It’s your first time at university in a different country, and you’re on your own among people you’ve only just met. You might be anxious about the classes you’re in, what kind of culture you are stepping into, whether you’re going to make good friends or even how to do your laundry.

The RealAD show is about all of those struggles. A tradition that began in New York but is now performed in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai as well, these university-organized shows tackle specific issues about NYU, while stressing that no matter what, new students will always have someone willing to listen and help.

NYU Abu Dhabi students who are selected to perform in the RealAD show spend ten weeks of their summer in New York training with the New York and Shanghai casts. They write and compose the show’s content and decide which songs will be performed in the final product.

Former RealAD cast member and junior Gracious Nyamupachito explained that the issues addressed in the show evolve each year, reflecting the changing dynamics of the student body.

We push a lot more boundaries as the years go by and I think that’s because the more diverse the community gets, the more issues we may need to tackle,” said Nyamupachito.

Last year, the RealAD cast performed on Saadiyat campus and dealt with sensitive topics, such as suicide and depression, that had not been addressed in previous years.

People don’t realize that a lot of us go through [these things],” Nyamupachito said.

Although they were bringing up potentially controversial topics, Nyamupachito noted that the cast believed strongly in the importance of addressing issues that suffer from a lack of dialogue.

Sophomore Shreya Shreeman, who is part of this year’s cast, believes that these new topics are still important to the show. Shreeman also added that the cast had to deliberate extensively about ways to address topics like mental health, sexuality and alcohol, especially since this year, the show is taking place off-campus.

As we’re performing outside, we’re going to have to be extra careful about what we’re going to say,” said Shreeman. “If we’re telling the audience to respect the laws of the nation, then we should depict that in the show too.

Sophomore Sebastian Grube, also a member of this year’s cast, agreed that while the RealAD show does address some of the same issues portrayed in New York, the location that NYUAD students are in requires more discretion.

New York is very graphic and they can be more direct. They can talk about sex, they can talk about homosexuality or transgender issues. For us we have to work with a lot of metaphors,” said Grube.

He added that there are certain other things that are not represented in New York which the cast felt were relevant in Abu Dhabi.

Grube maintained that the most important message of the RealAD is that the community will always be supportive and that the Health and Wellness Center is available for assistance.

You can always find help there, no matter what situation you’re in, how trivial you think your problems are. They’re always there for you to reach out to,” said Grube.

Students who have only lived on the Saadiyat campus tend to be less integrated in the city of Abu Dhabi. Nyamupachito added that this was something the RealAD cast took into account last year.

We had two or three pieces on how to go out and meet people, how to do it safely, who might be out there and how to get out of the bubble,” she said.

Grube felt that this year’s cast tried to make the script more specific and understandable.

The language in the show has matured a lot and the metaphors and the pictures we paint with the words we have in the songs, they’re clearer,” he explained.

Although the show changes each year to resonate with the issues that the active cast feel are most dominant, there are certain aspects that remain unchanged. Grube said that songs such as Learn to Love and Live have been recycled throughout the years.

Each time the creative team decides to reuse a song, it’s [because] the cast still feels the same way about it and can appropriate it as their own,” said Grube.

Originally published by ‘The Gazelle’, an NYUAD student publication on 12th September, 2015.