I was delighted to come across an article in Howlround that engaged with a production that my school put on this year. It was an adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis that was a part of our Boston Center for American Performance (BCAP) series, which is marked by collaboration between professionals (usually professors) and students. I was pleased to see this for a number of reasons. Not only was it complimentary (yeah that’s my school! rah!), but it was also awesome to see student productions recognized and critiqued as a part of the Boston theatre scene. Even though Boston University’s School of Theatre is very prolific in how many shows we produce each year, it can feel like a bubble. Our shows, especially those that happen right in our College of Fine Arts building, are mainly attended by other SOT students, faculty, and friends/family of the cast. When there are people from the “outside world” that come, it is often the result of a direct invitation by a cast member and not someone who came as a result of their own curiosity or patronage to the school. Mainstage shows receive a bit more publicity, but audiences are still often small, and the short runs make it difficult to be reviewed. These factors can all contribute to a general feeling of being marginalized to the “student theatre” suburb of the art scene. However, on the flip side, that is what we are, and the educational environment we produce in does allow for more risk-taking and a certain feeling of support when we feel like we’re doing shows to learn, not necessarily to bring in the dough or catch a reviewer’s eye.
But when someone does come along and gives us students a chance, I feel that it validates our work, and the quality of our program. Often I see reviews of college productions and see a sort of “…for student theatre” caveat that lauds our effort but then backtracks and claims “they did an awesome job…for college kids.” This reviewer provided her own comments on what she took away from our production as well as providing critique of the show’s goals and the skill of the actors. It felt honest, without agenda or ego, and it was very refreshing to hear that voice talk about student theatre. Here is an excerpt:
There is something incongruous about the metamorphosis of one of the great pieces of existential modern literature into a form for showcasing an actor or ensemble’s skill—but it is also a form of ennoblement, a kind of regeneration. What more can we ask of university theater than that it should uphold excellence, and establish it in even the strangest corners of experience? I take it that a work like Metamorphosis speaks of isolation, rebellion, and dissatisfaction with the status quo. And canonization of such literature gives a pedestal to the strange fruits of frustration that the twentieth century has produced, making forms of them from which a new generation can learn. The exuberance of BCAP’s translation of this experience ought to be applauded, and sung.
Reviews like this make me feel like an integral part of the Boston theatre scene rather than a hopeful entry. While we are still learning, we are contributors to the work that exists and is produced in the city. We are woven into the fiber, and it feels nice to be taken seriously as a part of it. Hopefully this review will lead to an increased awareness and respect for student theatre, and that our product really can be just as worthwhile as our process. Even though, as a school, we don’t exist just to produce shows, but we want to gain experience in making theatre that matters. And we can gain a better experience of what that means if we exist both as our own entity and as a part of the wider world.