Laughter, Tears, and Curtain Calls: University of Dayton's Studio Theatre

02.25.2014 | Fine Arts

By Josh Chamberlain '14

Studio Theatre changed my life.

This probably sounds rather dramatic (no pun intended), but it’s the truth.

Based on a few years experiences, here’s how I think friendship works in college: Freshman year, you’re in a completely brand new place and latch onto the first people you meet for some sort of connection. Your assigned roommate. The people on your floor. This friendship only last a few weeks as you progressively begin to find people with whom you have the most basic things in common. You both like sci-fi movies. You both have an intense hatred of macaroni and cheese. While this is a step in the right direction, these minor similarities aren’t enough to serve as the foundation of a friendship. It’s only after finding a niche to call home that you fully come into your own and begin to thrive.

Studio Theatre was that home for me.

From first attending Studio Theatre Homecoming Show four years ago to performing on stage for the spring 2011 production of The UD Monologues, I was drawn into every aspect of Studio Theatre by the people, the creativity, and the community the organization fostered. Most, if not all of my friends, were Studio Theatre kids who spent countless hours in the Black Box Theatre running through lines, tweaking spotlights, and moving set pieces. Tech week saw 4 a.m. runs to UDF for coffee and Friday night show openings were charged with the energy of anxious excitement as people filed to their seats.

With its mission “to provide production of an experimental and exploratory nature,” Studio Theatre offers creative outlet for actors, directors, and writers to explore and push the boundaries of traditional theatre. Studio Theatre produces numerous shows per school year, including Studio Theatre Homecoming Show, which serves as a crash course to the organization, Full Circle, an original sketch comedy show, and The UD Monologues, a student-written gender issues show. Studio also produces numerous full-length plays, some in conjunction with the theatre department and some as personal projects for its members. Senior Board member Ben Borton claims that such an environment fosters creativity in the best possible way. “Studio Theatre allows students the flexibility to be creative,” he said. “[It allows people to] grow leadership skills, and try something new with a flick of the light.”

The most recent production, Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, drew massive crowds to the Black Box Theater. “Dog Sees God was on of the best shows that I have ever been a part of,” says Senior Board member Jonathon Golab, who played the lead character. “The direction was the exact amount of hands on and hands off that actors needed. It gave them freedom to truly identify with their character, but also gave them a push in the right direction when they got stuck.” The show, depicting the characters from Peanuts as teenagers, dealt with various social issues, such as suicide, sexual identity, and eating disorders. To aid in the facilitation of discussion surrounding these topics, Studio collaborated with To Write Love On Her Arms, a suicide prevention and awareness nonprofit. Through the facilitation of a talkback with the audience, cast members were able to share their own experiences and reactions to the show.

While theatre and its ability to spark conversation remains the primary focus of the organization, it isn’t the only means to foster community. Studio hosts several events for its members throughout the year, including a fall camping and canoe trip, a “Field Day” of elementary school gym class games, and that annual Black Box Awards, to honor the accomplishments of its members. “[Black Box Awards is] a night to look back at the year in Studio and recognize the performances, moments, and achievements that truly stood out,” says Golab.

Despite recent challenges resulting from the move to the College Park Center, Studio Theatre maintains a strong membership and remains committed to delivering the best productions possible. “Studio Theatre, while being an exhausting experience, is very rewarding,” says Senior Board member Eleanor Hurney. “You get to put together a positive experience for all of these people who are just really looking for their niche and for a place to exert this creativity they have.”

After four years of laughter and tears and curtain calls, I can safely say that who I am is a direct result of the people, the shows, and the community that Studio Theatre has provided.

It might sound dramatic, but Studio Theatre changed my life.

Josh Chamberlain is a senior English and American Studies major. He serves on the Studio Theatre Board of Directors and is the managing co-editor of Off Topic, a student-written zine that discusses human rights and campus culture.