“Little Cousin Jasper, he
Don’t live in this town, like me,-
He lives ‘way to Rensselaer,
An ‘ist comes to visit here”
— James Whitcomb Riley
This week we visited St Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana and found ourselves made so welcome it felt like we were immediately part of the community. It’s a small college with only a little over a thousand students and a thriving drama programme run by the wonderful John Rahe.
We had a great week getting to know lots of the students and the faculty. It was also terrific to see so many members of the town community at our performances alongside the St Joe’s students. On Friday evening we were invited to join various members of the audience at Embers Bar in town after the performance. They had been offering a special Valentine’s Day trip to see the show that included dinner beforehand and (luckily for us!) some rather tasty desserts as a post-show treat. We met so many people who expressed their delight at being able to come and see some Shakespeare in their hometown.
It was wonderful to see the college as such a centre-point for the community. Saturday morning saw about 30 or so school children in the canteen who were all getting ready for a lesson with some of the college dance troupe before performing that afternoon at the basketball game. Go Pumas! Dan went out to the local middle-school to lead a workshop on Comedy of Errors and Jen got a whole bunch of student teachers dancing to the Ski-Sunday theme tune.
Our Stage Manager for the week, Erin, is a St Joe alumnus who had returned to take excellent care of us. She spoke really eloquently on Friday about how important it is for a community to have a hub, a creative place to meet and how powerful theatre is in creating a space which makes that possible – a place in which to share an experience.
Drama students at St Joe’s have a ritual called ‘Green Room.’ I shan’t give away any trade secrets but, in order to enact it, everybody stands in a circle. As we gathered on Saturday it seemed like such a powerful symbol for what theatre is; gathering people together so that something creative can happen.
After the show we all signed our names next to a quote from As You Like It, which has long been on the wall in the St Joe’s Theatre Tech Box.
“All the world’s a Stage,
And all the men and women merely players”
— Jaques, Act 2, Sc 7.
So there we are now, preserved as part of the St Joe’s community… merely players in all sorts of ways, as the Melancholy Jaques says. But the Stage? That remains a place of infinite possibility.
February 19, 2014