Theater department offers range of student involvement chances

by Haley Gordon | 9/21/15 5:27pm

For students who have wondered about how to get involved with theater at the College but have no idea where to begin or have had no previous experience, the College’s theater department has a series of events and programs meant to help them. The two most prominent options are the termly showcase and the “Your Space” productions.

The showcase will take place at 6:30 p.m. this Wednesday in the Bentley Theater while the “Your Space” productions will occur throughout the term.

Theater professor and director of the fall term mainstage production “Don Juan Comes Back from the War” Peter Hackett said that the showcase will outline opportunities available in the department.

“It’s a chance for anyone interested to hear about what’s going on and how they can get involved,” Hackett said. “Each student presenting says what they are doing and why and what they are looking for.”

While acting auditions for “Don Juan Comes Back from the War” have already passed, that does not mark the end of opportunities to perform in productions on campus, Hackett said. This term’s showcase will specifically detail opportunities in other, student-run productions, and in more areas than just acting — Hackett said that opportunities to work on lighting and costume design are typically announced at the showcases.

“We’re also doing a design presentation for the fall mainstage with information on the show design,” he said. “The purpose is to get out information. Anyone who has questions can ask.”

Theater department chair Dan Kotlowitz said that there are no prerequisites needed to become involved in any aspect of a student-run production — for some of the positions in the mainstage productions, however, students need to have taken certain classes.

Hackett said that if a student wishes to get involved in any of the student productions, there will be a spot for them, whether it is from acting to stage management to helping on lighting design.

The showcase is also when the slots for the “Your Space” productions are typically announced, Kotlowitz said. This term, the “Your Space” productions will be held on Sept. 25 to 27 and Oct. 3 to 4 in the Bentley Theater.

Kotlowitz said that the theater department faculty came up with the idea of “Your Space” three years ago to address a lack of performance spaces for students.

“It’s our attempt get some resources out because the spaces are so limited on campus,” Kotlowitz said. “We wanted to give people more access to performance spaces and bring more people into the Hopkins Center, into the theaters.”

Kotlowitz said that the way productions were chosen was initially organized like a lottery, but now the theater’s directior, Jamie Horton, selects two or three proposals out of the application pool. He said that anyone, regardless of major or previous theater experience, is welcome to apply for a spot. The group or individual is not required to produce a final performance, although this is encouraged.

“The opportunity can be used to rehearse or to get experience,” he said.

The diverse groups that take advantage of this opportunity receive a mentorship offer, although it is not required that they use a mentor, Kotlowitz said. The groups also receive technical support to help with small design elements and funding for marketing. The spaces are available for all kinds of groups, from writers intent on staging play readings to dance groups seeking to perform in a place other than a fraternity basement.

In addition to having to submit a proposal for the production, students who take advantage of the “Your Space” program also are given a faculty liaison to help them with specific needs and to give production credits if desired. Theater department faculty members, however, are not included in the actual productions — instead, every term one work-study student is assigned to help with “Your Space” productions, through working on set, costumes and design elements for the productions.

Other requirements that students who create productions must follow include having free admission, creating a poster that fits the department’s guidelines and sticking to a $50 budget cap for production elements.

Hackett said that in the past, “Your Space” productions have ranged from short student-written one acts to cabarets. For theater majors who are interested in going beyond the “Your Space” productions, the department also has a program called “Play Space” that gives majors the chance to put on their own “low-tech” production with a $100 budget, Kotlowitz said.

Hackett said that beyond the showcase, the department’s callboard has all the information on any current productions posted and students can sign up to work on them there.

Theater department administrator Maggie Devine Sullivan said that in addition to the termly showcase and the “Your Space” productions, the theater department also advertises to students through Facebook and ads around campus.

“There are so many opportunities,” Sullivan said. “If people don’t know how to get involved, the showcase tells them who to connect with and how.”