Waiting in the Wings

While some question the selection process for the Loeb Mainstage, more wonder why there isn't another campus theater like it

By the end of the 1998-99 season, the lights will have come up on 12 full-scale productions at the Loeb Mainstage.

Only one-third gave undergraduate casts a chance to shine.

Created as a student theater space, the Loeb has been transformed into an arena for professionals--it has served as the home of the American Repertory Theatre (ART) since 1980--leaving undergraduates waiting in the wings.

The Mainstage is one of the--if not the--most desirable performance spaces on campus, trumping other theaters with "more lights, a better sound system, a bigger stage" and 550 seats, according to Michael P. Davidson '00, president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club (HRDC).

The HRDC board--a group of eight undergraduates elected by their peers--doles out two coveted slots for student productions each semester. This year, eight shows applied for Mainstage space next fall.


HRDC board members say it is difficult to articulate exactly what makes a successful application. There are criteria--but students who have gone through the process often leave wondering why their show was rejected. Some who have submitted proposals in the past say the process is ultimately fair, but others feel more perspectives during show selection would make for a more balanced Mainstage.

Administrators now say they have begun to scrutinize how theater space is allocated on campus, leading some to suggest that the only solution is another theater.

How to Get on Stage

HRDC accepts applications for the Mainstage in December for spring season shows and in April for the fall.

Applicants present a proposal for their show that includes statements from the director and producer, a list of staff, copies of the script and a preliminary budget.

If a show is chosen to run on the Mainstage, the participants will enjoy a guaranteed grant of $5,000 to spend on sets, sound, publicity, props, costumes and miscellaneous expenses. In most other productions on campus, directors and producers can only hope that ticket sales from the show will cover their expenditures, concerns absent from the Mainstage.

"You don't have to worry about budgets and tickets," says Jennie E. Connery '99, former vice president of HRDC and mainstage coordinator. "That can be really liberating."

With the benefits of performing in a large, modern theater and having the comforts of a guaranteed amount of money to work with, it's no mystery why so many shows apply for the Mainstage each semester.

But in granting such prime space, HRDC board members say only a few factors consistently play into their decision-making process, while the vast majority of details about a show do not.

No specific type of shows--musicals, dramas, comedies--is favored, and there is no express requirement on the size of the cast.

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