I first read through the article, Call for Student Submissions for the School Days Series by Thea Rodgers honestly by accident. I went to click on the article that was just above this one and ended up hitting the wrong link; I started to read anyway. I’m glad I did. This article seemed to hit home in more ways than one. Rodgers writes about a conversation that HowlRound held with a group of students and faculty from Emerson College as they discussed how the school’s theatre community was reflecting their view of the American theatre community. That conversation also included questions that are often heard in the halls of any theatre school. Questions such as “How could the theater department, which sometimes felt isolated from the rest of the college, reach out to other departments? “ and “How can we diversify the casting and shows so that more people of color, different genders, sexualities, and other under-represented groups are included, to better reflect the world around us?” are so often topics of discussion in this student / teaching world of theatre. As a student studying theatre in conservatory program, I have learned over the last two years that the life that I am choosing to live is quite different from the average college student. Our classes are different, our schedules are different, even our social lives are vastly different when comparing our world to that of your typical undergrad. The issues that we face are also different. Yes, we do encounter the average college student’s roadblock but we also encounter the questions and concerns that are brought up in this article on a daily basis.
Two weeks ago, Boston University’s School of Theatre (SoT) held auditions for its first quarter of performances. Two days after said auditions, cast lists were posted and all of the juniors and seniors in SoT knew where they would be spending the next three weeks or so. That following Tuesday morning, the 4th floor of the Collage of Fine Arts (CFA) was all a buzz about this casting process. This buzz sparked a conversation within my dramaturgy class that has been with me for the last week and a half. We talked about how members of the casting pool did not feel that this process was fair between the men and women auditioning. This seemed to be a conversation that had more to it than I was unaware of at the time but I left that class thinking about the college theatre world. I was thinking about this weird game that a university has to play to create a season that will satisfy audiences, students, and faculty as well as find pieces that students can learn from, because, after all, we are still in school.
I also started thinking about how strange this world of college theatre really is. All of us are getting the opportunity to explore several different types of theatre in the safety of a supportive and educational environment. As actors, techniques can be learned and tested in various productions so that you can learn what best works for you. This is something that gets taken away when you leave school. As a designer or a manager you are continuously trying new approaches to better support the wide range of shows that we get to work on over the course of our time here. As students we get to ask questions. But ultimately these are all things that will be gone when we enter the “real world”. We are extremely lucky to be getting the opportunity to dip our toes into the water of this crazy life before we are forced to dive right in; and that is amazing but we are still members of a university that offers much more than just theatre. However, more often than not I feel that we are forgotten. I feel as though the CFA as a whole somehow doesn’t really exist on BU’s campus. It is unfortunate, but true. Despite attempts to make our world known we still seem to hide in such a large university setting. Yes, one could argue that more could be done but how much energy do we truly have to dedicate to being heard? How much energy do we have to reach out to other departments? We are constantly trying to find ways to find a voice within our own halls, within our own work that trying to be heard on such a large scale might be too much. As theatre students, not just at BU, we seem to constantly be justifying why we are choosing to enter the world of theatre. That alone is exhausting. But trying to justify why we do what we do to a university, that is just too much. As students in the arts we have a very challenging roll to play. But we cannot give up and give in. We must keep asking questions about our programs, about our productions, about how we can do better. We must also not allow ourselves to get ignored. If we start to shout now maybe it won’t be so hard to shout in the “real world”.