For a highly respected, STEM-focused research university, Case Western Reserve University has a booming theater community. Just this semester, 10 shows will premiere or have premiered on our campus. Between the Department of Theater’s mainstage shows and the several theater clubs on campus一like almost-weekly IMPROVment shows in the Eldred Theater Blackbox一there are a multitude of opportunities to see and experience theater at CWRU.
So why and how does CWRU have such a vibrant theater movement? And why does it matter?
Theater inherently connects people. It is one of the most collaborative art forms that exists. It is one of the most collaborative things one can do in life in general. It fosters intimacy, connection and communication. On top of that, Playhouse Square, one of the best theater districts in the nation, is just down the road from us.
Our small but busy theater scene is brimming full of everyone you’d expect to be at CWRU. Computer science students are directing musicals and aerospace engineering majors are singing and dancing in crazy costumes. Pre-med and pre-law and those rare humanities students all hold hands and take a bow together at the end of a performance. Theater at CWRU brings together people from all over, united by a common interest.
But what about the greater community? What about those who haven’t been to a play in years, whose closest experience to a musical was that one time “Glee” was on television and they were too lazy to change the channel? CWRU is a huge school, but I guarantee you that every single student here knows one person who’s involved with theater on this campus in one way or another.
You don’t have to search far; maybe it’s a roommate or a lab partner or a member of your fraternity. And maybe one day that SAGES class or roommate or friend will drag you to one of the many shows on this campus or around it. Then, the next time you see that person who stood on stage and howled like a wolf for longer than is necessarily socially acceptable, you’ll wave hello and say good job. Or maybe your suitemate will drag you along to help them build the set for the newest show in the black box, and you’ll get the urge to use power tools way more often, and all of a sudden you’re a part of the theater community as well.
Being a theater major who is involved in both the Players’ Theatre Groupーwhich performs multiple straight plays a semesterーand the CWRU Footlightersーwhich performs one musical per semesterーI have encountered every type of student possible in my relatively short time here. I have also been stopped multiple times on the street by relative strangers who somehow stumbled upon a show and wanted to compliment me or one of my friends on a stand-up performance.
Theater can be many things. It can be a solace, a sort of soothing balm. Or it can be a microscope that points in on ourselves. Theater, like all art forms, focuses on the ideas of feeling, empathy, and greater understanding. The greatest type of theater comes when an audience can escape from its troubles, but, more than that, when it can find some peace.
Theater can be entertainment, but more than that it fosters community and breeds connectionーand that is evidenced all around us here at CWRU. Our school is said to be made of STEM robots and humanities students as rare as cryptids, but our small, vibrant theater community connects us all.
Paulina Martz is a second-year student and a theater and psychology double major. Martz is an avid theatergoer and has seen over half a dozen shows this semester.