RUN BANLENGCHIT/PHOTOGRAPHY STAFF Witness Theater performs student-written plays like last year’s “Drive” by Renee Scavone.
By ESTHER RODRIGUEZ For The News-Letter
Students packed themselves along the walls of the Arellano Theater on Saturday, heads craning for the best viewing angle. The confines echoed a constant hum of voices as freshmen and upperclassmen alike vibrated with the excitement of promised entertainment.
The showcase began as Director of Homewood Arts Programs Eric Beatty gave a short opening speech and then gave the floor to Elizabeth Sylvester, Vice President of Studio Productions for the Barnstormers. Sylvester acted as host for the night, introducing each of the five groups who performed: Witness Theater, The Buttered Niblets, Dunbar-Baldwin-Hughes Theatre Company, Throat Culture and the Barnstormers.
Orientation showcases, commonly called O-Shows, occur annually, coinciding with freshmen orientation, as dance and a cappella groups show off their talents in hopes of recruiting new members. This year, the Barnstormers sponsored a theater showcase to present to freshmen students.
“Hopkins is not the most artsy school, and we definitely want to keep the arts alive here,” Sylvester said. “All the other types of performance arts have a show — a cappella has a show, dance has a show — and we figured why not let theater have a show too?”
“In order to keep the arts alive, we just want to bring in as many people as possible and expose them to all of the great, wonderful, funny and also not [funny] theater at Hopkins, which isn’t always broadcast.”
Overall, the night itself was a success in keeping audience members energized. The theater rocked with laughter through longer comedy scenes, like Witness’ “Long Live the Queen,” where cheer captain Lee’s shot at winning Homecoming Queen is threatened by the death of her boyfriend. With the help of her friend Camilla, Lee clumsily props her boyfriend up and continues on with her party — a decision that draws similarities to the 1989 comedy Weekend at Bernie’s.
Shorter sketches, like Throat Culture’s bit to jokingly insult the freshmen in the audience, also found success.
While two characters sarcastically teased the freshman audience, Throat Culture member Molly Young’s insults consistently turned into compliments. Her niceness even went so far that she invited the whole freshman audience to her party.
The Buttered Niblets delivered as well in a series of improvisational games that took the audience to some absurd settings and left them with the most memorable quote of the night, “I saw a tennis ball about four miles back, but I ate it. Because f*ck you.”
DBH Theater Company took a more serious stance as Diamond Pollard and Funmilayo Idaomi reprised their roles in last year’s production of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf” and performed the powerful scenes “graduation nite” and “somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff.”
The Barnstormers ended the night with the return of one of last year’s Freshman One Acts, “Who’s on First.” Taking on this classic comedy routine made famous by Abbott and Costello, the Barnstormers masterfully performed a scene that hinged on miscommunication. Choosing to let the history of the company itself, as the oldest group on campus, the Barnstormers appealed to potential members using this simple yet humorous performance.
All in all it was a good showing from those involved as each group hoped to attract a pool of equally talented new recruits. After a final address by Sylvester, the audience members were welcomed to the adjoining Levering Cafe where all the theater groups had designated sign-up tables.
The area quickly filled as some squeezed through to grab a free slice of pizza while other interested audience members chatted with performers in order to get a better understanding of theater at Hopkins.
“I really, really like theater, and I’m really interested in joining a theater group. I thought it was a good opportunity to check out [Hopkins theater] and see what it was all about,” freshman Karima Kallon said.
This open forum after the theater showcase also equally aided students who rarely set foot on a stage but who hoped to try new things.
“We just wanted to come out and watch all the groups and get a little bit of a taste of what Hopkins has to offer,” freshman Sarah Chrome said. “It was fun. I think I came mostly for the comedy groups to see if I could do that. It’s nothing I’ve ever done before and I wanted to see if I could sign up for it.”
The event also benefited theater groups as they could interview some potential new members and fill positions held by members who graduated.
“In Witness, we reach out to freshmen because we really hope they will continue to play an essential role in our group throughout their years at Hopkins,” sophomore Saraniya Tharmarajah wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
“When casting, we try to look for someone who is eager to be involved in all aspects — whether it be acting, writing, directing, or tech. Because our group is completely student run, it’s important for us to find someone who is excited to lend a hand whenever needed.”