Oberlin Blogs

Three Recitals, Three Venues

May 21, 2023

Claire O’Brocta ’23

Like any Conservatory student, TIMARA majors have to put on recitals in order to complete our degrees. Recital content depends a lot on one’s major and specific interests, but one thing every recital-haver must figure out is what space we want to use to present our work. Many of these venues are in the Conservatory, but we’re not limited to those – recitals can happen all over campus! Between my major and minor I’ve had three recitals at Oberlin, and each was in a different place. In this blog I’m going to explore them all, in reverse chronological order.


Recital #3: Improvisation Minor, Stull Recital Hall

My improv minor recital was in Stull, one of the traditional recital halls in the Conservatory itself. Stull is on the top floor of Bibbins, the main classroom building of the Conservatory. It differs from other Conservatory venues (such as Warner and Kulas) as it’s a smaller space that doesn’t have built-in seating, making for a flexible and intimate environment that’s popular for recitals in nearly all Conservatory majors. I’ve been to classical, jazz, composition, and TIMARA recitals there, and the space seemed to work out well for everyone.

This was my last recital, and the only one I had that was physically located in the Conservatory. It was a nice change of pace to not have to lug my TIMARA gear across the entire campus; all I had to do was take it up the elevator! I used some of TIMARA’s analog synths in this recital (which are fragile and not great to move), so the close location was ideal for the equipment as well.

Two musicians improvosing on an auto-harp and found objects.
Playing an auto-harp and found objects at my Improv Minor Recital in Stull.
Photo credit: Orson Abram

Recital #2: Senior TIMARA Recital, Cat in the Cream

Less than two months before my improv recital was my senior TIMARA recital, which was in the Cat in the Cream. The Cat is a fun little room next to the bowling alley, and is home to burlesque shows, poetry readings, and more. As for recitals, it’s extremely popular among jazz majors, and is also the location of the weekly jazz forum event. I knew it would be the perfect place for my TIMARA recital because it covered the bases for a lot of my technical needs, which included a stage, a built-in speaker system, a piano, theatrical lighting, and plenty of audience space.

That may sound like a lot of tech needs, but my senior recital was complicated, to say the least. It was a performance art piece disguised as a traditional music recital, so it had a lot of layers. The audience arrived to an array of instruments set up on stage, and a relatively unassuming program with vague piece titles. The most out of place item was a TV on stage, but even that wasn’t too out of the ordinary for TIMARA recitals, which frequently incorporate video or other visuals. 

The show started with a solo piano overture, which devolved into a glitchy electronic soundscape coupled with flickering lights that soon went dark. As a voice arose from the darkness, the room was bathed in pink light and a theme song played over the speakers. The voice, transcribed in Comic Sans on the TV screen, explained the plot: he was a villain who hijacked my recital and trapped the audience inside a video game! The majority of the recital consisted of an actor (who was planted in the audience) teaming up with their fellow audience members to defeat the ominous voice by playing a series of minigames. A video game-inspired soundtrack accompanied each level in the background. The first minigame, Fishing, involved the audience finding stuffed toy fish that were hidden all around the Cat in the Cream while the villain caught pixelated fish on screen. The second game was Trivia, where the audience went head to head with the voice to answer challenging questions about video games, with chances for everyone in the crowd to participate. Both Fishing and Trivia were hosted by an NPC actor, who also happened to be the pianist from the beginning of the show! The minigames culminated with a Battle of the Bands featuring musicians who were also planted in the audience. This level finally took advantage of the instrument setup that had been on stage since the start, and ultimately allowed the audience to defeat the villain through music.

The Cat ended up being a fantastic place to tie all of these elements together, and gave me a great view from the back of the room as I live-controlled the timing of the villain’s voice, video, and prerecorded music. Additionally, the tech setup there meant I didn’t have to bring as much equipment from the Conservatory, which is all the way on the other side of Tappan Square. I haven’t seen anyone else do a TIMARA recital in the Cat, but maybe my use of the space will inspire future students to take advantage of it for multimedia performances.

An actor on the Cat stage counting fish in a bucket, as another actor reads a magazine behind them.
The planted actor counts their fish at my Senior TIMARA Recital on the Cat in the Cream stage.
Photo credit: Illuin Darlington-Bai

Recital #1: Junior TIMARA Recital, Wilder Main

Two years before my other recitals, I had my junior TIMARA recital in Wilder Main, a large multipurpose room in Oberlin’s student union. I’ve been to several other TIMARA recitals in Wilder Main (in the form of performances and installations alike), as well as non-TIMARA events such as dance shows and student-run theater productions. One of the most fun things I’ve seen in Wilder Main used for is the home of a rideable mechanical pumpkin at a special event around Halloween!

My junior recital was in the Spring 2021 semester, when recitals weren’t happening inside unless they were livestream-only. While a lot of TIMARA majors opted to stick with streams, several of us got creative. There were a lot of recitals outdoors, including performances at the Bandstand in Tappan and the ramp under Mudd, and installations at the J-house garden and outside Hall Auditorium. My friend Cait and I were the only two to have indoor, in-person installations. This setup came with the restriction of only one person being allowed to attend at a time, but that was solved pretty easily by making a sign-up sheet with timeslots.

Like my senior recital, my junior recital was video game themed. When walking into Wilder Main, participants would be greeted by an array of four projector screens, and asked to grab a Wii remote (after putting on a disposable glove for COVID safety). With the power of the Wii remote, participants had the ability to control a story that moved chronologically across the four screens, each of which took place at a different location and time of day. The participant’s role was that of an amateur adventurer who was hired to save a small village from a monster after more experienced adventurers had failed at the task. The participant was greeted, trained, and after a silly side quest and short nap, sent to defeat the monster. Swinging the Wii remote like a sword caused the monster to move around, but it evaded every attack. Luckily, the participant received a magical item at the end of the side quest that allowed the monster to teleport back to its home, saving the village once and for all.

As a large empty room in a central location, Wilder Main worked perfectly for my junior recital. One of the biggest advantages of the space is I was able to reserve it for multiple days in a row, which allowed me to have a day of setup, two days of showings, and a day to tear down, which wasn’t possible in the venues I used for my other recitals. Having multiple days in the space is one of the reasons Wilder Main is so popular for TIMARA recitals, as many involve complex setups or benefit from site-specific rehearsals.

Four projector screens standing side by side in Wilder Main.
The setup for my Junior TIMARA Recital in Wilder Main.
Photo credit: Claire O'Brocta

My recital days at Oberlin are over, but sometimes I wonder what venue I would choose if I had another opportunity to put on a show here. Realistically, I think it would depend on the concept of the recital, and what space would best suit the needs of the piece. Less realistically, I think it would be fun to do a recital in an unusual or unexpected place, like the observatory or the Conservatory koi pond. Regardless, I’m excited to explore places outside of Oberlin to showcase my art now that I’ve graduated. If there can be this many location options on our little campus, I can’t even comprehend the number of venue possibilities I will have in my future.

Similar Blog Entries