An Alternative Break For Alternative Theatre

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Alternative theatre: we bet it looks something like this

The guinea pigs for Columbia’s pilot program of Alternative Spring Break: Performing Arts explored a small sampling of what non-profit New York theatre has to offer. One such guinea pig, Alex Katz, shares a conversation between himself and a fellow “traveler” about the utility of the program.

While most of Columbia fled the city for Spring Break, a small group of students forsook the sand and surf to brave the world of avant-garde theatre.

Our week in the city explored theatre from Lincoln Center’s Warhorse to Alarm Will Sound’s John Cage tribute to an excruciating sampling of “new work” at Joyce Soho, all in an effort to create better arts on campus. Traditionally, the Alternative Break Program focuses on specific service trips designed to foster students’ commitment to civil engagement. This year’s performing arts-themed break marks a major turn in the program, for better or for worse, and as such should be questioned.

I sat down with Elizabeth Logan, CC’14, another student on the break to discuss her feelings as well. There’s no denying that we both had a good time—performances were plentiful. But when it came to choosing the most powerful moment of the retreat, Logan decided against any of the shows we saw and instead chose an alumni arts panel featuring Columbia grads now making a living in the arts. “One of the women who came was a former president of LateNite, which I was involved in this semester. It was cool to compare experiences,” Logan said.

Throughout the entirety of the program ran an underlying theme—collaboration. From the new work presented by Danspace to Two Voices, One Vision (a concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center) to a workshop led by Paul Zimet of the Talking Band, all of the works reinforced the idea that art in the theatre comes from multiple people. A powerful message that applies specifically to the Columbia arts community. Resources like people, time, and space are always sparse. Collaborating, especially across disciplines, allows for more fulfilling works with even more recourses. And the ASB program certainly made that clear.

Nevertheless, there’s still some debate about the applicability to the current life of arts on campus. “Honestly, most of the performances and programs were pretty removed from the kind of theatre typically done on campus, so it was hard to find direct connections,” said Logan.

There’s also something to be said about the kind of bonds an idyllic week of active theater-going can produce. While a few members may continue to work together, ASB cannot single-handedly create a cohesive arts community. Still Logan advocates for the program’s renewal. “I think offering it a second time would be a good idea… It would be so different every year, based on what’s “playing” or “happening” in New York. The theatre scene is always changing,” she says. But for those who have already participated in the program she adds, “go do other things on your break!”

Proof that all the world’s a stage via Wikimedia Commons


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  1. It's a shame

    that Barnard students were excluded from this program. How can we really talk about the needs of the arts community when a large percentage of its members were not able to attend, including most presidents and e-board members of most organizations...

  2. Truth  

    Nice article. Makes a lot of good points

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