Two months before Law Show hits the stage in January, executive director Emily Machura is up to her neck in production prep. “Am I ever!” she laughs.
Her role touches all of it, from supervising rehearsals to finalizing costumes, props, technical plans and promotional materials, and participating as a cast member.
Every winter, University of Alberta Faculty of Law students manage to conjure a full-blown musical fundraising extravaganza completely from scratch—in their virtually nonexistent spare time. This year’s show, Shrek: Law & Ogre, marks the 25th anniversary of the cherished tradition.
Machura, ’20 JD, volunteered for Law Show as a first-year student and has acted in the production every year since. Along the way, she also gravitated to the organizing team. It’s a huge commitment of time and energy, in the midst of an endlessly demanding professional program, but Machura wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Law Show’s a really great chance to step outside of the rigours of the curriculum, and get to experience the school’s community in a totally different way,” says Machura. “It’s a chance to bond with your community, and to meet peers outside of your cohort. You start forming relationships. It’s really integral to the law school experience.”
Calgary lawyer Grace Carswell, ’18 JD, worked on three Law Shows and believes the intensity of the project is a useful distraction for those entering the taxing profession of law. “You need to figure out things that you enjoy, and that help you shift your mind away from other stressors,” she says. “I don’t think there are many better places to do that in a creative, energetic way—to try something new, to be with friends.”
Those kinds of connections transcend anything possible in a classroom alone. “It’s tremendously healthy, especially in such a stressful environment,” says Carswell. “Some of my best friends from law school were part of the Law Show community.”
Carswell also believes the Faculty of Law has a special gift for producing well-rounded leaders. “That shows in people’s willingness to be involved in many different voluntary initiatives—such as Student Legal Services or Law Show. Students want to be involved. They want to collaborate.”
With Law Show, the collaboration includes selecting one local charity and working with it over a three-year period, another tradition with teaching value, says Mark Woltersdorf, ’02 LLB.
In the early 2000s, Woltersdorf arrived at the U of A as a 40-year-old first-year law student, wondering how well he’d fit in. “I didn’t want to try and behave like I was 24 years old,” he recalls. “But I certainly felt I should get engaged with the student body and Law Show seemed like a good way to get in and get to know people.”
Woltersdorf fondly remembers the fun and camaraderie of Law Show, but the philanthropic partnership affected him at a deeper level. “We dealt with Kids Kottage—that was the charity we supported the three years that I was there. I became aware of the challenges that families and parents and children are facing. It opened my eyes, and they’re still wide open 15 years later.”
Now a partner at Dentons Edmonton, Woltersdorf still regularly contributes to Kids Kottage. “Giving back is something you can never learn to do early enough,” he says. “And it’s something you saw in full force (during) Law Show.”
After producing the 2002 show, Woltersdorf reflected on the experience of delivering a $20,000 cheque to Kids Kottage in a Canons of Construction article that’s still online (see excerpt, page XX).
In it, he asks himself, “Was Law Show really worth all the hard work and stress?” His answer: “Are you kidding? I wish I could do it all over again.”