Winter Term on campus means a variety of student productions. It's a good opportunity for theater majors and kids who like theater but aren't ready to sacrifice body and soul to the department to sink their teeth fully into the luscious apple that is sometimes delicious, sometimes poisoned, and always guaranteed to keep the doctor at bay.
Last year, I spent my Winter Term creating a short documentary based upon the characters in the student production of Steel Magnolias. I had never been that closely involved with all parts of a student production, and as much as I enjoyed the tight bonds formed over the month, I am very happy it is no longer a way of life for me. But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy it. I am addicted to student theater and I try my best to see everything. Post-Winter Term is a delightful orgy of productions, with performances in every possible space on campus, back to back, conflicting right and left.
There is, in fact, only one magical way to schedule all the performances (AND hit every single "Welcome back to a new semester! We missed you!" activity AND manage to see all your friends who you missed all of Winter Term... which can all coincide sometimes). This means that there's a small posse of individuals that will, inadvertently, end up at almost every event on the same night. We might as well call ourselves the theater club. (Student productions! Collect them all!)
In the final week of January, the one that isn't officially Winter Term but individual project students are still scrambling to finish WT projects and people are trickling back and then flooding back to campus, a set of student-written plays went up in Little Theater, our campus black-box theater. Seniors Andrew Mooney and Alex Huntsberger had their full-length plays performed on alternating nights, both to eager audiences. I saw Porcelain (Mooney's play about a nuclear family of mannequins living on a atomic bomb testing site) on Thursday, to a surprisingly sold out house (not because the play was bad, quite the contrary, but because campus was empty). Huntsberger's play, Dark Matters, was a dark comedy of love and murder and trials and tribulations of relationships, performed to yet another full house on Friday. It was to be noted that I saw many Obiebloggers present in the audience. It was an eclectic group and the shows were wonderful.
After that weekend, classes started, and yet, there are still five other Winter Term productions that have yet to be performed. This past weekend held SubUrbia, a suburban teen drama by alum Eric Bogosian '76; OShorts, a series of student written, acted, and directed one-acts, ranging from such topics as pies, death, and role-reversal noir; and Proof, a math-based drama by David Auburn.
Proof was by far the smallest budgeted production, lowest audience attended, and but also the best performance I saw this weekend (and not just because it was in the Cat in the Cream and I could eat oatmeal raisin cookies while watching a play about death and love and math). It was a small show, taking over most of the Cat's stage as well as a parabola carved out of the audience as part of the minimal set. Like many other Winter Term shows, the shows' participants wore many hats; the director was board operator as well as co-light designer with one of the actors.
Proof is also the kind of play that goes over well in Oberlin: a story about love and awkwardness in an uber-intellectual setting. It struck some additional wonderful chords in a room that hears many talented open mic performers and visiting folk artists.
This weekend, I'm looking forward to balancing In the Blood, a modern interpretation of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and student-written and performed musical Year by Year. It has been, and will continue to be, an entertaining set of weeks in this audience member's eyes.