The Oberlin Stories Project

On theater during Winter Term

Josh Sobel ’09

“Friendships are strengthened, working relationships are fostered, and creativity blossoms as everyone comes together to spend a month making art. ”

Three people in formal menswear

A lot of people look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that this past year (January ’09) was my fourth time staying on campus for Winter Term. After all, it does get quite cold and snowy here around that time of year, and here’s a great opportunity to go someplace warm and exotic and get credit for it! Venezuela, California, New Orleans, Mexico, and tons of other great Winter Term options that would provide an escape from the frozen landscape of Ohio. So why would anyone stay on campus during this stretch of time, and with that FOUR TIMES IN A ROW?

Answer: It is the BEST time to do theatre.

As a senior theatre major concentrating in directing, I feel that any time is a great time to do theatre! The shows that happen during the semesters are fantastic, fun, educational, and professional productions. The one thing that makes it difficult, however, is the balancing act that inherently comes with rehearsing and performing a show while having to deal with classes, homework, exams, papers, and meetings of all sorts. Student schedules make it so rehearsals can generally only take place for a relatively short amount of time, at night, with all the work of the semester looming overhead.

That’s where Winter Term comes in. You return to campus, which despite the temperature is beautiful in the winter, along with an intimate number of students who have returned as well for various projects. The campus is open, peaceful, and quiet. There are no classes or papers, unless that happens to be part of your Winter Term project; what I mean is, you are there to do what you have chosen to do with the month of January, and that’s it. You spend the time necessary working on your project, and the rest is yours. There is time to hang out with friends, watch movies, go to the ’Sco, cook (my housemate and I invented a sauce this past January), and so on.

For the shows themselves, it is a dream come true. Rehearsal schedules run through the day, the closest thing you will find to a professional theatre rehearsal schedule. I myself have spent the past four Januarys acting in a musical (Godspell, 2006), acting in Hall Auditorium (Omnium Gatherum, 2007), directing a classic musical (Cabaret, 2008), and co-producing two student-written full-length plays (The Oberlin Playwrights Festival, 2009). Each time, Winter Term provided a haven, a wonderful atmosphere of creative energy along with a peaceful and easy living experience. I feel like I have been fortunate to make so many great connections over Winter Term with the people working on any of the given shows. The director, actors, designers, and various collaborators have time to really bond, immersed for the month in the show. A community is built around the project, unhampered by the stress that naturally accompanies a semester of work. Friendships are strengthened, working relationships are fostered, and creativity blossoms as everyone comes together to spend a month making art.

Why would I want to be anywhere else?