By Molly Igoe
On Thursday, Sept. 28, at 10:15 p.m., three male cast members of “Major Barbara” found that their personal belongings were missing from their dressing room in Gibson Center for the Arts.
According to junior John Leslie, his backpack, clothes, and keys were taken. Junior Collin Higgins said that his pants were taken.
Leslie found his shirt on the lawn near his dorm building, and discovered everyone else’s belongings in an alley behind the Casey Swim Center the next morning.
According to a Department of Public Safety Report, on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 10:09 p.m., more thefts were reported from the women’s and men’s dressing rooms in Gibson. Public Safety Officer Brandon McFayden said that because most of the cast and crew had secured their belongings in lockers, the majority of items stolen were clothes and makeup. They recovered most of the missing items in Practice Room 111 down the hall.
Higgins said that all the rehearsal rooms were locked until 20 minutes before the cast members were released from rehearsal. When the male actors entered their dressing room, their belongings were gone, including costume pieces. Higgins’ wallet was stolen, but the contents were subsequently found on a piano in the building later on.
Public Safety identified a suspicious person while they were reviewing surveillance footage, but they were not able to identify who it was due to the camera angle, according to McFayden.
“This hasn’t been the first time items have been stolen from the dressing room, but the amount taken is especially large. Thefts have never been so frequent during a semester… There are no cameras in the back hallway of Gibson. The opportunity to steal is also great: there are always shows in production and that area is used for set construction, lighting, storage occasionally,” Leslie said.
Director of Public Safety Gerald Roderick said he is going to have a conversation this week about how to secure Gibson, which will include reviewing the hours of operation.
“Gibson operates a lot of late hours doing evening productions and rehearsals. We will try to keep the facility as open as possible, but we’ll have a conversation with [the theater department] and see how we can make it a more secure space,” he said.
On Saturday, a Public Safety officer stood guard during rehearsal, but McFayden said, “We can’t do that all the time because of staff size. We are beefing up security there, and making sweeps through Gibson every night.”
He also reminded students of the resources in Gibson that can be utilized to protect their belongings, like lockers.
“The ‘Major Barbara’ team is making efforts to secure the personal belongings of its cast and crew. And the Department encourages students working on shows to keep their belongings with them in the theater or in the scene shop. But the terrible thing about it is that Washington College is supposed to be a place where you can leave your things without fearing they’ll be stolen. That is no longer the case,” Leslie said. “I don’t trust leaving any of my belongings anywhere. I would encourage anyone and everyone spending their time in Gibson to secure their valuables and keep an eye on them at all times.”
Roderick reiterated this sentiment, and said that this is a reminder to the campus that thefts can happen anywhere, “so people need to be conscious about their personal belongings, and not leave them unattended.”
Higgins said that the thefts have made the cast and crew feel stressed during rehearsal.
“I feel personally violated. It feels gross to me that some person is walking around the theater, a place where I spend most of my time, and is taking things looking for cash and for cellphones. It’s disgusting and it has ruined my piece of mind,” he said.
Brendon Fox, assistant professor of theater and director of the play, said that everyone involved in the production appreciated Public Safety’s and the Chestertown Police Department’s response.
“It did not stop everyone from making ‘Major Barbara’ the best show it can possibly be, and I was impressed by the way all of the students affected helped each other get through it together,” he said.