Showing Off

Students' Concord Theater Project aims to draw new audiences to BC's theatrical offerings

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

John Johnston '99 thinks the Theater Department deserves a hand - in more ways than one.

So the Houston native has organized a performing group, the Concord Theater Project, to raise the department's profile. After a year of preparation, the group - composed of current and former BC undergraduates - made its successful debut with a staging of the Samuel Beckett play "Waiting for Godot" earlier this semester in Robsham Theater's Bonn Studio.

Once the house lights came up and the curtain came down, Johnston and his fellow thespians were enthusiastic about their prospects for a long run.

Concord Theater Project members in front of the Robsham Theater Plaza sculpture from which the group draws its name. From left, John Johnstone '99, Christopher Iannacone '98, Zeynep Ozkan '99, Adam Crowley '99, Bob Burkhart '00, and Michael Arquilla '99. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

"We were actually turning people away at the Saturday night show," Johnston, a theater major, said. "One professor told us it was a good production and an excellent first step."

Now, Johnston hopes Concord - which draws its name from a sculpture on the Robsham Theater plaza - will find its stride and draw more public attention to BC's theatrical offerings, which he feels are unjustly overlooked. By involving alumni and even people with no previous ties to BC, Concord seeks to build support for theater on and off campus.

"It is an indication of our students' excellence when they can tackle such a challenging work as 'Godot' on their own," said Assoc. Prof. Stuart Hecht, chairman of the Theater Department. "While our program is becoming more well-known, it is certainly a great asset to have a group of talented people promoting theater at BC."

"Having attended productions at other, more well-known college-affiliated theatrical companies in the Greater Boston area," Johnston said, "I believe that Boston College puts on shows that are of equal, and even higher quality, even though those other programs tend to have significantly greater budgets.

"Part of the problem is location: BC is out in the suburbs, rather than in the heart of Boston where other programs are concentrated," he continued. "But if you work at it, you can convince people to come here to see good theater."

The group also plans to donate proceeds from its once-a-year Robsham productions to the Massachusetts Hospital School Performing Arts Program in Canton, which teaches dramatic arts to disabled and terminally ill children. The debut performance raised approximately $1,500, Johnston said.

That production was directed by Christopher Iannacone '98. "Alumni involvement is critical to us, because of the experience and knowledge they bring," said Johnston. "But we also want to have open auditions, which would allow students from other area colleges to come and see what goes on here at Chestnut Hill."

He noted that the group has received assistance from College of Arts and Sciences Dean J. Robert Barth, SJ, Robsham Theater Arts Director Howard Enoch, Assistant Dean for Student Development Mer Zovko and Rattigan Professor of English John Mahoney, among others.

In addition to its annual production, Johnston says Concord is considering a presentation for the University's summer orientation programs to attract new members, as well as a production featuring original works by BC authors.

Although Johnston will graduate in May, he and most of the other members intend to stay in the area and keep Concord going - "My roommates and I have been running it from our apartment since the beginning" - and feels confident the project can survive.

"There will be some holes to fill after graduation," he said. "But I think that, after 'Waiting for Godot,' we may have gotten a few more people interested."

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