Courtesy of Alex Kurland

Each day, hundreds of UR students find themselves in and out of Todd Union, retrieving care packages from worried mothers or multiple textbooks for each natural science course. What most students don’t know, however, is that the floor above houses the offices of the UR International Theatre Program, an eccentric department that puts on four productions per school year.
According to director of the program Nigel Maister, “[we] offer the campus community a cross section of theatre work to appeal to the masses,” showing a variety of works including musicals, Shakespearean plays, and, occasionally, a student creation. As Maister proclaims, “there is such a large change over [showing four plays per year], that if you don’t like something one year, you’ll give [the program] another shot the next year.”
Although UR is commonly recognized as a research university  without a large focus on theatre, “the productions are of an extremely high standard especially without a large theatre department,” Maister said. While some participating students are involved in theatre programs or the fine arts at UR, most involved students are non-theatre majors. By offering a variety of ways to get involved, including taking classes that focus on topics such as directing, acting, movement, technical theatre, lighting and sound, and how to properly advertise and market a production, Todd offers students the ability to find their creative niche within the department and thrive.
Maister claims, “The common response from a student when approached about the program is, ‘I don’t act,’ but what students don’t realize is that it’s not just acting; engineering and mathematics students are involved with lighting and sound; English majors assist with public relations; film students make trailers.”
Sophomore and microbiology major Michael Breen was one such student and served as the assistant props manager for a Todd theatre production said.
“Todd simply is an experience,” he said. “I had a chance to work with very talented actors and managers and I am very grateful for that. If I were to say that I learned anything from my time at Todd, it would be that there is never a dull moment.”
Like Breen, many students not necessarily studying theatre are able to learn from their experience working in Todd.
While the goal of the program is not to force students to change their study goals to incorporate theatre into their education, some such as sophomore Devin Goodman are provoked to follow their theatrical passions as a result of Todd.
“I came to UR planning to major in physics,” he  said. “I’ve declared a double major in economics and English with a concentration in Theatre. [Todd] creates an environment in which standards are gleefully flaunted…and experimentation is definitely encouraged.”
While the International Theatre Program can prove to be intensive for those involved, students are able to put in as much effort and time as they desire in order to explore theatre. At the start of each semester, open auditions are held for anyone interested in getting involved, whether it is acting, stage managing, or behind-the-scenes work. And because the program is rather small, any amount of help truly makes a difference.
“I feel really strongly that the skills you learn in the world of theatre — thinking creatively, understanding people’s emotions, reacting accordingly, and working collaboratively — are valuable skills,” Maister said.
Last semester, the International Theatre Program hosted an event called UR Performing, inviting any performing arts group on campus to showcase their talents to the UR student body. This spring, the program will put on a one-act play festival, directed and acted entirely by UR students, promoting students to get involved and demonstrate their skills to their peers.
In addition to the festival, this semester will see two full-length productions. From Feb. 14 to15, a new play by a young, Rochester playwright will be put on, loosely set in Rochester and covering “edgy and new material to Todd Theatre,” Maister said. Following, Todd will show Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” a classical play that addresses issues within a family dynamic.
“Yes, some students ‘are bitten by the bug,’” Maister said, referring to those who become infatuated with the theatre after their first role in the production of a play at UR. However, that’s not the goal of the program.
As Maister explains, “there are a million ways a story can be told and a million ways to express a story theatrically.”

Lerner is a member of
the class of 2016.

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