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Theater Under Study: Carleton’s Theater Scene

Exuding theater-kid energy, Tate takes us through the many options students have for getting involved with theater at Carleton.

Exuding theater-kid energy, Tate takes us through the many options students have for getting involved with theater at Carleton.

I’m a theater kid. Well, to be precise, I’m a 21-year-old theater man now, and I was a theater kid in high school. And when I was applying to colleges, I knew I wanted to continue on with theater at whatever school I chose. Getting to Carleton, I was happy to see that getting involved with theater had a very low barrier of entry, and that there were always productions looking for people! And all of these options had opportunities for people on and off stage. And so, in this blog, I wanted to detail a bunch of different ways you can get involved in theater at Carleton. 

The Department

One of the most obvious ways to get involved with theater is to take a class. Every term, the department offers classes in three major areas of theater: tech, performing, and analysis. Of course, you can major or minor in theater, but that’s not necessary to engage with the department. Many students enjoy that theater classes often fulfill a liberal arts requirement (need your arts practice or literary/artistic analysis credits?). Many times, the classes are also cross-listed in other departments. But, we’ve got lots of options that are outside of the classroom, too.

Theater department faculty member Andrew Carlson directing in Carleton's theater.
Theater department faculty member Andrew Carlson directing in Carleton’s theater.

Official Productions

The largest productions you’ll find at Carleton are put on by Carleton Players. These are department-sponsored shows, directed by a faculty member or guest director. Every term has at least one production, and there’s been a pretty big range of them recently. We’ve had contemporary productions like The Heidi Chronicles and Everybody as well as older works like A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Sporadically, the Players also put on devised theater, which is theater built completely from the ground up over the course of the term. One recent devised production with a mouthful of a name was called That Wilderness of Glass: What Others Saw Resembles Nothing That is Ours. This coming year, Carleton Players is even putting on a play with music called Indecent

A scene from the Theater and Dance Department's production of The Heidi Chronicles
A scene from the Heidi Chronicles, produced by the Carleton Players in Fall 2019.

Comps Productions

Other theatrical productions sponsored by Carleton’s theater department include comps productions. As you may know, every student has to complete a final capstone project called comps, and the theater major is no different. Most theater majors choose to put on a final production for their comps process. They work closely with the department, acting or casting and directing under the supervision of their comps advisor. A recent comps production was The Effect, which was proposed and completed by theater major Will Josowitz ‘22. 

Student Productions

Image from the Carletonian's article about Aphrodite and Adonis.
Performers from Aphrodite and Adonis, a student-written, directed, and produced play based on the Greek myth.

But what if you’re unaffiliated with the theater department, and you want to put on a production? Well, there are options for you, too! The Experimental Theater Board does a lot to sponsor productions that happen throughout the year. You can create your own production, like Octavia Washington ‘22 did with her Aphrodite and Adonis, or how Kevin Clelland ‘22 did with Here Be Dragons. But of course, you don’t have to write anything to put on a show. Some recent student productions have included Glengarry Glen Ross and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Low-Commitment, High Quality

Looking for something low-commitment? We’ve got you covered here as well. There are lots of smaller events and activities that can still get you involved with theater at Carleton. This past year, we put on a 24-hour show, where smaller plays are written, rehearsed, and performed within a 24-hour period. We also started a play-reading: Gay Rights and Playwrights, where students read plays written by or for queer individuals and participated in a talkback afterwards. From time to time, a musical theater cabaret will pop up as a low-commitment opportunity for interested students. As a member of ETB, I can also say we’ve been trying to start other events too. Playwriting workshops are coming soon!

Student Employment

Finally, you can even get paid to do theater at Carleton! We’ve got several work-study positions that relate to theater here. Students work in our costume shop or scene shop, helping to create costume and set pieces for Carleton-produced theater. Additionally, you can work with the department as an usher or tech, helping at final performances to make everything run smoothly!

A few student workers in our scene shop.
A few student workers in our scene shop, including a friend, Anna Helper ’23! A few students take on these positions every year.

While the actual theater department at Carleton is relatively small, we’ve got lots of ways you can still engage with the theater arts here. From departmental offerings to student-coordinated efforts, you’re going to be pretty well-covered here.

Tate (he/him) is a senior hailing from Colfax, WI (just two hours east of Carleton). He is double majoring in Linguistics and Music and minoring in Cognitive Science. Outside of academics, he sings in Carleton Choir, Chamber Choir, and Exit 69 A Cappella, serves on the Experimental Theater Board, and DJs for KRLX. He also founded Off The Cuff, Carleton’s storytelling organization. When he’s not occupied by these activities, he enjoys hiking in the Arb, attending screenings in the Weitz cinema, and telling anyone who will listen about ridiculous linguistic example sentences. Meet the other bloggers!