Who’s that girl in the pink leather jacket and sweet shades? That’s me, performing in the University of Rochester’s first mainstage production of the 2018–2019 school year, Gone Missing. The International Theater Program here at the University has become like my second home while I’ve been at college. Sometimes referred to as “Todd Theater” or just “Todd” due to the fact that our main rehearsal and performance is based in Todd Union . . . a space we share with the mail room. But who cares? After all, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
You might be asking yourself, why do Todd Theater? Well, for starters, every year they bring in two different guest directors, people who have worked in all kinds of productions in New York, England, South Africa, and more. Not only do we get to work with these ah-MAZING guest directors, but with some absolutely incredible guest designers as well. The lighting designer for our last show worked on the original production (off-Broadway!!) back in 2003! And of course, your fellow students are the actors and techies right alongside you. The community is incredibly supportive and fun to work with. We’re friends on and off the stage, and it’s a great way to meet and connect with new people.
Anyone can audition for a Todd production, any Todd production. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never stepped foot on a stage, or even seen a play before. And don’t think you have to be pursuing a major or even a minor or cluster in theater. In fact, most of my fellow cast members aren’t theater majors. More commonly you will find students who are getting their degrees in anthropology, business, engineering, brain and cognitive sciences, French, and more. The audition process is super low-key as well. Just show up with a monologue (no worries if you don’t have one, most directors will provide some for you to choose from) and give it a try! What do you have to lose? And if you don’t get cast, you are more than welcome to apply for the tech crew or as an assistant stage manager (or you can skip auditioning and go straight to work behind the scenes if that’s your thing).
The theatre program here is really interesting, and different from any other I’ve seen before or since. If you’re looking for hit Broadway musicals or Shakespearean tragedies, you probably won’t find them here. Most of the shows we put on are obscure and unconventional, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting. Personally, I think it makes them a lot more so. Anyone can say they’ve been in Hamlet or Oklahoma!, but how many people can say they’ve performed in a documentary piece about the ramifications about developing the atomic bomb (In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer), a Roman drama about the first wife of Nero (Octavia), or a devised work detailing the struggle of being an immigrant and finding a home in an unfamiliar country (We Don’t Live on Mars Yet)? I won’t lie, these shows don’t just run themselves, and being in a show here is a lot of work. But it is 100% worth it to perform on our stage, to create something truly incredible that you can be really proud of—and that an audience will really enjoy and respond to. And the five credits you get for participating? They don’t hurt much either.
If you don’t want to take on such a large time commitment right away, or you’re afraid to be part of a big production, that’s okay! There are plenty of smaller performances every year as well. One example is UR Performing! It’s an annual talent show that is open to anyone, with cold, hard cash for the winners (this year, the first prize was $600). Or you could try your hand at the One Act Play Festival, comprised of four short plays—all student directed—conducted in a really chill environment. This year, we’re trying something new—ToddX (like TedX, get it?)—with panels, workshops, and masterclasses from alumni working as actors, producers, directors, designers, or other careers in the performing arts. There’s also classes you can take during the year, like “Voice and Movement for the Actor” or “Puppetry” or “Commedia, Mask, and Improvisation” (yes, these are all real classes the University offers). Really, the possibilities are endless, and there truly is something for everyone.
The theater program is ever expanding and ever changing. New directors, designers, actors, and tech arrive every single year, and all bring something different and unique to their productions. And that’s not all. We’re also looking forward to opening a brand new production space, the Sloan Performing Arts Center, in 2020! Look at the classes offered, buy tickets to any of the upcoming shows, check out the requirements for a major or minor, or just get some more information. Hope to see you in Todd!