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'The first time that we met’

'The first time that we met’

Lauren Durham '22 April 12, 2022

In the cramped Flyer Media studio in the back of Kennedy Union, the songs of rock band Queen could be heard in between dialogue read by actors. Mike Ruffolo ’82 described it as “people at a rock concert feeding off of each other’s energy.” 

They joined together in person for the first time last fall to film the musical adaptation of Barcelona, the 10th version of an original story by Ruffolo set in Spain at the time of Francisco Franco’s rule. The characters, most of whom are college students, navigate the realities of young adult life in the midst of World War II. The musical features lesser-known songs by Queen, including “Barcelona,” whose lyrics talk about a dream where two people first meet. 

Students stand on stage with Mike Ruffolo to set the scene.
Mike Ruffolo '82 (center) speaks with students during the filming of Barcelona.


Drawing from his early love of creative writing, which he nurtured as a communication arts minor at UD, Ruffolo describes the musical as “a story of friendship, love, loyalty and betrayal during a divisive time of world war.”

“I completely bleed Flyer red and blue, and I am one of seven kids that went to UD,” said Ruffolo, who served as a member of UD’s board of trustees from 2012 to 2021 and is now an emeritus trustee and head of CEO mentoring and leadership development at Rocket Growth Partners. “After being part of the University all these years, I didn’t even look anywhere else; I wanted to do it with UD students.”

“After being part of the University all these years, I didn’t even look anywhere else; I wanted to do it with UD students.”

Flyer cast members had rehearsed for a month, with Ruffolo providing guidance through a Zoom screen, before getting together in person Nov. 12 as Ruffolo directed students, faculty and alumni. 

Under the direction of Roy Flynn, UD media production lecturer, the cast of Barcelona filmed a studio version of the musical in one weekend. Long stretches of acting were broken up by pizza breaks and football game updates. 

While the cast members come from a variety of academic backgrounds, many of the students are currently studying media production. Those who were not acting were behind the cameras and in the sound booth, adding to their classroom educational experiences.  

“Learning how a studio-based project such as this unfolds has been a wonderful experiential learning opportunity for the students in the media production concentration in the Department of Communication,” Flynn said.

Sophomore Claire O’Brien, who plays the lead role of Maria, is studying communication with a concentration in media production. 

“Although filming was exhausting, I had a wonderful time,” O’Brien said. “I loved hanging with my castmates all day and getting to know everyone better. ... I grew to enjoy the craziness of it all.”

The two-hour finished video production, which engaged more than 50 students throughout the project, premiered during a screening Feb. 8 in Torch Lounge on campus. Flynn plans to submit the video for a student Emmy — an award he and his students have won in previous years. Ruffolo said he hopes the film will create new opportunities to share his work with the UD community and beyond: “It’s uniquely UD.” 

Flyer in first position