Mulling life, love, and likeness: (l-r) Lowell Byers ‘08, Christian Vernon ‘07, Paige Sawin ‘07, and Caitlin McCown ‘06, the cast of The Shape of Things.
Photo: Chris Carr ‘07
On September 30, Denison Theatre opened its 75th subscription season with Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things. Directed by Holly Cate, visiting assistant professor, the play is a darkly comic look at relationships and our obsession with appearances as it raises questions about love, transformation, art and morality. It is fittingly set at a liberal arts college in a small Midwestern town and centers around the lives of four students who discover just how much they are willing to do for love and art.
The title of this season’s opener is somewhat reflective of the department’s everevolving program. “We certainly are growing,” says Peter Pauze, associate professor and chair of the Theatre Department, which is now home to 64 majors, a considerable difference from the 10 in 1994. “We change to meet both the needs of a changing student body and to keep up with an art form and academic discipline that’s always developing and morphing,” he said.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”
Since 1931, Denison’s theatre program has morphed from a popular extra-curricular activity to a strong academic program with an eight-member faculty. Along the way, the department saw the dedication of the Theatre Arts Building in 1956 with its 200-seat Ace Morgan Theatre, Burke Hall’s Black Box Theatre in 1973, and the 1998 establishment of the Cinema Department, which until then was housed within Theatre.
Denison Theatre creates four productions with seven performances of each per year, assembling casts and crews that often involve many non-theatre majors who are nonetheless drawn to stage life. Theatre majors themselves are encouraged to spend at least one semester in off-campus study, often in New York City with professional training programs or as assistants to theatrical directors, producers and designers. Some choose programs that emphasize arts and literature in Europe and others spend internships with major theatre companies all over the country and abroad.
Theatre, says Pauze, is essentially about passion and learning to become a constructive member of society. “Theatre encourages creative thinking, fosters a compassionate understanding of human nature, and demands the mastery of superior communications skills,” he said. “If you’re looking for an articulate, sensitive, insightful liberal arts student, you need look no further than the nearest scholarly theatre student.”