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UMN Law School’s theater group to perform ‘TORTanic’ musical

Theater of the Relatively Talentless (TORT) will perform the musical for their 20th anniversary on Friday and Saturday.
The+Theater+of+the+Relatively+Talentless+%28TORT%29+is+a+theater+group+made+up+of+University+of+Minnesota+Law+School+students.+Photo+courtesy+of+TORT.
The Theater of the Relatively Talentless (TORT) is a theater group made up of University of Minnesota Law School students. Photo courtesy of TORT.

The Theater of the Relatively Talentless (TORT), a theater group made up of students from the University of Minnesota Law School, is performing their show “TORTanic” on Friday and Saturday.

“TORTantic” is the group’s 20th-anniversary show and will take place at the Ted Mann Concert Hall on West Bank at 6:30 p.m.

TORT presents a parody musical every year to provide law students with a creative outlet, and “TORTanic” follows the stories of law students who encounter budget cuts while attending a semester-at-sea program on the Mississippi River. Past shows have included spoofs on “The Wizard of Oz” and “Top Gun.”

“I am excitedly nervous,” said Wills Layton, co-head producer “TORTantic.” “This is the biggest theater we’ve been in in a few years since COVID-19, so we definitely are trying to make it the best show ever.”

Layton joined TORT in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In spring 2021, the musical was recorded and shown as a drive-in-style movie streaming on Zoom.

“Last year was our year back to having a live audience and we were still at the St. Paul Student Center, so it was still small and we were all kind of packed on the stage,” Layton said.

Justin Oakland, the show’s director, said there have been several changes since he joined TORT during the pandemic.

“We lost a lot of institutional knowledge in the pandemic,” Oakland said. “My first year we had about 20 people, now we have 75-80 people in the cast and pit.”

Law students put on the entire show, Oakland said. From the actors to the dancers to the pit musicians, “every part of this show has only been touched by law students.”

The production process starts each year in May, according to Dom Detwiler, the show’s music director. The group picks a base story and writes the script throughout the summer, with auditions for roles held in October.

“It’s definitely come one, come all,” Detwiler said. “Everybody who auditions is welcome to be in the show.”

Regular rehearsals for the show begin in January after winter break and are held twice a week, Detwiler said.

Jacque Randolph, who plays the show’s lead, said there was an initial learning curve when it came to balancing classes and rehearsals, but it got better over time.

“It was a little weird to juggle at first, but it’s just so nice to have a creative outlet when you’re doing all this heavy academic work all the time,” Randolph said.

Randolph said it was exciting to discover a theater group in the law school and to have the chance to be involved within the group.

“I had gotten a minor in theater and I thought I was never gonna go back to doing anything on stage,” Randolph said.

Other members, like Hannah McDonald, the show’s choreographer and featured dancer, said she felt similarly about joining TORT. McDonald is finishing up her final year in the law school and said she is looking forward to her final production with TORT.

“It’s one of those special melancholy moments,” McDonald said. “I don’t know if it will be my last show ever.”

TORT has some notoriety within the Minnesota law community, according to Oakland. Attorneys throughout the Twin Cities come to see the show each year.

“We have a Wikipedia page,” Oakland said. “You can go back and look at all the stupid shows we’ve done in the past.”

TORT has been a large source of community for those involved and is a way to relieve the stress of law school, Oakland said.

“It’s a source of community, a little bit of chaos,” Oakland said. “ It definitely keeps me sane.”

Layton said TORT is a place where law students can reconnect with a fun activity they may have done when they were younger.

“It’s this place where you can come together and kind of drop the law student facade and just be who you want to be,” Layton said.

Members of TORT, including Detwiler, Oakland and Layton, said they are looking forward to this year’s show.

“It’s a good show and it’s also incredibly silly,” Detwiler said. “It’s just a really great group of people who care about each other and care about the art that we make together.”

Tickets for TORTanic are $12-22 and are available for purchase online. More information on TORT can be found on their website.

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