Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Put Theater in the Spotlight

Most have probably never set foot in it. Most have probably never read more than a blurb about it. Most of you would look like Miss Teen South Carolina if you were asked to point it out on a map. This building, however, sits at the heart of Georgetown, at the geographic center of our buzzing campus.

The Davis Performing Arts Center has only been around for a few years, though it has been growing rapidly. It is a young building, housing a young department: the performing arts department.

The oddest thing about theater for me is the difficulty of perspective – that out-of-body experience. When I float out of my theater-kid black box and consider Georgetown as a whole, I have to remind myself that theater, in fact, isn’t all there is at Georgetown. It does, however, play an important role in this campus – I would argue anyway. Just like its flagship building, theater both takes a central spot on the Georgetown stage, yet also sidesteps the spotlight.

In my own personal story with theater, I think something important about theater will shine through. (Disclaimer: This is not a piece about the importance of theater over any other Georgetown club or team. I went to my share of basketball games last year. This is merely an argument for maybe shifting that spotlight a little more toward theater, even if only every once in a while.)

I came to Georgetown not really knowing what I would do for my ever-important extracurriculars. Still riding on that stereotype of the Georgetown-bound high schooler who joined scores of clubs in high school (and attempted to run half or more), I was swept into the whirlpool of commitments that was SAC Fair. Also typical of freshmen, I not only joined many clubs but dropped out of many clubs as well. I joined the International Relations Club; I dropped out. I joined a community service group; I slowly stopped coming. But something about theater stuck.

I auditioned for a show my first week of school in college: “The Exonerated,” a play put on by Nomadic Theatre. I was quickly swept up into a play about the lives of those wronged by our judicial system. What a socially conscious artiste I was! (See “Stuff White People Like.”) But only with the performance of this piece, when I saw the reactions of audience members to the stories we were telling, did I fully understand what theater can do on this campus. People were bawling. People were questioning. People were thinking.

This, I think, exemplifies what theater can do on a campus as unique as Georgetown. There are many running jokes about the stereotypes of Georgetown, beyond the popped collars. We self-mock about the disproportionate number of government majors and world-leaders-to-be that populate our student body. Most of us are in someway active about something. This is often an issue-driven campus. Theater is another current in this river of awareness, of action.

Last year, when there were problems of hate crime on campus, theater came together with a message and a conduit for students to use to voice that message. Both in Nomadic Theatre’s “The Laramie Project” and in Mask and Bauble’s “Cabaret,” questions of sexual orientation and social norms were raised. Both were presented in very different styles, yet both were relevant to the issues students were talking about. Continuing this legacy, Black Theater Ensemble’s “In The Blood” last year and Nomadic Theatre’s “Address Unknown” this year both deal with questions of homelessness and stigma.

It is important to note the content of these pieces and what is going on on stage, yet equally important is what is happening in the audience: The seats are filled! Many performances of all the shows were sold out last year. The Georgetown campus is responding to and supporting this presence of theater on campus.

Theater at Georgetown is taking a bigger and bigger role in campus life, offering multiple ways for students to get involved and also spreading its fingers into larger D.C. life, inclduing a partnership with the Studio Theater. But regardless of where it goes or how it grows, I think this role theater is taking is molding to fit what Georgetown students want and need: theater about what concerns them, academically and extracurricularly. So hopefully this viewpoint has been a little flashlight to shine on that central part of the stage. That little part of campus that might be even more central to your Georgetown experience than you could guess.

So, maybe you have never been into the Davis Performing Arts Center. Maybe you have never even considered what this random McDonald’s-roofed building could be. But a little curiosity couldn’t hurt.

William McKeithen is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.

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