Last Saturday afternoon, Masque & Gown, using the steps of the Peary-MacMillian Arctic Museum as a makeshift stage, performed a reading of Terry Wayne Gabbard’s play “Our Place.” The reading marked the first time that Masque & Gown has staged an in-person performance in over a year.
Theater and Dance students from Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 present senior studio projects in remote format
In past years, spring in the department of theater and dance has seen the culmination of seniors’ work in studio projects: performances written, directed and acted by Bowdoin students. For the Class of 2020, however, the beginning of the pandemic made live studio productions impossible.
Last Friday evening, the Bowdoin Department of Theater and Dance traded in vocal warm-ups and a house packed full of Bowdoin students for rapid pre-performance COVID-19 testing and cameras placed in an empty Pickard Theater for a staged production of the “Cows of War.” The play, written by Department of Theater and Dance Coordinator Callie Kimball and directed by Associate Professor of Theater Abigail Killeen, marks the Department’s first production since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Spencer Wilkins ’21 has known that he wanted to write a play since the fall of his junior year. Four semesters later, he is preparing for the premiere of his senior studio project, “WALDO,” an original, 87-minute Zoom play that will be pre-recorded and streamed to the Bowdoin community on April 8.
A year ago, during the first week of March, the Department of Theater and Dance staged a performance of Shakespeare’s “Henry VI, Part II” in Pickard Theater. One week later, students returned home for spring break.
On Saturday evening, Masque and Gown held its annual one-acts festival over a Zoom Webinar. For the first time in the festival’s history, rehearsals and performances for all three one-acts were entirely virtual—complete with introductory slides, audio components and digital backgrounds.
When Associate Professor of Theater Abigail Killeen first heard about the opportunity to act in an episode of the Smithsonian’s “America’s Hidden Stories,” she did not realize that she was auditioning for a starring role. Earlier this month—almost a year after that audition—she made her debut as Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union spy who fought for the abolition of slavery during the Civil War.
In the current near-cessation of live theater due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sally Rose Zuckert ’19 believes that there is a chance for a reckoning: the invitation to reimagine the institution and question its history. Through her performance in the University of Chicago production of Diana Oh’s “My H8 Letter to the Gr8 American Theater,” Zuckert challenges theater as a cultural reflection and explores inequities that have always existed in the theater industry.
It’s safe to say that the majority of present-day moviegoers steer clear of stage-to-screen adaptations. There are films in this subgenre that would be considered classics, like Elia Kazan’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” and Milos Forman’s “Amadeus” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” but there is something about the intimacy of watching the film version of a work originally performed as a stage play that turns many audiences off.
Over the course of this month, Masque and Gown, Bowdoin’s student theater group, will perform three virtual play readings. In the absence of access to on-campus spaces and equipment, the group has been innovating new ways to connect and bring out its members’ shared enthusiasm for performance.
During the initial chaos of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a month after Bowdoin’s emergency transition to remote instruction, the Theater and Dance Department hired Lily Prentice ’10 as its newest costume shop manager. While the fall semester has been unlike any other for the Theater and Dance Department, Prentice still has her hands full with small- and large-scale sewing projects, educating and advising students about the role of costume in the performing arts and organizing the costume shop—all of which the department lacked the time to do during typical, in-person semesters.
Between a pandemic and a precarious political climate, very little has gone according to plan over the past several months, and the world has had to learn how to improvise. “Improvabilities,” Bowdoin’s oldest improvisational comedy group, has worked to modify and adapt their craft to suit a remote model.
Sewing face masks from muslin cloth and leftover fabric scraps is not how Costume Shop Manager Julie McMurry anticipated spending her final semester at Bowdoin. “You know, there’s a limit to how many one person can make, but every little bit helps,” McMurry said in a video interview with the Orient.
As remote learning has become the new global norm, college communities have been searching for ways to stay united while physically apart. At Bowdoin, student performance groups are channelling their creativity to bring the College’s community together with virtual performances.
Many of the seniors working on performing arts projects set to debut in the spring are crushed by the fact that they won’t see their capstone projects performed during their last year at the College. Sebastian Hernandez ’20 has a slightly different perspective.
Tina Satter ’96 got the news that she had received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Drama and Performance Art just as the entire landscape of her life’s work began shifting, maybe for good. “The big question, and the constant micro-question of every day [is]: ‘How does theater exist on the other side of [the COVID-19 pandemic]?’ That I don’t even know how to answer, but you go back to the work,” Satter said in a phone call with the Orient.
Chase Tomberlin ’20 took inspiration from the Frank Sinatra song “A Man Alone” for the title of his one-man senior studio show. Little did he know, this title would find new meaning in a world of social distancing and remote learning.
For Tori Clarke ’20 and Caroline Farber ’20, a lunchtime conversation in the Moulton Union lightroom became the inspiration for their co-written senior project, “Honey, I’m Home.” The play, which the two have been working on since September, explores the break up of friendships in a theater space.
Dancing outdoors and sharing snapshots of quarantined family life, faculty from the Department of Theater and Dance relayed an exuberant and spirited message to the Bowdoin community last week. With 2,500 views and counting, professors starred in a video cover of The Temptations’ 1960s Motown hit “Can’t Get Next To You,” taking a humorous—albeit important—stance on the social distancing measures prompted by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
A throne perches atop an eight-foot high platform, an illuminated golden hoop descends from the ceiling and thick lengths of rope frame the stage. This sleek depiction of a castle interior sets the scene for an often-overlooked Shakespearean war drama.
Rarely does the process of embalming incite romance, but in the Wish Theatre this past Saturday, love bloomed amidst dead bodies and shaving cream. Or, at least, it did for the duration of “Over My Dead Body,” written by Dylan Sloan ’22, Johnny Liesman ‘22 and Elizabeth Gracey ’22, which debuted this past Saturday at Bowdoin’s annual one-act play festival.
Promising dazzling choreography and powerful theatrical pieces, the theater and dance department will bring the fall semester to a close with an array of student works. These culminating performances will be showcased in the December Dance Concert and performances of directing class projects over the next week.
What do a pajama-wearing character, two latex gloves and a stuffed rabbit add up to? Theater-goers will find out tonight and Saturday, as they leave Wish Theater and enter the alternate world of The Baltimore Waltz.
With a shimmering silver and gold beaded curtain framing the stage, audience members of all ages will be transported back in time to the glitz of Broadway in the roaring 20’s. The vehicle is the music of composer extraordinaire Cole Porter, performed by the students in the Musical Theater Performance class instructed by Professor of Theater Davis Robinson.
Theater productions without dialogue, props or scene changes may seem unthinkable, but miming is a traditional art with a new look in the 21st century. Tonight, three mimes from Broken Box Mime Theater (BKBX) will arrive on campus to present students with an up-close insight into this complex and underrepresented form of storytelling.
From September 24 to October 13, Abigail Killeen, associate professor of theater and chair of the Department of Theater and Dance, will star in a production of “The Clean House” at the Portland Stage Company, directed by Cait Robinson ’08.
Before Sarah Bay-Cheng, chair and professor of theater and dance, leaves Bowdoin to become the dean of the School of Arts, Media, Performance and Design at York University in Toronto, she’s making herself available for lunch dates and coffee chats.
Even before the show begins, shouts from the audience and screams of “Curtain!” set the stage for the vivacious and fast-paced production “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.” Tonight and Saturday, an intimate cast will take the audience through a whirlwind of 30 plays—a series of emotional, hilarious and thought-provoking storylines—in just 60 minutes.
Once audiences are confronted with the human cost of the American Dream, economics and politics will never look the same. On Friday night at Pickard Theater, tales of American workers take center stage as the Department of Theater debuts the Maine premiere of the Pulitzer and Tony award-winning play “Sweat” by Lynn Nottage.
Walking into Edwards Center for Art and Dance, you may run into interdisciplinary work in action. Last year, the Department of Theater and Dance launched the Performing Arts major with concentrations in dance, theater and interdisciplinary performance.
Laden with what-ifs, Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” comes to vivid, aching life in Wish Theater under the direction of Associate Professor of Theater Abigail Killeen. On a set fantastic in color and intricacy, the interwoven lives of three sisters and their loved ones unfold as time races by.
The hustle and bustle of New York City comes alive on stage to the familiar sound of a subway announcement. Complete with towering skyscrapers, dreamers and cynics, hurrying high-heels along congested sidewalk, the city was reimagined on stage at Pickard Theater last weekend in Masque and Gown’s fall production, “Heart of the City,” written by Eric Lane.
The lights go down, and the whole room is black. Walls, floor, ceiling—everything black. A figure, dressed (you guessed it) in black, emerges from the right, singing in Afrikaans. After nearly 90 minutes of intense interaction and emotional performance, the theater will return to this: everything black.
Beginning this week, the Department of Theater and Dance will present a selection of senior studio projects in Memorial Hall’s Wish Theater and in other spaces across campus. Featuring original works, improvisation and new arrangements, the series will highlight the talents of each student in the culmination of their theatrical careers at Bowdoin.
Watching “Love and Information” feels a lot like scrolling through your Twitter feed—which you might be, if you happen to sit in the “Tweet Seat” section. Based on the award-winning play by Caryl Churchill, the interactive play tackled what it means to be alive right now—to be constantly inundated by digital media.
Parker Lemal-Brown ’18 is a sociology major and Francophone Studies minor. They started writing plays during the spring of their sophomore year, and their one-act play, “Gesundheit,” was recently selected for the upcoming Maine Playwrights Festival.
This weekend in Wish Theater, Masque and Gown will present ‘‘American Idiot,” a rock opera brimming with youthful angst and frustration. Based on the Green Day concept album of the same name, the show includes several of the band’s most beloved songs—including the title track “American Idiot,” as well as “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “21 Guns”—and weaves them into a story in which three central characters confront relationships, drug use and their own social and political disillusionment in a bleak, post-September 11 American landscape.
Despite their centuries-long battle for human rights, the stories of Iranian and Muslim women have traditionally been overlooked in American society. Thursday night’s performance of the play “The Poets and the Assassin—Daughters of Iran” in Kresge Auditorium attempted to portray their stories and address the myth of the submissive, passive Middle Eastern woman.
Associate Professor of Theater Abigail Killeen’s reimagining of the culinary splendor in “Babette’s Feast” was no easy task. A new adaptation of the story directed by Karin Coonrod, currently running at Portland Stage, focuses on a universal message of self-sacrifice and service.
Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last 5 Years” is an unconventional musical. Centered on a tenuous relationship, it features only two actors whose interactions with each other are limited and whose stories run in chronologically opposite directions.
This weekend, the Pickard Theater stage will be filled with gangsters, prostitutes and the unusual sounds of Kurt Weill’s music in Bertolt Brecht’s “The Threepenny Opera.” From the plot to casting to music, this rendition of Brecht’s most well-known opera challenges perceptions of gender and class, particularly when viewed in a modern context.
Yesterday, Masque & Gown premiered “The Laramie Project,” a production choice that continues the group’s break with the more traditional shows that characterized much of its history. “We had three plays in a row during my time here and, I understand, several more before this that were like white, living-room, family dramas where people sat in their kitchen or living rooms and talked about their white people problems for a nice hour and a half,” said Kathleen Johnson ’19, director of the show, in a discussion at Burnett House last week.
Most theater productions take weeks, or even months, to rehearse before the curtain rises on opening night. The same is typically true on the Bowdoin stage. But not this Saturday night. At 7 p.m. tomorrow, Masque & Gown actors will perform original plays that were written, directed and rehearsed in only 24 hours.
Continuing their success from the summer of 2016, Maggie Seymour ’16 and Olivia Atwood ’17 returned to the stage to perform “15 Villainous Fools” —this time in New York City. Based on William Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors,” “15 Villainous Fools” is a comedy that follows the adventures of two sets of twins.