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.

May 252012
 

Peter Hackett is a Professor of Theater and chair of Dartmouth’s theater department.

To the Class of 2016:

Every day as I walk to my office in the Hopkins Center for the Arts, I pass the portraits of the extraordinarily dynamic teachers who served in the theater department years ago. The gentleman with the impish smile and the irresistible twinkle in his eye is Professor Rod Alexander, the man who guided me to a life in the theater when I was, like you, an eager and energetic Dartmouth undergraduate.

A consummate comedian and master teacher, Rod not only knew exactly what to say to achieve the maximum impact on his students, he knew the perfect time to say it.

During one of the last rehearsals for my senior directing project, The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd, Rod and I watched with dismay as the chorus of urchins tripped and shuffled their way through their dance numbers. Several evenings of extra dance rehearsals had resulted in no noticeable improvements. After the final blackout, Rod leaned over to me and whispered, “Put glitter on their shoes.” I had learned by this time that it would be very wise to follow Rod’s advice even if I didn’t necessarily understand it. Sure enough, on opening night, with the stage lights sparkling on their rainbow colored feet, the chorus danced with a nimbleness and precision I had never seen before! As I watched the urchins fly through their numbers, I realized that Rod was a motivational genius.

In 2004, after thirty years in the professional theater, I came back to Dartmouth to join the faculty and follow in my mentor’s footsteps. Rod had always made us keenly aware of theatrical tradition and of our shared obligation to train the next generation of aspiring theater artists.

Rod Alexander and his remarkable colleagues in those portraits inspired me with their passion for the theater, challenged me with their standards of artistic excellence, and gave me the skills to create a life in the vocation that I love. For that, I will be forever grateful.

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!