As winter settles in, the Boston College campus appears to quiet down. The sites and sounds of frisbees on the quad and football games give way to hot cocoa-making and study sessions. Sports move indoors.
But inside the walls of residence halls, rehearsal rooms, and studios across campus, feet are flying across dance floors, actors are practicing on-stage swordplay, and instruments and voices are harmonizing. Through the cold months, student performers, tech crews, and organizers devote long hours to rehearsals and meetings, preparing to play their parts in a rich, wide-ranging roster of spring semester performances and events.
More than just a means to an end, rehearsals encourage community and relieve stress, say students and staffers involved in the upcoming shows. Paradoxically, the large time commitment that arts groups demand can help students establish priorities and organize their schedules. Having band practice helps Ben Stevens ’17 manage his schoolwork. Stevens is the lead singer of Juice, winner of the Battle of the Bands competition at last year’s Arts Festival. “It causes me to set goals for myself and know that I have to complete a certain amount of work before I go to practice.”
The spring performance season begins in late January with the Shakespeare Anthology Project, an original production developed by students of Tina Packer, the celebrated founding artistic director of Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires, who is Boston College’s 2014–15 J. Donald Monan Professor in Theatre Arts. Honor, Shame, and Violence: A Shakespeare Anthology Project, which will draw on techniques that students learned in two linked fall semester classes—Packer’s Shakespeare Acting course and Theater Skills: Stage Combat, co-taught by actors Jason Asprey (Packer’s son) and Doug Seldin—and war scenes from plays such as Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Othello, goes up at the Robsham Theater Arts Center January 21–25.
The Boston College dance community has its sights set on the annual ALC Showdown, the eagerly anticipated dance competition, on April 11. Started in 2002 by the AHANA Leadership Council, Showdown has grown so popular it had to move to the 8,600-seat Conte Forum in 2008. “Last year, we had 3,400 tickets available and sold all of them,” says Alisha Wright ’15, who is organizing the event for the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) Diversity and Inclusion Programming Board.
Showdown showcases a rich variety of dance and culture on campus. Masti's South Asian dancers took first place last year. Fuego del Corazon, Boston College’s oldest Latin dance group, won the independent dance team category. Other competing groups ranged from hip-hop troupes such as Synergy and Phaymus to all-female teams Dance Ensemble and FISTS to the Irish Dance Club.
The Arts Festival, a three-day celebration organized by the BC Arts Council that last year drew more than 16,500 people, runs April 23–25. With a range of music, theater, dance, and comedy performances—as well as art exhibitions, readings, talks, and award ceremonies—it represents the culmination of the year’s work for many campus artists and arts ensembles.
Opening with the final round of the 2015 Battle of the Bands, this year also features orchestral performances and the annual Children’s and After Hours theater shows. Dance teams and BC bOp!, the jazz ensemble, will collaborate on a popular perennial festival closer, Dancing with bOp!, where dancers perform to Big Band arrangements of “everything from hip-hop to Indian music to Irish ballads,” says Max Warwick ’15, bOp!’s drummer.
This year’s Arts Festival is particularly special for the comedy group My Mother’s Fleabag. “It’s our 35th anniversary this spring,” explains Sean Bloomstine ’15, co-director of Fleabag, whose alumni ranks include the actor, writer, and director Tom McCarthy (The Wire, Up, and Win, Win), comedian Nancy Walls-Carrell, and the singular comic actor Amy Poehler.
The Arts Council will also present awards to students, a faculty member, and an alumnus for contributions to the arts.
Boston College performers also tend to form strong friendships as they work. Taylor Forst ’15, co-director of the group Synergy, describes the group as the biggest part of her BC experience: “I’ve met so many people that have become my best friends here through [the group].” For Bloomstine, fellow members of My Mother’s Fleabag are “a family away from home.”
Off-stage camaraderie also translates on performance night, as Bloomstine points out: “If you like the people you’re practicing with, you’ll have fun, and if you’re having fun, then the audience usually has fun.”