American Theater and Ola

With the year coming to a close, I find myself looking back. It should be no surprise that part of this reflection  involves the myriad shows and performances put on on campus this year, but  it did inspire a question in my mind. Why do we pick the shows we perform? Do we weigh so heavily toward American artists because we are an American school? With this in mind, I talked to a few directors and faculty about their choices.

Almost unanimously, the answer was “best fit.” Though interest and/or challenge play some role, every person I spoke to cited the campus atmosphere as the number one influencing factor. Natalia Romero, music director for 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee said she chose the show because she felt it would resonate well with the student body, and that the messages within would be felt and appreciated right now. She also mentioned how she thought that another important consideration for the show would be the actors. Different shows might required a different crop of actors currently active at St. Olaf.

At St. Olaf, the majority of shows put on by the theater department are either classical plays, or written by American authors. When you take into account the reasons behind show choice, that leaves us with this: That St. Olaf is apparently in dire need of American theater themes right now! All joking aside, it makes sense that on a campus such as ours, it’s American themes that resonate with us. Like it or not, we’re middle America, but that can’t stop us from both appreciating, and criticizing that culture through the lens of theater.