Editor’s note: This column was written before the closure of the UT campus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Its content may or may not reflect the current reality of student life on campus. We believe it is important to share this column to shed light on issues around campus and to honor the work of its author.
Have you been trying to find a new activity for a Friday night on campus? Are you looking for a stress relieving, engaging and interactive opportunity to support your fellow students and your mental health? UT theater performances might be just the thing you’ve been searching for.
Dedicated students — majoring in costume design, stage management and everything in between — work tirelessly to put on productions for the UT community. Stage management freshman Carolyn Cullen said the theater department runs rehearsal five days a week, with four hours a night on weekdays and six hours on weekends.
However, even with all the theater department’s hard work, the unfortunate reality is that very few students from other majors actually attend these performances.
“The actors’ family and friends will attend, and depending on the show generally interested students will come, but a large portion of the audience is theater students,” Cullen said.
In order to increase attendance at their performances and show appreciation for the theater department, UT needs to do more to promote their performances schoolwide.
Currently, the only forms of advertisement are posters outside of the Winship Drama Building and the theater department building as well as show lists on the Texas Today emails. However, the majority of non-theater students will never have reason to go to Winship or read their emails from UT all the way through, so these efforts aren’t substantial enough to catch student attention.
Theater performances deserve their own email newsletter that gets sent to the student body, with a clear headline naming the show and its details. Students shouldn’t have to jump through hoops just to find out about a show.
This lack of publicity may result from a lack of knowledge about the benefits that live theater provides for those involved. Alexandra Bassiakou Shaw, a lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Dance, explained that attending theater performances can have a significant positive impact on the lives of students and community members alike.
“Access to the arts, and especially in performance, gives us the opportunity to empathize and experience empathy from varying degrees of situations and people,” Shaw said. “No matter what you pursue in life or what you’re passionate about doing, it’s a chance to connect to the human experience or another way of thinking you would never have encountered in the natural world.”
Additionally, a full audience has an impact on the actors and the other students who dedicated months to putting on these performances.
“In a perfect world, I would love to have a packed house every night,” Shaw said. “It’s a live art, so whoever is breathing and responding makes a difference.”
The theater department will be showing Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” from April 8-19. This production features two sisters who, after the death of their father, are forced to navigate the world on their own while challenging their roles in 19th-century English society. This show is supposed to be incredible, and the theater department has been working very hard to put on a thrilling performance, so grab a friend and come watch.
Taylor is a Spanish freshman from Seattle, Washington.