Seven strangers meet at diner and part ways, leaving more familiar with each other after the encounter. Written and composed by BYU–Hawaii alumnus Spencer Grubbe and senior Carly Stone, Familiar Strangers was shown to the public from Oct. 23-27 in the Little Theater at BYUH.
Aaron Densley, the director of the show, approached Grubbe over the summer and asked if he had any musicals he was working on. Grubbe shared, “I didn’t really have a solid idea of what this show would be, but I knew that there were some things that I wanted to write about. The main inspiration for this show is kind of just realizing that everyone has a life, everyone has something happening.
“But a lot of people usually don’t think about that every day so, I just like to shed light on the intricacies and all the little things that happen in one person’s life, as well as everyone’s life.”
Familiar Strangers was both Grubbe and Stone’s first musical and they said it took them two months to have a finished product. Stone recalled, “It took us from July to August - beginning of July and end of August, to complete what we had.”
One of the challenges they had to face was that of different time zones. Grubbe was in Florida while Stone was in Arizona when they were working on the show. “I had not heard the songs before the week of auditions so, I also was just writing how I would write and was writing how he would write. Luckily, it worked out, but that was a challenge,” shared Stone.
Densley shared how transforming the Little Theater was the biggest challenge for him when they were preparing for the show. “They haven’t used this as a theater space for a couple of decades.
“So, all of the lighting equipment is so old that normally we program the lights into a computer so that someone can just sit and push a button and the lights change. [However], this isn’t capable of that, and so someone has to sit there manually, move the lights and have these two spotlights up there to fill everything.”
He also explained that trying to put on the floor was hard and took some time as they were drilling into concrete and moving things, but through the help of his scene-shop class and crew, they were able to transform the Little Theater.
After the first run on Tuesday Oct. 23, the show received positive responses. Kyron Nakamitsu, a sophomore from Maui studying hospitality and tourism management shared, “The musical had just about everything people want in a show- romance, comedy, a good story, and great actors! The actors did a great job with the performance and helped the crowd feel a part of their story.
“It was a very relatable story with a good morale behind it. I left feeling positive and pondering about my own life, and the music was so catchy, I was humming it at the end of the show.”
Angie Mafi and her husband, Tevita Mafi, came all the way from Colorado and were able to watch the musical on Thursday, Oct. 25. Angie said she couldn’t stop smiling even after the show. “I love that there were so many different scenes in every scene, or each table had its own moment so, I kept bouncing back.
“I’m looking at these guys going slow motion, then I’m looking at the singer, then I’m looking at the other table, and I was absolutely overwhelmed with joy! Not to mention, I’m amazed. These kids put on a musical!”
Don Ezek Dollete, a sophomore studying accounting from the Philippines said, “While I was watching the show, I felt the intensity of the emotions they were trying to portray in each relationship of the characters… The part that really stood out for me is the rapping diner girl- she got some skills.”
“I think a lot of people were just honestly surprised about it. Like, they were just surprised at the quality of the show, the quality of the talent on stage, [and] the production. We didn’t think it would look anything like it does. We thought it would be a couple of tables, just like really, really basic stuff, but it ended up looking amazing,” shared Grubbe.
Looking back, Stone expressed that getting to work with Densley was her favorite part of the whole show. “Working with Aaron [Densley] to improve my work and taking lines that didn’t matter or cutting them down, or whatever it is. Working with him was such an amazing opportunity and then to see it performed and see the audience’s reactions was probably one of the best things ever.”
“Just the second that it was done, and Carly was done with her writing of the script and I was done with my music, I read through it and I was like, ‘It’s a show.’ Having that realization of like, ‘You did it!’ and just that it all worked out and now looking back to that from now is just insane,” Grubbe recalled as his favorite part of the whole process.
When asked what they wanted the audience to take from the show, Stone shared, “I think that the intricacies of humanity in moments. Like, getting your breakfast at the diner or passing people on the street - and that’s what makes humanity interesting.
“Everybody walks in to their favorite restaurant or goes grocery shopping, and there’s a million other people but it could be just like this, where you know a million people. That’s what makes us human and that’s what makes it important to make things like this is because we’re celebrating humanity.”
Grubbe said that he wanted people to feel something real. “Live theater is one of the last things that people aren’t holding their phones up recording the whole show or it’s not like a movie where you’re watching something on the screen that has been edited. It’s like you’re watching real people do real things up here and hopefully act like real people…
“So, it gives such a good opportunity for people to see something real, something that can be easily related to. I think… they can take what they’ve seen on stage and think about it in terms of their life or someone else’s life and just really have that awesome moment of thinking about something that happened that they saw.”