Mainstage Diversity


To the Editors of The Crimson:

I was glad to see Jennifer Wollan's article in the February 14th issue of the Crimson concerning the "not different enough" selection of plays being offered by the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club on the Loeb Drama Center Mainstage.

The question of what production should appear on the Mainstage is a very broad and difficult one involving consideration of the quality and direction in artistic and production staffs, artistic and production resources currently available, the project itself, plans for use of the physical space, the year's season both at the Loeb and elsewhere on campus, the choices we are given, student opinion, tradition, and more. We struggle with it every time we make our selection. There are no written guidelines on how we are to reach a decision, allowing us a great deal of freedom but also requiring us to decide what we "want" each time around. Obviously, we need all the input we can get: I heartily encourage anyone with opinions or suggestions to get in touch with me, other members of the executive board of the club, and members of the Loeb staff. We can be reached at the Loeb Drama Center. 64 Brattle Street, 495-2668.

I would like to make a few points here, in reference to Ms. Wollan's article. First, we are primarily an educational institution. The Loeb provides an incredible opportunity in allowing us to work in a professional space with little "commercial" restraints, an opportunity which when we graduate will never be given to us again. We are not simply "any good residential theatre"--we have a responsibility to the community to provide good theater, but we have an equally large if not greater responsibility to provide the fullest education possible for student community. I am not saying that the production of traditional commercial successes does not provide educational benefits--if most certainly does. It is the case, however, that the opportunity exists here to do other, "obscure," forms of theater in a space such as the Mainstage. This is an opportunity that we as students, and our community as audience, are rarely if ever exposed to elsewhere, and therefore should be exploited to its fullest.

As to our current season lacking in relevance to our audience, I call to your attention both Curse of the Starving Class and A Raisin in the sun, both acknowledged classics of American theater. In addition Yerma and Love's Comedy, while not necessarily well known scripts, are written by known, quality, playwrights--it seems eminently appropriate to present the community with these plays which might otherwise remain in library stacks somewhere, keeping to themselves the richness they offer. I flatly deny that Broadway, commercial, success has anything to do with the refusal of past proposals--nor should it be a reason for accepting any proposal.

Ms. Wollan's largest difficulty seems to be with the small number of musicals that have appeared on the Mainstage recently. First, the Mainstage is a large, cavernous, expanse of a theater: this presents difficult acoustical problems. Obviously, it is essential to hear performers in a musical distinctly and clearly. Second, musicals that would fill the physical expanse of the Mainstage are often too big. We do have a limited budget, augment of time, technical expertise, and labor, there is often a worry that these constraints will not to do the musical production justice. Thirdly, musicals are "component" works: acting, singing, dancing, music, and set all act as independent elements of a coherent whole. To maintain this coherence, a project requires that the needs of each of these elements be extremely competent as well as flexible and be able to work well with others, and, of course, there must be a strong, organized, person heading the entire project. None of these components are necessarily difficult to achieve, especially with the talent currently available on campus. They do, however, tend to make it more difficult in general to put together a successful proposal for a musical on the Mainstage than for other campus spaces such as Leverett and Kirkland Houses, the Agasaiz, and the Hasty Pudding Theater. These spaces, although certainly not as technically equipped as the Mainstage, have the resources (often through the Loeb) to put on extraordinarily successful shows, and have established a fine tradition of quality theater. With no less than four large musicals going up this spring. I hardly think the Harvard community is starved for musical theater. Albert V.B. Webster   President,   Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club