with the importance of having boundaries or saying no when it comes to alcohol and drugs, and several sketches reinforce the importance of consent in sexual relationships. Information about diversity, equity and inclusion is highlighted often, with songs about resources such as the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, the Multicultural Resource Center, the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, and ways for students to report bias they may experience.

Following the performance, students break into groups of about 20 students each, led by an orientation leader, to discuss the themes of the show. 

"Results Will Vary*" cast member and Penn State senior Tim Lewis said that one of his favorite parts of the show is the song “Set a Limit,” which was written and performed by fellow cast member Tommy Lock. The song deals with the importance of setting boundaries when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

“The song has a great message because it allows us to see eye to eye with the students and say, ‘we’re not going to tell you not to do things, but just know that when you do, be careful and set a limit.’ I think it has a balance of message and also is relatable,” Lewis said.

The show also includes messages about Penn State's Responsible Action Protocol — a University policy that states that a student who notifies the appropriate authorities in the event of an alcohol or drug overdose typically will not face University conduct action for his or her own use or possession of alcohol or drugs — which is illustrated through a scene in which Lewis acts as a student who goes to a party, drinks too much, and ends up unconscious on the floor surrounded by his friends.

“The party pantomime scene where I end up passing out has a really great message: 'Don’t stall, just call.' I’m grateful to have had an opportunity to impact the class of 2023, and I learned something, too,” Lewis said.

After seeing the performance, 98% of first-year students who responded to the NSO Evaluation said that they would “probably or definitely call” for a friend who needs help in a situation involving alcohol.

"Results Will Vary*" first debuted to the class of 2022 during Welcome Week in June 2018. Since then, Dan Murphy, director of Student Orientation and Transition Programs, has worked with the show’s cast to integrate the musical into every NSO program.

“The opportunity to share 'Results Will Vary*' with each incoming new student this summer is a testament to the incredible support we’ve received from our partners in the School of Theatre, the Center for Pedagogy in Arts and Design, Student Affairs, and Undergraduate Education,” Murphy said.

Penn State isn’t the first university in the Big Ten to include musical theater in its orientation programming. Rutgers University, Indiana University and the University of Michigan also have performances geared toward teaching first-year students about campus resources and responsible decision-making.

After nine weeks of performances in front of 7,500 incoming students, "Results Will Vary*" will return in August once the current four-week NSO hiatus is over. Murphy said he plans to have the show be a part of regular NSO programming for years to come.

An encore performance of "Results Will Vary*" is scheduled as a part of Welcome Week and all members of the Penn State community are invited to attend. The encore performance will be held at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 28, in Schwab Auditorium. No ticket is required for admission, although seating is only available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Last Updated July 25, 2019