Through two shows, 17 raffle items and the work of over 40 students, Elon Cares raised over $2,000 in combined cash and online donations to support the national nonprofit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS in its 17th annual benefit cabaret on Jan. 10.
Junior Emily Stober was one of 47 performers and said she was excited to be a part of Elon Cares again this year, after getting involved with the group last year.
“I feel like a lot of us get into musical theater in order to spread joy and our love for the craft,” Stober said. “To be able to do that while also raising awareness for a wonderful cause is just amazing.”
The money raised at the event will help provide medication, meals, financial assistance and other resources to people living with HIV, AIDS and other critical illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AIDS is the most severe stage of HIV, a virus that attacks the immune system.
Senior Sara LiBrandi is one of Elon Cares’ four artistic directors and said all the creative decisions in the performance were made by students. When picking songs for this year, LiBrandi said the creative team wanted entertaining songs that centered LGBTQ+ stories, or could be performed through an LGBTQ+ lens, because HIV disproportionately affects the LGBTQ+ communities.
She said it was also important for the songs to be able to feature a large number of performers, such as the two full ensemble pieces “Bottom’s Gonna Be On Top” from “Something Rotten!” and “I’ll Cover You (Reprise)” from “RENT.”
The performance itself was composed of 10 numbers, including songs from “RENT,” “Phineas and Ferb,” “Hairspray” and “Falsettos.” LiBrandi said the students only had six days to rehearse the numbers.
“I was just completely astounded by the cast because they all really just came together and pulled it off in a really beautiful way,” LiBrandi said. “That is just so incredibly impressive with the very limited rehearsal time that they had, so watching it all come together and taking a breath and realizing it was going to be a fabulous show was a really great moment.”
LiBrandi, a music theatre major, said while directing and producing Elon Cares was an incredibly valuable educational experience, it was also an empowering one.
“It also, for me as a queer student, has been really affirming and really beautiful, and a really wonderful opportunity to meet more members of my community to celebrate my community with other peoples who are like me or allies to the community,” LiBrandi said.
Just outside of Yeager, sophomore Sam Olt spent the night working alongside other students to sell tickets for the variety of raffle items donated by Elon alums, including signed playbills and posters. Olt said he was proud of the way Elon’s community comes together for Elon Cares.
In addition to the raffle donations from alums, this year Elon Cares was supported through the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education’s diversity grant and the Gender and LGBTQIA Center.
“Knowing that students and faculty are actively involved in a program like Elon Cares, it goes to show you that people here really do care about their students,” Olt said.
LiBrandi, who has been on the Elon Cares creative team since her sophomore year, said she is grateful for the “outpouring of support” from the Elon community.
“To know that the campus wants to show up for a cause like this and to support a student-run performance. It's just a really, really warm, wonderful feeling,” LiBrandi said. “Every year I'm scared this is going to be the year that no one comes — and then it never is and it’s always a full house both shows.”