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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Student Spotlight: Reed Sturtevant ’16

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10.14.15.arts.reedsturtevant_Paula.Mendoza

In trying to make banjos a presences on campus, Reed Sturtevant ’16 cofounded College Folk Society in addition to performing with the Rude Mechanicals.

Sturtevant first became involved with theater when he was nine or 10 years old and maintained involvement throughout high school, doing both performance and backstage work for his high school program as well as for an outside theater company. Sturtevant was also a teaching assistant for youth theater camps in the summers, he said.

Upon coming to the College, Sturtevant immediately became involved with the theater community — auditioning for the Rude Mechanicals and pursuing a double major in theater and linguistics.

“He is absolutely one of the most humorous people in the group,” Rude Mechanicals president Avery Feingold ’17 said. “He is one of the most skilled with language, one of the most versed with Shakespeare and with theater. He has seen many productions of shows, he has done many productions of shows, brings a ton of experience, but he doesn’t bring with that any sense of rigidity and instead he comes to everything with this remarkable creativity and a remarkable sense of fun.”

In addition to Rude Mechanicals’ productions, Sturtevant has participated in other student-run pieces.

“Last spring I was in a production called the ‘Accidental Death of an Anarchist’,” Sturtevant said.“I played the central character of that show — I was called ‘The Fool’ — and it was incredibly packed with maniac energy and constantly changing costumes and disguises and running around jumping on things. That was probably the best performance experience I’ve had.”

The piece, translated from Italian by Luke Katler ’15 for his thesis, was a comedic farce that required a lot of fast-paced action, Sturtevant said.

Veri di Suvero ’16, who worked with Sturtevant on “Accidental Death of an Anarchist,” noted the level of energy he brings to his work.

“He is one of my favorite people to be around when he is doing something creative,” she said. “I am very inspired by people’s creativity, and [Sturtevant] is very expressive and joyful. When he acts he’s very passionate about it, but in a way that is welcoming to others, and it always makes me happy to be around him.”

Sturtevant also co-founded College Folk Society — a group that he said tries to bring folk music into the lives of members of the Dartmouth community — with Andrew Sun ’18. The group meets Monday afternoons for informal jam sessions that are open to all.

Sturtevant is a member of Filthy Filthy Mountain Boys, a student band that is “basically a bluegrass old time band,” he said.

“The first time that [we played] together as the Filthy Filthy Mountain Boys was when we were trying to spread awareness about the College Folk Society,” Sturtevant said.

“A couple of us got together a set of some good old bluegrass tunes, and then we walked around campus playing and singing and handing out flyers and letting people know that College Folk Society existed and that they should come on down and play with us.”

The Filthy Filthy Mountain Boys played at the homecoming tailgate, and most recently on stage with visiting group The Knights and Ladies Night at the Collis Center.

“Honestly the two sort of evolved hand in hand. It’s kind of been a lifelong dream of mine to play in a bluegrass band, and I had talked to Andrew Sun about it a little bit last year,” Sturtevant said.

Sturtevant said that he enjoys the freedom that bluegrass provides.

“What I love about bluegrass in particular — bluegrass and old-time music — is that it’s a very relaxed and informal process. It isn’t regimented in the same way that for example classical orchestral music would be, or choral music,” he said.“We have these songs, that some of them we know who composed them some of and them we don’t, they’ve just been around for a really long time, but all of them are comfortably evolving and changing and every person or every group that plays or sings them takes away or changes something about the song.”

Sturtevant says that the improvisational, fluid feel is maintained by the College Folk society.

“If we play a song three times, it’s going to have a different solo in it each time,” Sturtevant said. “The atmosphere of it is much more of a dialogue… with the audience.”

Banter and jokes are commonplace in between songs in a typical bluegrass performance, Sturtevant said.

“There’s less of a divide or dichotomy between off-stage and on-stage,” Sturtevant said. “Which, not coincidentally, is what I seek in theater productions, is to break down that kind of divide between the performers and the people taking in that performance.”

Projects Sturtevant has found within this realm include performances with the Rude Mechanicals, who choose non-traditional performance spaces, and a piece called “Haze” that he worked on with Niegel Smith ’02 during his sophomore summer alongside the New York Theater Workshop. “Haze” was a “participatory walk” that was scripted and involved taking small groups along a planned excursion around Dartmouth’s campus, Sturtevant said.

“My goal right now is actually to get College Folk Society to grow in numbers and in skill and in breadth,” Sturtevant said. “The overall goal is to have a space where very single folksy musician at Dartmouth knows about us and can come play with us if they want to. And also to have every traditional bluegrass-type instrument represented.”

Currently, the group is performing gigs to raise money to purchase a more diverse selection of instruments, Sturtevant said.

Sturtevant said the next purchase will be a dobro — he is waiting for a student to show up to the Folk Society, saying she likes bluegrass music but does not know how to play an instrument. Sturtevant will say, “Alright, here’s a dobro, here’s a slide, here are the finger pick and here’s what you do, go to.”

“I just sort of feel like my calling right now is to spread the fantastic opportunities and wonderful happiness of the performing arts to every single person that I have the chance to spread it to,” he said. “I would love it if we lived in a world where everybody had at least tried playing a fiddle. A lot of people have never even thought of picking up a fiddle, so I want to try and change that.”