Feb 102014

Let’s talk about theater. The rush of performing, the tight-knit bond between cast and crewmembers, the overall joy of presenting your work to an audience. Point blank, I love and adore the theater. Dartmouth’s theater, of course, is no exception.

However, I didn’t always believe that I would end up doing as much theater as I do in a regular term. In high school, I performed in roughly 3 to 4 full-length productions a year, and was ready for a break when I started at Dartmouth. I thought: “Oh I won’t do theater, I’ll try something new.” Well that lasted for about a week. I immediately auditioned for the production of Breaking E.D.E.N., a new work. I was cast in the ensemble and was whisked away into the wonderful world of Dartmouth Theater. While involved in the production, I met and became friends with a few of my closest buddies here, and learned about the Dartmouth Rude Mechanicals, Dartmouth’s student-run Shakespeare Company. Following the production of E.D.E.N., I auditioned and was accepted into the Rude Mechanicals or ‘Rude Mechs.’ Let me tell you how thrilling, challenging, rewarding, and exciting it is to put on a Shakespeare production every term. The most rewarding part of doing theater for me is the inviting community productions and courses facilitate. You stay cast members for life, and often find long-lasting friendships in rehearsals. Apart from new buddies, performing or assisting as part of the crew has given me a newfound sense of confidence and determination in my work on and offstage. I am more assertive and proud of who I’ve become thanks to training in the theater.

Production photo from The Liar, 2013. © Rob Strong

Production photo from The Liar, 2013. © Rob Strong

At Dartmouth there are so many ways to get involved in theater. You can audition (usually the first weekend of term) for the Department’s production, which performs around the eighth week of term. Recent productions include The Liar, Angels in America, Hairspray, and this term: Spring Awakening. At the beginning of fall and winter terms you can audition for the Dartmouth Rude Mechanicals, the Shakespeare Company. We perform once a term, choosing a different play by vote. All of the sets and costumes are borrowed or from our own wardrobe, we emphasize the ‘minimalist’ aspect heavily, but it also concentrates the performance on the acting and the Bard’s language. As an undergraduate you can apply each term for a ‘Your Space’ production through the Department of Theater. A ‘Your Space’ is a performance you put on with the resources of the Department like costumes and lights.  It can be an original work, a published work, or a staged reading—it’s up to you! Applications are usually due the first or second week of the term and perform around week four or five of the term. Finally, there are so many wonderful theater courses the Department offers, anything from Russian Theater to Acting I to Set Design to Speaking Voice for the Stage. Some courses require interviews, which occur the first day of classes. My advice would be to try and dapple in a little bit of theater while at Dartmouth either by supporting a friend in a show, performing, or auditioning for a student production.

Feb 272012

Hairspray Stage Performance

Yesterday, I went to see the finale of Hairspray, the Theatre Department’s winter production.  I hadn’t heard of the play before, but I can now say I love it.  The cast was simply stunning, and they had such a bubbly energy even after two hours of jumping, hopping, dancing, and singing, and so much practice leading up to their final performance.  Personally, I find it amazing that people can be so talented at singing, dancing and acting all at the same time, especially since I find each one in itself such a challenge.  It was great to see that students of all years, even freshman, were featured so prominently in the show.  If I had any talent at all, I would definitely audition because it seems like the cast had such a great time working together.  My friends and I were all in a euphoric state after experiencing such a heartwarming story.

After the show, I went back to my dorm to work on my math paper.  I’m currently taking Math 17, a topics course called Math Beyond Calculus, which focuses on number theory and its applications in cryptography this year.  The professor does an amazing job tying together many areas of math into a coherent course in an interesting field while giving us a taste of what math is like after the calculus sequence.  In the final week, all the students in the class have to study something not directly covered in class.  Not only is it a chance to explore anything that interests us outside the curriculum, but it also exposes us to mathematical texts and papers, encouraging us to piece together an understanding the way mathematicians and scientists do when they learn about new topics.  We are soon going to start giving presentations to the class, which trains us in conveying difficult mathematical concepts clearly and succinctly, a skill that will definitely come in handy in the future.  I had never taken a math class quite like this before, and I love it.  I’m so glad that Dartmouth has classes like this, and I plan to seek them out in future terms as well.  I’ve been rubbing Warney Bently’s nose every time I pass through the Hop – hopefully that will give me good luck for my presentation.

Nov 192011

Before I came to Dartmouth, I loved doing theatre – performing, directing or just helping out. I loved being around the stage and I loved the relationships that form in that sort of environment. When I came to Dartmouth, I was worried about fitting into the Theatre scene. The Theatre Department directs one play a term called the mainstage. When I got here, I auditioned for the mainstage performance Breaking E.D.E.N. I was cast in the ensemble and it has been one of the most memorable experiences of my first fall term at Dartmouth.

Photo credit: hop.dartmouth.edu

First of all, it’s been a really great way to meet upperclassman. As a freshman, this can be hard to do because we are grouped together a lot (through trips and various freshman activities). Once we were into ‘Hell Week’ (tech and dress rehearsals) I was spending 5+ hours in the theatre with 25 wonderful people and this – as you can imagine! – means that A LOT of bonding goes on. A typical rehearsal was to arrive at the theatre, a quick briefing from the stage manager and ASMs (assistant Stage managers), then picking up of the show from where we had left off. It was a huge time commitment but one that I don’t regret taking on at all. We wouldn’t always be working and there was a fair amount of down time and I’ve had some of my most interesting conversations during this down time.

Second of all, committing to this show was like a crash course in time management. I was spending every evening in the Bentley (the theatre) during Hell Week and – as fun as it was – it wasn’t an environment conducive to studying, or attempting to do anything productive. So I really had to plan out my time to be able to get assignments in on time. Time management is something that a lot of freshman struggle with and I wasn’t any different but I quickly learnt how necessary it was.

The Theatre Department is such a family here. They are so welcoming and excited about freshman joining and getting involved in shows. There is also so much to do! The DTC (Displaced Theatre Company) is in charge of student productions – mainly plays, the Harlequins is a group for musical theatre and the Rude Mechanicals is the student run Shakespeare group. The Rude Mechanicals is the only groups that requires an audition (and once in the group, you participate in their performances for your four years); the other two groups audition on a show to show basis. E.D.E.N. has allowed me to do so much in just my first term here and I am so excited about doing more with theatre here!

Oct 062011

It has been about a month since I first landed on the Green, and about two weeks since classes have started (which is a significant amount since we have 10 week academic terms). It’s been both stressful and exciting at times. I have my first midterm coming up next week, I am researching questions for my first proper academic paper, I have been to my first two football games (yes, my life’s first two!), I’ve had my homesick moments, I’ve had a wii party with friends, I’ve made spontaneous decisions of visiting West Lebanon in the middle of the week with some friends, I’ve worked my first shift at Courtyard Café located at the Hop (Hopkins Centre for the Arts), I’ve joined the tennis PE course and the Cricket Club (Yes Dartmouth has a Cricket Club! Dartmouth has something for everybody), I’ve played poker at 2 in the night with my floor, and I have done tons of other stuff during this month. There have been mostly highs and some lows. However, there is one thing that I’ve experienced every single day I’ve been at Dartmouth.

This common experience that I have every single day is simply a feeling that stays with me. It is one of the most positive feelings I have ever experienced. It includes pride and happiness. When I think about my day, I’m filled with a sense of achievement. At Dartmouth, every single day we achieve something academically, morally, physically and intellectually. Whether it’s in a class through the teacher’s lecture, or at your friend’s dorm through helping them with a math problem, Dartmouth is filled with all kinds of learning experiences. Going through such experiences makes you feel proud of yourself at the end of the day, since you know that you’ve grown and developed since you woke up that morning.

The feeling also includes inspiration. At Dartmouth you are inspired to seek new areas, to take up new challenges, to think outside the box, to believe in yourself and your peers. A few weeks ago while talking to an upperclassman one of my friends spontaneously decided to go on a canoe trip. The flow of water was intense and she had never canoed in such conditions before. She took up the challenge and she came to me that night telling me that it was one of the best experiences she has ever had! You find several such opportunities at Dartmouth, and soon you are inspired to take them.

You also feel part of the community. At Dartmouth, students are very welcoming. The friends I have made over the past month are amazing. Despite coming from a different country and culture, I have never felt left out at Dartmouth. We find a sense of unity with everyone at Dartmouth and it certainly becomes our home.

I may still be a new freshman at Dartmouth (I haven’t even ran across the fire at homecoming yet) but I have loved every moment I’ve spent here. The magical feeling that Dartmouth has given me is priceless, and this feeling grows each and every day.



Sep 252011

Wednesday morning, September 21, 4:30 am. In just over four hours, my first day of classes at Dartmouth will officially begin. I’m sitting on the red circular seat at the entrance of the Hop, which I’m convinced is simply wood with one layer of upholstery draped over the top, as alert as I can be after being abruptly woken from a state of quasi-slumber. Men’s a capella auditions, second round.

After not making it to the third, final round of auditions (yet still sleeping through the paroxysmal beeping of my alarm clock and my first class), I was justifiably upset. I had never sung in a choir before, let alone an a capella group, but I was convinced that I had a wonderfully melodious voice. After all, my friends and family had insisted on it, and they wouldn’t lie to me. The truth was that the standards had simply changed. Everyone had 18 years of life experience before we met, and everyone had devoted themselves for years to their extracurricular passions. For some, it was singing. It dawned on me what it really meant to leave my public high school in suburban Wisconsin.

I felt as though I was the subject of a grave injustice. I too, had literally spent every waking hour during my final two years of high school on Academic Decathlon, and Dartmouth didn’t even offer a near substitute. I was left to carve a new path out for myself, while everyone else continued what they’d been doing for ages. But slowly, I began to see it for what it really was: unbridled opportunity to discover my true self. Although I still have no clue about what new interest I’ll stumble upon next, I’m ever grateful for the strange conspiracies of fate that brought me to where I am today.