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Costume designs by Rachel Apatoff ’08 for the characters of Florio and Putana in John Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore

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Today’s performing arts majors also find that necessity is the mother of invention. Theatre student Bronwyn North-Reist ’07, who this spring directed John Ford’s play ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (fellow student Kati Sweaney ’06 adapted the seventeenth-century play for her thesis), says Reed has taught her the beauty of recycling. “My freshman year I was in Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi,” North-Reist remembers. “We had bubble-tape armor. At one point the main character needs to be transported offstage so we used a shopping cart. It was very grassroots.”

Dance/theatre major Rachael Carnes ’93, who went on to found Eugene’s Sparkplug Dance, an organization that incorporates dance into early childhood development, admits to a certain nostalgia for the scrappy old days. “I remember rehearsing in the squash courts, in the mat room, in the hall. I benefited from learning to adapt, from learning how the arts are actually positioned in our society.”

Erin Merritt ’89, a theatre major who became the artistic director of Woman’s Will, an all-female Shakespeare company in San Francisco, agrees. “We all learned how to do everything,” she says, “so it did make us very hirable for administrative and tech positions. And it prepared us to start our own theatre companies, as I did.”

These object lessons in perseverance notwithstanding, the college clearly suffers because of its lack of up-to-date performing arts facilities. Campus tour directors say that visiting the theatre facilities is not a positive experience for prospectives. Admission dean Marthers puts it this way: “Every year we rank lower on facilities. I can’t believe it’s [because of] the sciences, when we have a whole building for chemistry. Hard to believe it’s psychology, biology, and physics, with the nuclear reactor and such. So it must be music and theatre.”

Disdain for the performing arts may be one result. On a campus where time spent in the library is equated with diligence, students who do much of their work on stage or in a prop room can feel like slackers. Kathleen Worley remembers, “[English professor] Pancho Savery once asked a student during orals why she was a literature-theatre major, because her thesis was clearly more focused on theatre. She said, ‘I wanted respect.’ To just do theatre is not respected.”

For Diver, the solution is clear. “To have a first-rate chemistry program you have to have first-rate facilities,” he says. “The same is true of the arts.”

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