By Heather Fabritze
Elm Staff Writer
Over the past semester, the Washington College Department of Theatre & Dance took steps to increase students’ voices and involvement within its programs.
A large part of this initiative was ensuring that they can receive feedback from students regarding performances.
One of the additions they made is pitch videos, which juniors will now be required to create for their potential Senior Capstone Experience ideas. The Department will share these videos with various affinity groups around campus, including the Encouraging Respect of Sexuality and the Supporting All Gender Experiences organizations, the Black Student Union, and certain parts of the Student Government Association to receive feedback from members.
As a result, students can learn what their peers think of the projects before beginning the planning process.
Another idea that they plan on pursuing is adding an anonymous Google Doc to their website for feedback on plays or musicals that students would like to see.
Department Chair and Associate Professor of Theatre Prof. Brendon Fox, and Professor of Theatre and Director of the Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts Dale Daigle, brainstormed ways to increase student feedback as much as possible.
“Professor Daigle and I are giving it a lot of thought,” Fox said. “Beyond the anonymous portal for titles, what are some of the ways we can engage and get student feedback about the types of shows? Because we want to have a diverse group of stories being told on stage so they can reflect a diverse group in the audience.”
The Department is also taking steps to diversify voices within the program by hiring a cultural competency consultant for their upcoming show, “Diaspora!” and working further with the group, Broadway for Racial Justice.
According to Fox, the former would “help create safer spaces” within the program and the latter would work with the Department on a living document focusing on anti-racism goals, as well as “allyship and addressing issues of restorative justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion” in classes and performances.
This living document will receive feedback from students on campus.
The Department is also making a point to involve students more in productions and in certain theatre and dance-related activities.
Although sophomore Julia Stanley described the SCEs as being “pretty student-run” and is heavily involved in them herself, she feels that there could be more collaboration between faculty and students regarding faculty-run productions.
“Just solidifying that collaboration within the shows and within the Department,” Stanley said. “Make it a collaboration, because that’s what theatre is.”
Next semester, Stanley plans to restart Improv Club with her peers, and host a 24-hour play festival. She also intends to be costume assistant on senior Percy Mohn’s SCE, “Twelfth Night,” and assistant stage manager for “God of Carnage,” which is senior Lyra Abbott’s SCE.
Abbott feels that more meetings involving students would benefit inter-departmental communication, but thinks that the Department is on the right track.
“I think they’re onto a really good start,” Abbott said. “I think that reaching out to the students for what they’re looking for helps…They have a lot of faculty-specific meetings. I feel like if they had more theatre & dance family meetings where the students are included to talk about this stuff, that would help.”
Fox agrees that more meetings would be beneficial and further emphasizes the importance of student voices within the program.
“It’s really important now, more than ever, for every voice to be heard and to have dialogue,” Fox said. “I feel like one of the most important things about being at a college like ours is to be able to hear different points of view and also to practice empathy. To me, theatre is an empathy machine, right? For a couple hours, we sit in the dark…we face towards the light, and we watch people live a life that’s not ours. And we’re asked to try to walk a mile in their shoes. So, I feel like that’s literally the DNA of what we do.”
Fox said that if any students have suggestions on how the Department can further connect with students in terms of future shows, they should reach out.
Photo by Kayla Thorington
Featured Photo Caption: The students of Department Chair and Associate Professor of Theatre Brendon Fox’s Shakespeare I course, head outside to practice scenes from the tragedy “Titus Andronicus.”