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It All Started with a Sound Board… by ARTalk

[By Harrison Bralower '11] I was pleased to find that MIT had a very strong theatrical arts program that anyone could take part in.

[by Harrison Bralower ’11]

It started with a sound board. When I was in eighth grade my class went to the local high school to see a production of Man of La Mancha and I got seated right behind the sound board. The show was fantastic but I couldn’t take my eyes off the two guys mysteriously lit by the glow of the microphone rack who constantly shuffled their hands across the table. I thought it was so cool that everything on stage was actually a result of a few kids scrambling around behind the scenes. It was then that I decided I wanted to do theater in high school.

So after four years of high school theater I was pleased to find that MIT had a very strong theatrical arts program that anyone could take part in. From novices who are just getting started to experienced people looking to learn more, there’s always a place where you can jump in and help a production out.

Monica Kahn ’10 personifies Marijuana in Dramashop’s 2007 One Acts festival. The plays are student-written, directed, and produced. Photo / Andrea Robles – The Tech

One of the easiest ways to do this is just by taking classes. MIT’s Music and Theater Arts (MTA) department offers classes in stagecraft, lighting design, script analysis, acting, set design, voice, and costume design among many other offerings. In addition to taking for-credit classes, you can do for-credit practicum work with Dramashop, the actual production wing of MTA. Dramashop puts on shows year-round, including a One Acts festival in the fall and a hectic IAP show that involves eight-hour rehearsal days and a very sped-up production schedule. I stage managed this year’s One Acts and it was a fantastic experience. I learned more about technical theater just by listening to and talking with the department faculty. I also met a lot of new people from all over the area–people from MIT, Wellesley College, and Emerson College.

This IAP I’m working with Dramashop again, this time as a sound assistant/operator for the show Suburbia. It’s about a bunch of twentysomethings with no direction reuniting with a former classmate who has made something of himself and the impact of his return on everyone else. We’re planning on fights, flinging food around, and live bands just to name a few details. The only hurdle is that we have to coordinate and rehearse the entire show during January and four weeks is not a lot of time to get a production up and running.

If you like to sing, dance, act, and tech with people your own age there’s also a few student theater groups at MIT. The Musical Theatre Guild (MTG) puts on four musicals a year from fan favorites to new, inventive shows (like the infamous Star Wars musical). The Shakespeare Ensemble puts on several shows a year and also hosts scene nights and workshops for anyone looking to do a little work on the side or just learn something new. And the Gilbert and Sullivan Players (GSP) perform a wide range of shows from the eponymous pair.

There’s way more theater people here than you’d expect to find at a place like MIT and they’re all awesome people to work with and talk to. It’s easy to get involved and it’s a great way to meet new people and get some fun memories out of your time here. Got a question about theater (or any of the other arts) that I haven’t covered here? Drop me a line in the comments section.

19 responses to “It All Started with a Sound Board…”

  1. Edgar says:

    Great entry! I love Man of la Mancha^_^

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s good to know that MIT has a great history of theater. The MTG looks really interesting. My school has performed a few of the same shows like Urinetown, Batboy, and Pippin.

  3. Kevin S says:

    AHHH! Just when I didn’t think MIT could get any better. I am uber involved with theatre at my school and that has been my main EC for the past 4 years. It’s something I definitely want to continue as a hobby! Glad to know MIT has that opportunity available.

  4. BB says:

    !!! Me too! I’ve been “sound girl” for… I’ve lost track of the number of shows. Yay. =D

  5. John Q says:

    What about video production? I haven’t seen much on it, but are there any programs either inside or outside of the Arts department that work on making films?

  6. Morgan says:

    How bout some entries about fine arts opportunities? Studios, galleries, classes? I’m sure I’m not the only MIT hopeful who’s a painter.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank you!! i bow down before you. I wish to be more of a techie, but alas, have not had the opportunity. Time for me to learn more about costume design.

  8. Lainers says:

    I’m not sure if this is strictly ‘art’, but I’d been wondering if MIT had any ASL classes/club/community. I used to be in my school’s club, but it sort of disintigrated and I’ve forgotten more than I’d prefer to admit.

  9. Manderz says:

    Could someone do one about band? I’m a huge band nerd, and I would be delighted to hear about MIT’s!

  10. Hi Morgan & John Q —

    The Student Art Association (SAA), located on the fourth floor of the Student Center, offers extra-curricular classes and facilities for ceramics, photography and drawing/painting. The range of media covered is varied and extensive, and SAA studios are accessible nearly 24 hours a day.

    For their undergraduate program, the Visual Arts Program (VAP), part of the Department of Architecture in the School of Architecture and Planning, emphasizes experimental approaches to studio production in both traditional and new media. Students
    are encouraged to consider the physical and cultural context of their artwork as central to its interpretation. Presentations on
    contemporary art as well as discussions in theory and criticism complement studio production. Click here for a list of their current subjects, which includes classes ranging from studio art to public art projects to film/video strategies.

    You might also find offerings in film/video in the Comparative Media Studies Program, an interdisciplinary program that is
    now the largest undergraduate major in the humanities at MIT. You can check out their course listings here.

    And, as Harrison noted, you can also cross-register for classes at area schools. For more information, you can click here.

    Have fun exploring!

  11. Kapitan_Mond says:

    hi people, much greetings. When is the final decisions going to come out?

    Ain’t no applicant, just wanna know. When decisions come out, remember me.

    Much thank you.

    Just wonder if any early action no-admits still stroll around?


  12. Harrison says:

    Thanks for all the compliments! Here’s some answers to your burning questions:

    @Snively: We’re not friends anymore.
    @John Q: I’ve seen some freshman seminars and IAP classes devoted to that kind of thing. There’s also a few film study classes in the literature department but I’m not sure if we have anything for film comp. If you do FAP before you start freshman year there’s a film group that has an awesome time together.
    @Morgan: So I don’t know much about what MIT offers in terms of those classes but I know a lot of people who do that kind of work independently out of their dorm room. However, you can cross-register for art classes at Mass Academy of Art, Harvard, etc. if you like.
    @Lainers: Unfortunately I don’t know if MIT has any kind of ASL program outside of taking it as a foreign language (I think). I haven’t seen anything around campus for it.

  13. archimedes says:

    Oh man-Respect Tech!

  14. Morgan says:

    @Harrison and Lynn- Thanks for the info!

  15. Nice post, Harrison! I thought I’d just expand on what is happening — so here is an snapshot of the coming semester.

    There is a lot to do in Theater Art at MIT. Right now Dramashop, the student-producing group (they are amazing people, and Harrison is among them) is about to enter technical rehearsals for Eric Bogosian’s dark and funny play, SubUrbia. Originally written in 1994, Bogosian updated it to 2007 for a production in NYC last year and that’s the version we’re doing – so, cell phones instead of land lines, music from 2008, you get the idea. That’s the production that Harrison is working sound on (see his blog entry). He’s lucky to be collaborating with composer and sound designer, Peter Whincop. We have an award winning Guest Director for this production, David R. Gammons, who I hear is a huge hit with the cast. And they are all working with our faculty designers: Leslie Held (Costumes), Karen Perlow (Lights), and our Visiting Set Designer, Eric Levenson. All of these people are coordinated kindly and expertly by Technical Director, Michael Katz. Good luck with techs and dresses Dramashop!

    Next, comes In the Heart of America, by Naomi Wallace, which will be another Dramashop production. This one will be directed by one of the finest teacher on the MIT faculty — and a great actor and director — Michael Ouellette. (He just got back from India, where he directed a new, bilingual production of Our Town, and brought MIT students with him to work with Indian actors. In his MIT contingent was Susan Wilson, President of Dramashop. Thanks to MISTI for supporting the student experience). Following on the heels of In the Heart of America comes Playwrights in Performance. I actually decided to come teach at MIT because I watched Professor Alan Brody direct a rehearsal of Playwrights about 16 years ago. It was that impressive. This event comes out of Alan’s Playwrights Workshop, an advanced playwriting class taught in the spring of every year. *By the way, you can take the class Introduction to Playwriting in both the fall and the spring.* Alan chooses a certain number plays from the advanced class, casts them, and then the whole class helps produce an evening of one acts. When a professional director works with actors on a new plays it gives these student playwrights the opportunity to hear their work, revise, and learn so much more about the art.

    All of these events are open to MIT students to participate in. Look for auditions, go to building E33 and build sets or create a costume, speak to Dramashop officers, or make appointments with the faculty to talk about classes. The theater community is friendly and it is a community where everyone is welcome. No cliques!

    Theater Arts offers a complete curriculum that you can check out on websis, but here are some special classes that are happening this spring, most of which don’t get offered every year. Peter Whincop is teaching Sound Design, 21M.851. I’m especially excited about this because Peter has such great ears! His soundscapes are 21st century. Puppeteer John Bell is teaching the very first course that is being offered by both the Center for Advanced Visual Studies and Theater Arts. It’s called Performance, Art, Technology: Practice and Theory, and it is a class that will combine weekly performances with analysis of theory and performance contexts. (I want to take it, and hope to be a drop-in student when I’m able). Eric Levenson is teaching a class in Scene Painting – and he is a master of the art, 21M.715. Oh, and for you freshmen & Co. who are looking for a CI/HASS-D class, you might consider one of the Freshman Experience experimental classes taught by…me…along with the inestimable Professor Diana Henderson of Literature, my partner in experimental madness and the beauty of both teaching and theater. It’s called Learning from the Past, 21M.616/21L.016, and if you are interested in science, theater, politics, culture, history, acting, writing…and making a play out of all you’ve learned during the semester, this one’s for you.

    Theater Arts is here at MIT, and lots of students work with us in many ways, from taking one class, to doing productions (whether for credit or not), to concentrating, minoring or doing a major departure. Welcome!

    By the way, also check out CAVS for events in the visual and performing arts. They bring AMAZING people onto the MIT campus to work and collaborate with our students. I see that Lynn H. mention VAP. CAVS is another place to explore the visual arts (among other things).

  16. E. Rosser says:

    Viva la teatro! I would LOVE– drop dead, let me sucuumb now, want my soul? here, take it– to be a theater minor. The closest thing my high school had to a drama dept. was Mock Trial. Always meant to get a student production going, but interest runs low in a rural district. To go to a place with theater die-hards, such as MIT, would, as they say, break my legs. Is that what they say? No? Darn… lol
    To be surrounded by such passionate people, though, would be amazing. I find the costume shop especially appealing. Can’t wait for March ’08!

  17. marcmarc says:

    hi all !
    im a noob here ,and wanted to say im really happy to find this website
    the category “It All Started with a Sound Board…” is certainly the best first one to start for presenting myself ! lol !

    my name is marc and im from italia ,i am 24 year old ..
    sorry for my “strange english”…

    <a>mac motion 56</a>

  18. Danbee says:

    As a general response to some of the questions I read in the comments…

    I’m taking a class this term called Digital Video Post-Production, which is basically a class on film editing. There are classes like this offered every semester, and they’re tons of fun. If you want to take such a class, make sure to email the professor and get to know them, because most classes like this are limited enrollment and heavily project-based, so you spend a lot of one-on-one time with your professor and your classmates.

    In addition, any prospective freshmen/newly admitted freshmen, SIGN UP FOR FAP! FAP stands for Freshman Arts Program, and it’s a preorientation program that goes for a week before orientation. I’ve been film counselor for two years running now, and I plan on doing it again – FAP is easily my favorite week at MIT. Its just a week of fun, bonding, goofing off, and being as artsy as you can before classes start. Everyone that has done it loves it, and I’m still close to almost everyone that either did FAP with me my freshman year or was one of my freshman in subsequent years, even if we may not see each other that often during the other 51 weeks of the year.