Whether you are involved or simply trying to find tickets, students begin preparing for Step Sing during the first week of the spring semester. Often, we forget how early the Step Sing season begins for the directors. Theme selection takes place during the fall semester, about a month after each director earns their position. This process is more rigorous than one would expect.
In September, the directors for each group are chosen, and themes are presented in October. This gives each group only a few weeks to come up with a theme. The directors need to present three different themes to the committee. The first two themes need to be fully developed with songs, storyline and banner ideas ready. The third theme only needs to have a basic plot outline.
“They require you to have three ideas chosen,” Sam Gould, one of the Alpha Tau Omega Step Sing directors said. “Two of them need to be fully developed. If you pitch your number one choice, and it’s already been taken, you have another one you can pitch. If that one has been taken, then I guess you have to hope that your third choice is already developed. If that’s been taken, you just have to go back to the drawing board.”
At the first director’s meeting, each group draws a number to decide the order in which they will present their themes. Because each group cannot use a theme or song that is too similar to another group, the first group to present is more likely to get their first choice, while the last group often has to rely on backup ideas.
When entering the conference room where theme selection takes place, Step Sing committee members sit on the opposite side of the table from the directors presenting. They have their laptops open in order to message each other, making sure that their ideas check out and are not similar to other groups before their presentation.
Bethany Garmon, a director from Sophomore Girls, said, “It’s honestly a little scary. We had met these people before, and they are very friendly; we love working with them. But we walk into theme selection in a big conference room, and they sit on the opposite side of a curved table. It was scarier than my interview to be a director. We got incredibly lucky that our first idea was chosen, and we didn’t have to move on to our second one.”
Some directors choose a theme based on the group they are working with. Alpha Tau Omega’s show, for example, portrays a group of boxers being trained for an upcoming match. Gould described how Alpha Tau Omega felt like the underdog in their story because their group has not won Step Sing in the past. However, other groups struggle to tailor their theme to their groups.
Garmon said, “It’s harder for groups like ours because we have girls from all over campus. Within Greek organizations, they can really target their theme to the group. They know what their group likes and what they can do well. Our group is very hard to picture. We tried to pick a theme that everyone could have fun with. That’s always a priority.”
Overall, the rigorous theme selection process helps to ensure that each group has the creative freedom to be as unique as possible with their StepSing shows. All the brainstorming and hard work is clearly paying off. Creating a show that is completely unique and fresh is much more stressful than many students will ever truly realize.