This year, the T.C. Williams Drama Department is producing two more shows than usual. In an effort to increase student involvement and knowledge regarding theater, the drama department is taking on five productions instead of three.
Leslie Jones and Hope Bachman, leaders of the drama department, have said they will sponsor the fall play, Tell Me That You Love Me Junie Moon, a winter musical, Rent, a Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing and a late spring student play writing workshop.
According to Jones, the department hopes to increase student involvement, especially male involvement, since the drama department nearly always needs actors. Jones also hopes to improve students knowledge of acting in the theater.
“Most of our students can sing and dance, but it is now necessary for us to concentrate on the acting component,” said Jones. “Too much emphasis is placed on the musical,” agreed Bachman. “While musicals are fun and the students and community enjoy them, we feel we have a duty as theater educators to expand T.C.’s theatrical horizons.”
Scheduling is a challenge. Some productions, such as the Winter One Act Festival and the winter musical, overlap. According to Jones, students are able to audition and potentially participate in both. Unfortunately for students, that results in not only a double-booking of theater activities, but also academics. Jones says that a student schedule could be hectic but would be worth it in the long run. “It will be more stressful, but I am sure we’ll all reap the benefits and rewards of a grueling schedule,” Jones said.
“It has been difficult,” admitted Bachman. “What makes it possible is that we have the Music Department, especially Mr. Thorpe, to supervise and further the process of putting Rent together while one-acts are being put on.”
Senior student director Maria Simpkins and junior student stage manager Joseph Powers provide more insight on this. Powers admits that originally the department had been planning on a normal workload, but due to popular demand, a musical came into the works as well, along with an extra play. Powers agrees, admits that as Rent‘s stage manager he has a very busy schedule, and many things have had to be sacrificed, but it is worth it in the end.
Simpkins has the same view. “Because we already have so much work as students, it is difficult to not only have academics to think about, but a time-consuming extracurricular like drama as well,” she said. “But, at the same time, theater is a very important part of my life — and many students will agree with this — so much so that even if I have to give up a lot to be a part of this, if it means more shows, then that is worth it.”
To pay for the extra productions, the drama department will continue to raise money the same way it always has; through fundraisers and ticket sales.
Bachman also notes that despite potential setbacks such as time and money, there are advantages to the extra shows. “It definitely creates more opportunities; we have also created different kinds of opportunities,” said Bachman. “I know of several students who are not interested in acting who have asked about playwrighting for the Original Play Festival.” Bachman thinks that theater itself is a great investment of time, especially when thinking about careers later in life. “There is…more and more evidence that the leaders of the future are going to need creativity and imagination to be really successful,” said Bachman. She states that these extra shows will be especially useful for enriching the theatrical knowledge of actors and the audience.
“We want to give all of our students and our audience a life-long appreciation for all types of theater,” said Bachman. “We [also] want to give our students who are hoping to continue with theater into their college and professional lives a well-rounded base and resume,” said Bachman. “I see being able to appreciate and enjoy all types of theater, all types of art as crucial to success and happiness, both personally and culturally.” Quoting former President John F. Kennedy, “I look forward to an America which will reward achievements in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength, but for its civilization as well.”
Rent: February 4 and 5.
Much Ado About Nothing: April 8 and 9, April 15 and 16.
Original Play Festival: June 10 and 11.