From Feb. 1-3, DePauw alum Teresa Shunk ‘23 and Professor of English, Communication and Theatre as well as Coordinator of the Performing Arts Series Ronald Dye brought forth a new musical that debuted as “Till Death, Do Us Part.” 

With exhilarating performances from many first-years, amazing singing, and sequences that left you on the edge of your seat, the musical follows a heartbreaking story that is a reality for many families. The musical depicts an abusive chief of police, Louis, who mistreats and hits his wife and son, Sharon and Danny. Throughout the musical, we see how Sharon and Danny navigate their situation with Louis, which consists of a chase through the woods with Louis on their heels and many complications on the way. Supporting characters, like police officer Ben, who builds on Louis’ arrogant personality and Sharon’s determined best friend Demetria, play a crucial role in helping Sharon and Danny. 

The DePauw spoke with actors and creators Laila Padilla ’24 (Danny), Annette Tran ’26 (Demetria), and Teresa Shunk ’23 (Playwright). These students and creators spoke about many aspects of the play, from their initial reactions after the performance and the importance of bringing the realities of these situations to light. They feel passionately about creating awareness about these situations and making sure those who go through domestic violence or are close to people who do can know that they are not alone. 

Shunk spoke initially about her reactions after a successful performance, stating, “The energy was really high on this one . . .it gets better every night, so it was super tight tonight. A lot of things were much better than they were last night, and the audience was also very responsive tonight. That really helped a lot.”

Shunk also spoke about how she came up with the idea for the musical and how she got Professor Dye involved to direct the show: “It started as a class assignment where I was supposed to write a ten-minute musical. Ron kept telling me to write it so we could perform it and now we’re here. So I didn't mean for this to happen, but very grateful that it did.”

When it came to getting Professor Dye on board, she said that she actually didn’t have to do anything. 

“He just came to me last year and said the theater, a portion of the university, wants me to direct a show because I haven't directed anything in a while. He asked if he could direct the play, too, because we've been working on it for so long, so obviously I said yes. So we're here.”

Shunk also spoke about her intentions with the musical and why she feels so strongly about the themes of the musical.

“It's always been an issue that's been personal to me because my grandmother went through something even worse than Sharon; the man that she was married to was a far worse person even than Louis was. I was always aware of these issues growing up, and so it's always been something that I've connected to deeply. I wanted to help bring awareness to these issues as well as kind of help other people that have gone through similar things, maybe feel like that, you know, that they're not alone.”

Padilla spoke about how she experienced something different, fresh, and new compared to her role as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” last semester. 

“It was definitely unique, because I’ve never heard of this play, this is the first time they've ever done this play, so it’s a lot different from Romeo and Juliet, which has been done like a million times.”

Image of the cast of "Til Death Do Us Part" at curtain call. Photo credit: Moe Kikuchi.

Padilla also spoke about how Professor Dye was a huge influence on her decision to be part of the musical.

“Ronald Dye asked me to do it, and I wanted to do it because he put his faith in me. I told him that I don't do musicals. He told me that I would kill this and do a great job in it and that I don't have to sing that much, so that’s why I took it.”

Apart from Padilla, an actress with multiple years of experience, Tran spoke on her first performance and her emotions after the musical concluded.

“I don't have a musical background or theater background whatsoever, so for the first time, it was always nerve-racking. The second first time is also as nerve racking as the first, but overall . . . the cast is so nice, they really motivated me.”

Tran also spoke about how she felt about tackling the emotions presented in the musical and bringing those emotions to life, showing audiences that it actually matters to talk about these issues. 

“It's about creating awareness about domestic violence. I personally was lucky enough to grow up in a family where we don't really have to see that, which also motivates me to kind of like make a lot of families no longer have domestic violence happening in their home.”

This incredible and talented diverse cast produced an amazing, funny, and pertinent performance in all their showings. Shunk’s and Dye’s “Till Death Do Us Part” did not disappoint, from the darkly comedic pairing of Ben and Louis to the heartfelt depiction from Sharon. Overall, the cast was stunning, and this debut performance was brilliant.