Meet Hannah Karsting CC’25 (she/her), the director of the holiday musical XMAS!18: The Meltdown. The psychology major from Folsom, Calif., has spent this semester getting ready to stage the 18th year of the popular seasonal show, which will run on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 7 PM; Sunday, Dec. 10, at 2 PM; and Monday, Dec. 11 at 7 PM. Tickets can be purchased online; some shows display sold-out online, but additional tickets will be sold at the door. The show will also be live-streamed; check them out on Instagram for more information: @xmas_columbia.
What is XMAS!18 about?
XMAS! is a student-written holiday-themed musical that happens every year; it’s like the Varsity Show’s crazy younger sibling. We write it with our wonderful cast and team.
I think people are going to really enjoy the show this year; it brings in all the holiday classics and favorites and tropes, but also puts our own fun spin on them and makes it modern. It’s a great way for people to destress before going into finals! XMAS! has a reputation for being silly and goofy and fun, and we keep that but I think we also aren’t limited to just silly and goofy and fun. You get a legitimate story with a lot of heart to it. So I think watching the musical will be a genuine little haven within the scope of the chaos of finals. Our goal as a musical is to serve the Columbia and Barnard community well — we want you to walk out feeling better than when you walked in, and we’re pretty dedicated to doing that. Our performances are Saturday, December 9, Sunday, December 10 and Monday, December 11 at The Glicker-Milstein Theatre.
How did you get involved with XMAS! and what has directing it been like?
I acted in XMAS!17, which is what prompted me to want to direct XMAS!18. It’s kind of a “You don’t find XMAS!, XMAS! finds you” thing. Somebody will just be like, “Come audition for XMAS!” and you’re like, “OK,” and then suddenly it’s a major part of your semester.
Directing is a lot more work than acting; it’s a very different subset of the same community — there’s a lot of camaraderie among the creative team, working with the writers, composer, choreographer, producers and stage manager. There’s a lot of nitty-gritty that goes into it that I couldn’t possibly have anticipated, but it’s really great to work with actors and to be able to execute a creative vision from start to finish. I tend to prefer directing in general, but this is the biggest thing that I’ve directed.
What’s been your favorite class at Columbia, and why?
I really liked Art Humanities; it’s definitely my favorite Core class. I think New York City is the best venue to teach a class like Art Hum; I loved all the museum visits, and my professor made it really engaging. I went to a public high school where I never would have been exposed to these kinds of arts, so it was very much brand new for me.
What do you like to do outside of class?
I am also co-president of Latenite Theatre, an experimental sketch comedy group. I’ve been doing that every semester since I got here — it’s a great time! I honestly haven’t been doing a whole lot in general outside of theater and classes this semester. But I also love to go to Off-Broadway and Broadway shows, go to museums and explore different neighborhoods in New York City.