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Should Harvard actors devote themselves to a single theatrical endeavor? This question has acquired relevance with the founding of the Working Title Repertory Company by undergraduates Bina Martin and Jeanne Simpson. Working Title recently stages its first production, Sam Shephard's A Lie of the Mind, and is expected to perform Anton Chekov's The Three Sisters in April.
The Working Title players quickly demonstrated that focusing on a single product results in measurably superior acting and directing. However, one wonders whether removing a number of actors from the general pool of performers will help or hinder Harvard drama in general.
Working Title was formed last semester with the understanding, if not the explicit requirement, that those actors admitted to the company would concerntrate exclusively on its productions. The fall semester's meetings of Working Title were devoted to three-hour Friday workshops, and company members appeared in other plays.
However, this spring the actors in Working Title are expected to act only in the company's productions. While Martin says that members are free to join other productions, the large time committment required by Working Title has meant that several performers who initially agreed to join the company have quit so that they can pursue other projects.
On the positive side, the extra rehearsal time which company members have devoted to Working Title productions is immediately apparent. A Lie of the Mind boasted some of the most skillful acting and focused direction to appear on the Harvard stage in quite some time. The cast interacted beautifully, and the actors were unusually familiar and comfortable with their characters. In terms of quality, Working Title is an unambiguous success.
However, the exclusively attached to the repertory company may negatively affect Harvard theater. Working Title has removed a sizable number of Harvard's most talented performers from the "available" pool. In addition, the performers in the company are missing the opportunity to appear in other productions and sample a variety of theatrical styles. Diversity of experience in an actor's college career may be just as important an aspect of their theatrical development as devotion to a particular project.
Can Working Title maintain its high quality while permitting its members to experience the diversity of Harvard drama? Is having a repertory company for undergraduates a good idea? The Arts page would like to hear opinions from members of the Harvard community. Please send submissions to: Arts Editors, The Harvard Crimson, 14 Plympton St., Cambridge, Mass. 02138
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