While the rest of the university hangs together on a skeleton of good faith and diminishing funds, University of the District of Columbia’s theater program received a surprise boost this season from Dean of the College Beverly Anderson. Instead of putting on George C. Wolfe’s play The Colored Museum in its usual space, the cozy but limiting Little Theatre, the play’s cast will perform in the university’s 900-seat auditoriumwithout worrying about the rental fees that would’ve eaten up the production budget. “We’ve been trying to get the larger space as part of our mission for a long time, but costs have been prohibitive,” explains Judy Baldinger, an assistant professor of theater. “Now, though, we’re on the schedule for this particular weekend every fall and for another specific weekend every spring.”
Credit this move from 125-seat black box to sprawling auditorium to Anderson, who allotted money to cover the larger space’s rental fees from her budget, not the theater program’s. For Museum director Amelia Cobb Gray, who has helmed all of UDC’s productions save one since 1990, this support from Anderson and the rest of the university is a reward that has been a long time coming. “When you have a state-of-the-art auditorium, people ask, ‘Why isn’t the theater program there? Why isn’t it their home?’” she says. “This move means that we can stretch theatrically and showcase our talent in a different mannerand allow our audiences to be more comfortable.”
Added elbow room aside, Baldinger and Gray believe performing in the larger space will give UDC’s theater program, which has suffered significant cuts recently, more legitimacyon both sides of the footlights. “The auditorium permits us to draw a greater audience, an audience that perhaps will take us a little more seriously in a larger space,” says Baldinger. “Furthermore, we feel that if studentshigh-school students especiallywho want to major in theater see that space, they’ll become more excited about the possibility of coming to UDC.”
“It also says to our students that the university is proud of what they can do,” Gray concludes. “You know, these students are like plants. If you don’t take the plants out of their original pots after a certain time, they’ll choke each other and die. I look upon moving into the auditorium similarlyas a move that allows for growth and life.”Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
The Colored Museum plays Oct. 23 and 24 at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the University Auditorium.