Student Theater Needs Support--and Symonds


With reference to the recent flood of articles about the departure of Agassiz Theatre technical guru Alan P. Symonds '69, I am adamant to have the last word.

As the student assistant techie at Agassiz Theatre, I have had the occasion to observe Symonds in action for one year. A typical Alan Situation would be:

a) directing lights and sounds for two continuous concerts in Sanders for the same night, from five in the afternoon to two the next morning:

b) spending an entire Saturday--morning to late evening--rewiring and trying to shore up the shamefully decrepit Agassiz Theatre;

c) going for an eye operation on Friday morning, and rushing back to campus the same afternoon to supervise a student show.


At this point the most glaring question would be, why on earth is Alan so overworked? Couldn't student theater groups get someone else to work the lights? Can't Agassiz Theatre afford a professional renovator and electrician? Can't those House productions go to someone else for props, flats, drills, bolts, scenic paint and concise professional advice?

That Alan is an amalgamation of all these roles attests to the fact that Harvard theater suffers from a deplorable shortage of immediately accessible technical support staff. What we need are in fact more Alans. To remove someone who has his hands on all the ropes, who has an intimate knowledge of every facet of Harvard student theater, who thoroughly knows every nook and cranny of the Agassiz, and replace him with someone who, for all his teaching qualifications, has to take time to rethink and relearn his experience to suit the demands of Harvard theater, probably represents the most economically inefficient decision ever made.

I appreciate the efforts of the administration to search for what they firmly believe to be a superbly qualified, award-winning professor to replace Symonds. But as leading student dramaturges point out, their decision only serves to cripple an aspect of campus life that has been trying so hard to bloom for the past 13 years.

The administration's hostile policies against student theater have never been anything new. Nearly 70 years ago Professor George Baker, who first brought fame to the Agassiz with his daring new drama workshop, quit Harvard in apparent disgust with the lack of support from the College. His "47 Workshop" bred future playwrights like Eugene O'Neill and Thomas Wolfe. Student theater has never been able to recover from this blow. For all its reputation, Harvard's theater scene is a lamentable mess, continually outstripped by programs in other universities today.

In 1925, our disappointed Baker went on to found the Yale Drama School. Wena Jane Poon '95