As the curtains open on Georgetown student theater groups this fall, new plays promise to bring renewed diversity to their repertoires. This year, theater groups on campus are moving toward a common aim: promoting a collaborative, accessible environment that will translate their increased opportunities for involvement into creative dynamism.
Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society
One of the groups engaged in this mission is the Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society. Founded in 1852, it is the oldest continuously running collegiate theater group in the country. The group plans to increase the number of production crew roles available to students. As part of an ambitious season, its first main-stage show, the co-production “An American Daughter,” will feature 12 roles, while its second show, “Wind Me Up Maria!: A Go-Go Musical” will comprise a cast of about 10 actors.
Carmen Livesay (COL ’17), technical administrator and producer for “An American Daughter,” which opens Oct. 13, said Mask and Bauble expects to expand its reach for the fall season.
“We are looking to create opportunities for more diversity and for different people to [become] involved,” Livesay said.
Written by Wendy Wasserstein and directed by Caitlin Ouano (COL ’17), “An American Daughter” is a co-production between Mask and Bauble and the Black Theater Ensemble. The show follows the unfolding of a decisive moment in the life of the main character, Dr. Lyssa Dent Hughes. After receiving the nomination for the position of Surgeon General, she commits one small misstep in an interview and consequently risks collapsing her entire career as the media intrusively attempts to dismantle her world.
“An American Daughter” will be staged from Oct. 13 to 22 in Poulton Hall. Specific show times are available online.
As part of its efforts to represent different types of individuals, Mask and Bauble will concentrate on productions that clearly deviate from its traditional background. “Wind Me Up Maria!: A Go-Go Musical,” for instance, brings together the department of performing arts and the Black Theater Ensemble for an exploration of go-go, a music genre native to Washington, D.C.
“Wind Me Up Maria!: A Go-Go Musical” figures as the unique brainchild of playwright-director Natsu Onoda Power, an associate professor in the department of performing arts. Onoda Power emerged on the D.C. theater scene in 2012 with “Astro Boy and the God of Comics” at Studio Theatre and “A Trip to the Moon” at Synetic, two technically creative and non-linear productions.
The musical is co-directed by Charles “Shorty Corleone” Garris, lead singer for D.C.’s prominent go-go band Rare Essence, and focuses on the relatable protagonist Maria, a rising senior at Georgetown. As a go-go-obsessed student looking for work, Maria eventually becomes a live-in tutor for a wealthy family and begins sharing her musical passion with the children.
Mask and Bauble will also be staging four auxiliary productions this year. The fall season will see the birth of two original low-time-commitment productions: “Twelve Angry Jurors” and “The Last Five Years.”
Meanwhile, Nomadic Theater hopes to advance the conversation about identity on campus with its fall show, “Fugue.” Mark Camilli (COL ’19), who is directing the Lee Thuna-penned play, said Nomadic Theater plans on being more socially conscious this season.
“Nomadic Theater has been working to place [this catalyzed forum for dialogue] into [its] idea to do socially engaged and technically ambitious theater,” he said.
While the production staff amounts to around 50 people, “Fugue” relies on eight main characters and will be performed in the brand-new black box theater erected underneath the Village C patio to replace the recently closed Walsh Black Box Theater. The play will open on October 21, and will run until October 29.
Produced by Sam Matta (COL ’19), “Fugue” takes audiences through fragments of the life of a woman who was found wandering the streets of Chicago, her feet bloodied and blistered. Arbitrarily named Mary Smith by the doctors who treat her, she is diagnosed with “fugue amnesia,” a rare disease in which the patient’s brain shuts down all previous memories in response to a traumatic event. The play presents a unique angle as the memories of Smith’s life play out on stage. Anxious not to repeat past mistakes, a young psychiatrist is assigned to her case and works with the woman to slowly piece together her identity.
Georgetown Improv Association
Using comedy as a tool of release and introspection, the Georgetown Improv Association will put on one show each month between October and December. According to cast member Megan Howell (COL ’18), Improv’s team bases its performances upon the mechanism of constructing engaging and convincing 30-minute performances based off of one word suggested by the audience, while incorporating pieces of a general directive narrative that the actors use to progress the plot.
“The key to a [technically successful] improve consists of building what is called a ‘game’ — a relationship between two characters,” Howell said.
Callbacks, or references to a set of actions that happened earlier in the show, may help the audience follow the completely unscripted, and at times disjointed, storyline. Although nothing that happens on the stage is prepared, the team spends approximately five hours per week rehearsing dynamics with partners and learning how to use logical connections to escalate and heighten the initial emotions, according to cast member Alex Mitchell (COL’ 18). Improvisers continually face the challenge of fighting through self-doubt in a context where questioning oneself tends to inhibit quick wit.
“However, tying up loose ends and getting everything to come together is [considerably] satisfying,” Howell affirmed.
Faced with a shrunken team — which went from a norm of between seven and nine people to only four performers — and with the difficulty of having just graduated experienced members, the Georgetown Improv Association looks forward to recruiting two new members.
“It is going to be interesting to re-establish a new team identity without the three strong leading figures that graduated out,” Howell said.
Despite moving further and further apart as the array of themes explored and techniques employed grows, student theater groups on the Hilltop are becoming increasingly interconnected. Collaborations, coproductions and simple exchanges of ideas through dialogue hold promise for opening new perspectives and creating new opportunities for artistic engagement.