This fall, our theatre spaces came back to life. We presented indoor and in-person productions. We had classrooms filled with eager students. Our costume, scenic and lighting shops bustled with the business of creating theatre magic.
For almost two years, under challenging circumstances, we have worked to keep the art of theatre at the forefront of our community’s mind. We offered a variety of entertaining and educational online programming. We successfully produced our first multimedia show and our first outdoor production. But inviting people back inside the building gave us the renewed energy we all needed!
We have so much to celebrate. Here are a few highlights from our fall semester.
Crafting a Mission
This past summer, the University Theatre staff worked to reimagine our mission and vision statements, to help guide us on our return to in-person programming and beyond. I’m proud to say the entire team, representing all forms of theatre, had a hand in crafting these statements, informed by input from student and audience surveys.
Back to Producing
The fall of 2021 allowed for some semblance of normalcy at University Theatre. Our efforts centered on producing one large-scale in-person production, the first since February 2020. A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a coming home event for UT and helped us reignite the magic of live theatre on campus. The show was the work of 125 students; all were volunteers with rigorous course loads within their various colleges across campus. We exceeded our attendance expectations, welcoming a record number of student audience members. And Midsummer was not the only live performance on campus this fall. Our event operations staff and student employees, who have worked throughout the pandemic, successfully managed over 48 events within our three performance spaces.
Equipped with our new mission, we have increased our student-focused programming. A Case of Salt, a play by junior biological sciences major and theatre minor Gaven Bell, received three readings this fall as her script makes its way through our playwriting development series, The Wright Way. The popular Out Loud play reading series included the sold-out “Banned Books on Stage” event, an annual partnership with NC State University Libraries; Jessica-Grey Lineberry, a senior business major and theatre minor, directed the staged reading. In addition, a new program, Project 303, took student-directed scenes from THE 303 (Stage Directing) beyond the classroom walls and into the living and learning villages in residence halls around campus.
Welcoming New Staff
Our theatre family grew this year with the arrival of two new assistant directors. Danica Jackson (she/her) came on board as assistant director: performance. Danica specializes in acting, dialect coaching, devised theatre, stage movement, and community-based theatre. She will make her UT directing debut this spring with A Case of Salt. Patrick Mathis (they/them) joins us as assistant director: lighting/sound. Patrick has worked in theatre and live entertainment across the nation and internationally in technical theatre, lighting and media design. We were excited to see and hear Patrick’s design work during Midsummer this fall. Both Danica and Patrick teach courses within University Theatre.
Our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for Theatre committee (E.D.I.T.) engaged the services of Arts Access to perform an accessibility audit of our spaces to find ways to serve our community better. Arts Access will join us again this spring to train our house management and usher staff. The E.D.I.T. committee chair also serves on the City of Raleigh Arts Learning Community for Universal Access.
In a year with fewer shows on our season, we could institute much-needed maintenance and renovation projects for our facilities. Thompson Hall is currently undergoing maintenance, along with upgrades to our audio and assistive listening systems. The lobby carpet had a great 10-year run; we hope you like the new pattern!
Figuring out Funding
University Theatre’s productions are funded (in part) through ticket sales. Like many industries, live entertainment struggled in the world of COVID-19. We found innovative ways to cut costs but also looked for other opportunities to support the worlds our students and staff create.
This fall, NC State University announced its first crowdfunding campaign, and University Theatre was one of five programs selected to participate in this new (to campus) form of fundraising. We not only reached our $5,000 goal within a few days, we almost doubled it by the end of the campaign, thanks to the support of so many people like you. The funds go to work immediately to support our shows this season.
We will continue to engage this form of “crowd-supported productions” with our Amazon Wish List. Our designers have curated a list of props, costumes and materials needed to create Bikini Bottom. We hope you’ll check out the items and see how you can support SpongeBob and his friends as they save the world – and see your contribution on stage this spring!
We will kick off the spring semester with auditions, followed by the opening of two shows. A Case of Salt premieres in the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre in early March, and The SpongeBob Musicalwill open in late March in the Titmus Theatre. Tickets will go on sale on February 14 and March 1, respectively.
We are currently going through our stock and will hold a public costume sale on Saturday, January 15.
Finally, TheatreFEST will return to campus this June! Right now, we are reading shows and dreaming of what stories we’ll tell this summer. Look for details to be announced soon.
All of us at University Theatre wish you a happy holiday season and a restful break.