An Ode to Student Theatre

Cheyenne Cranston

Nothing brings people together like theatre. Student theatre is no exception to this and is a huge uniting force on campus. It is an opportunity for people who are not pursuing professional careers in the industry to get involved in an amazing community of people. Never in my life have I met a more diverse, hard-working group of people than those that put on shows as students. 

The theatre group I am involved with at McGill University is entirely student-run. There are other student-run theatre groups on campus, as well as a faculty-directed show each semester through the English department that has a student cast and creative team. While the entirely student-run theatre groups, and faculty-directed shows, operate very differently, I am treating them the same in this article. This is because I have a tremendous amount of respect for the students that put on these shows, no matter what branch of student theatre they choose to participate in. 

Those of you that have been university or college students know what student life is like. There is always another assignment or lecture or exam on the horizon. Yet, students still find time in their busy lives to put on incredibly high-quality shows. Aside from some aspects of the faculty-directed theatre on campus, these students receive no university credits for their hours of work, and those that participate in credit-giving aspects of faculty-directed shows do numerous hours of work outside of required class time. Nothing is forcing these students to participate, aside from a love of art, and a commitment to putting on a great show.

As a stage manager of one of the shows being put on at one of the student-run groups on campus, I am responsible for putting together a rehearsal schedule. With student schedules, this is no easy task. While it may not be easy for me to put together, it is also not easy for the student cast and creative to arrive ready to go, yet, they always do. I’ve had actors running from classes, doing morning rehearsals in between classes and heading to the library after rehearsal ends at 9 pm to go study. When they get to the rehearsal space, however, they give 110% of their effort. It is amazing to see, and sometimes it truly baffles me that they are able to give such amazing performances when there are so many other things to focus on. 

And that goes for the creative team as well. All of the time they commit to making sure we have lighting, props, blocking notes and line notes (the list goes on), maybe some of the only free time they have. It is the same time commitment as the actors, but like most technical crews they rarely get the recognition for all they do. Sometimes I feel like buying an “I love techies” t-shirt just to let them know how much they are appreciated. 

Never in your life will you meet a more diverse group of people participating in a theatrical production than you will encounter in a student theatre group. Using the seven person-cast I am currently working with as an example, I don’t believe there’s a single person with the same major. Student theatre is an opportunity for many people not pursuing a major in theatre to participate in the art. For some of them, it may be their last opportunity before they enter the working world, and they are determined to make the most of that opportunity. 

So, support student theatre. Obviously, most of these groups are operating on very strict budgets, so donations are always a blessing. More importantly, however, go see shows at your local university or college. These students are working their asses off to create amazing productions, and often it’s the best deal for theatre tickets in town. Support student theatre in whatever way you can, because they’re in it for the love of the art, and chances are you’ll see an amazing show in the process. 

Cheyenne Cranston is an English Drama and Theatre Major at McGill University. She spends much of her time working as a stage manager in a studenttheatre, and is passionate about both theatre and social justice issues. 

Photo: McGill University