Volume 93, Issue 4

Wednesday, May 28, 1999


Student council cuts upstage campus theatre

The show must still go on

Student council cuts upstage campus theatre

By Clare Elias
Gazette Staff

"All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players." This eloquent line was penned by William Shakespeare over four hundred years ago, yet its age does not diminsh its significance.

Shakespeare's comment on life and theatre still resonates in the late 20th century. This line considers each of us as actors in a theatrical world called life, in which we put on different masks and play different characters in search for our true identities. At Western, however, the curtain may fall on future performances due to administrative changes to Theatre Western.

The University Students' Council recently reshaped the role of the theatre commissioner to allow for more production input. It has also limited the number of large scale performances by Theatre Western to a single production per year.

These changes were implemented by Melissa Cousineau, last year's VP-student affairs for the USC. In March, Cousineau said she anticipated a loss in revenue for the theatre at Western if the number of productions did not decrease and student involvement did not rise.

"Before, the theatre producer was a member in the community, but now the theatre commissioner will be the producer. The USC is supposed to fund students and the money to the honorarium went to people who weren't students," she said.

Cousineau also said she felt a modern approach to the nature of shows was needed to foster student involvement. "Students need more contemporary shows instead of the operetta of Gilbert & Sullivan."

While the former VP-student affairs said the purpose of the single show and other changes was to save production costs, Steve Zolis, the new VP-student affairs, said otherwise.

"The USC will fund one large musical and there will still be opportunities for other productions. This was all about cleaning house," Zolis stated, adding the large production will allow for greater opportunity from Western students.

Zolis said the changes were made to recover debt from previous years by combining the long standing production companies Purple Patches and Gilbert & Sullivan into one company.

An issue of contention for the USC was last year's repetition of genres. Both Purple Patches and Gilbert & Sullivan produced musicals, Damn Yankees and Iolanthe respectively.

"Theatre Western wasn't making a heck of a lot of money but now with the two companies combined things will run smoother," Zolis said.

This optimistic notion for student involvement is not supported by Talbot Theatre, as the changes to the number of productions are not in line with the theatre's vision.

"Cousineau ignored student concerns and was personally short sighted. She did not take anyone's advice but went ahead anyway paying only attention to the financial concerns," said Darryl Crichton, technical director at Talbot Theatre.

Crichton's discontent with the USC's decision to amalgamate Purple Patches and Gilbert & Sullivan stems from the long-standing tradition of the two companies. Purple Patches has been a part of the theatre community since 1910 and Gilbert & Sullivan has been in existence since 1953. "Now the specific Gilbert & Sullivan shows will be gone and the new production will be under the instruction of a commissioner with a god-like status," Crichton said.

Stephen Mitchell, production co-ordinator at Talbot Theatre shared his co-worker's view. Mitchell and Crichton said they estimated a loss of 60 students in volunteer positions for the shows. "With the one show there won't be enough time for students to be involved," Mitchell said. "The theatre is to involve the maximum number of students and with the new commissioner the number will be narrowed down," Crichton added.

One student whose eagerness for participation has dissipated is Jeff Glickman, director and producer of The Birthday Party, which ran in January at Talbot Theatre.

"Unless the student council reverses their decision they have lost my input into [Western] theatre as a theatre practitioner," Glickman said.

He said his advice to Cousineau to aim for three plays instead of one was not enacted. "Cousineau was not happy with the quality of work, but quality comes and goes. If you have three different shows with different producers then you have competition to keep theatre living and breathing."

Glickman said he estimated a $35,000 budget for the coming year, which falls $15,000 shorter than last year. The final budget will not be released until the end of this month. "The community is like a body and if you let one muscle go then it ruins the body. If theatre is the biceps and that weakens, then the rest of the arm atrophies," Glickman said.

The new theatre commissioner, Stephen Megitt, does not plan to allow any limbs of the community to fall apart. Megitt, who comes to the position with experience in media relations and his role as executive director for Damn Yankees, does not anticipate any major changes. "The titles of Purple Patches and Gilbert & Sullivan have been removed," he said. While production costs are a strong concern, Megitt said he holds the performance over the financial aspect. "Instead of sacrificing production costs, I would rather have quality."

Megitt anticipated Theatre Western's performance will be in late February or early March and its format will be determined by working with the fine arts department.

Glickman, however, said he maintains a level of uncertainty about the new year. "The decision to restructure was unfounded, irrational and nonsensible and detrimental to the arts situation at Western. It was totally against rational and well-founded information. The decision was based on ego."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999