Reading the blog this week, I was struck by something that one of my fellow classmates, Rachel Rees, said in her post, “They need it more than we do.” She argued that the members of CFA should share their art with the larger university because the larger university is in need of the type of experience that makes them live in the present. I don’t disagree. But I want to push this idea further.
Rachel is absolutely right in that the university needs what CFA offers. But even more, CFA needs the audiences of the larger university. As much as we’d like to believe it, we do not create art in a vacuum. We create art so that we can share it with audiences. These audiences push us to create more compelling, dynamic, and relevant pieces. Right now, the audiences of most CFA plays are made up almost entirely of other theater-makers. Not only does that mean that our audiences are static, but it also means that our audiences are not realistic. When we go out into the “real world” and create theater, we are not going to be performing to artist-only audiences. We are going to be performing for people with a slew of backgrounds, and I can guarantee that some of those backgrounds do not include extensive theater training. In order to prepare us, we need the diversified audiences of the university to push us as artists. Furthermore, it is important to remember that theater is a medium. While we do create theater whose subject is also theater, most of the theater we make is about something besides…well… theater. We need to engage with the larger university because the university can assist us in understanding the subject material with which our plays deal. Theater can be about anything, so we need to be prepared to learn about anything. The introduction section of The Process of Dramaturgy says it best, “many of the tools we acquire from our daily lived experiences relate to theatrical productions,” and thus, many of the daily lived experiences of people who do not make theater on a regular basis also relate to theatrical productions (Irelan, Fletcher, Dubiner xviii). We can use their experiences to make our theater better.
So. They need us to open their minds to the idea of living in the present. We need them to push us to make our theater better. Personal growth for all. The thing is, it isn’t happening. And so the question is why not?
I think it is too easy to write off CFA’s homogenized audiences as a result of disinterest from the other constituents. More likely, the lack of involvement on the part of the rest of the university is a result of the silo effect. CFA is a very tight-knit community. Some would argue that it is so close that it prevents the students from meeting other people or interacting with the students outside of CFA. So there is a disconnect. It is not that students in other schools in the university do not care about theater, it is that they do not know that there are twenty different free on campus shows each semester. Even the kids in the various student-run theater groups on campus don’t really know what CFA is up to. The main problem here is getting the word out. We need to tell people about the theater that is going on around campus. Instead of having a bake sale fundraiser outside of CFA, have it outside of another building on campus. Do flash mob-esq advertising on marsh plaza. Reach out to the theater groups on campus: Stage Troupe, BU on Broadway, and Wandering Minds. If the conclusion is that CFA needs BU and BU needs CFA, we have to do everything within our power to forge that connection.