Program broadens support for theater

In the past, students involved in theater have lamented the inaccessibility of performance spaces for student-initiated productions student groups have been forced to use outdoor spaces subject to fluctuating weather conditions and seek out alternative venues in residence halls and elsewhere. The Dartmouth theater department’s new initiative, YOUR SPACE, ushers in a higher level of support for groups such as the Rude Mechanicals, a student-run group that performs the works of William Shakespeare, and other student-led theater initiatives.

YOUR SPACE allows students to use Hopkins Center theaters for week-long increments with a final performance at the end of the week.

“The goal of this is accessibility and we really want to make it as student-friendly as possible,” said Jamie Horton, a theater professor who oversees theater department productions.

The department will reserve a YOUR SPACE venue for three consecutive weeks of each term, typically beginning in the second week. The spaces are available on a first come, first serve basis without any prerequisites, and the application is minimal. This flexibility allows anyone from theater majors to the students looking to dabble in musical theater to put on a production.

Amber Dewey ’12 will inaugurate the program when she directs “Edges,” a musical theater song-cycle a series of songs intended to be perfomed sequentially as a cohesive performance. The show, composed by Jonathan Larson Award winners Justin Paul and Benj Pasek during their college years at the University of Michigan, will be staged in Moore Theater.

“The songs are thematically related,” Dewey said. “They’re all about the bridge to adulthood.”

Dewey’s production will run on Oct. 22 and 23.

Before YOUR SPACE, students were expected to take a directing class if they wanted to direct their own production for a Shakespeare Alley Showcase, a termly series of shows produced and acted completely by students. Dewey did not take the prerequisite course, but under the department’s new guidelines, is able to launch her own production with the Harlequins, a musical theater group.

“It opens up opportunities for people like me who dabble in theater … to put together really great projects and to put their visions into action with a lot less trouble,” Dewey said. “It’s one of the things at Dartmouth that encourages multi-tasking instead of discouraging it, which I really like. They make it so easy for you without [imposing] a structure.”

In addition to the venue, the department will give each production a $50 budget, a faculty liaison and technical support for lighting and sound.

“The faculty liaison will be the point person for the individual or group,” Horton said. “If the individual or group needs assistance, has questions about the space, or questions about requests they’ve made, this faculty person will answer those questions and do whatever he or she can to address them.”

Technical support will come from a work-study student intern, overseen by the theater department.”[YOUR SPACE] is meant to be flexible,” Horton said. “We’re here if they want us and if they want to fly solo, they’ve got the theater and they can just run with it.”

When assembling the guidelines and resources for YOUR SPACE, the department considered the popularity of an older program, “12:30 reps,” in which students directed one-act plays that were performed in Bentley Theater during lunch. The program is now defunct.

“The program is a distant relative of [12:30 reps], which was when [a student] could essentially sign up for the Bentley and do a show,” Horton said.

The major difference between the two is the greater degree of flexibility that YOUR SPACE offers, Horton said.

“There are fewer hoops to jump through,” he said. “We’re looking for as wide a variety of student groups as we can get to come in and use our spaces.”

The program has had such a positive response that the department had to turn down students and are encouraging them to reapply for Winter term, Horton said. Dewey hopes to take advantage of YOUR SPACE again in the Spring.

“I have a sneaking suspicion it will turn out to be quite a popular thing,” Horton said.

“Edges” will be followed by a second YOUR SPACE production this fall, when the Rude Mechanicals perform William Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” on Oct. 28 and Oct. 29.

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