Columbia alumni are invited to return to campus for a Theatre Reunion Weekend starting Oct. 19, where they will connect once again for a reception, performances and panel discussions.
Albert Williams, associate professor of Instruction in the Theatre Department, said the formal opening of the newly updated Getz Theater Center, 72 E. 11th St., marks the perfect opportunity for a reunion. More than 200 Theatre Department alumni from the past 37 years are expected to attend.
“[The reunion] will bring people back into the mold to see the changes that are going on at the old space. They might have some interest in seeing what we are doing with the new space,” Williams said. “It is a chance to get the alumni to see and use our history to celebrate launching into the 21st century.”
The Theatre Reunion will feature a special performance of the 2018-19 mainstage season opener, “The Penelopiad” by Margaret Atwood, as well as receptions, industry breakout panel discussions with distinguished alumni, building tours and a keynote speech by 1990 theatre alumna Anna D. Shapiro, artistic director of Steppenwolf Theatre.
“The Penelopiad” is the first performance to take place at the recently renovated theater. It is solely produced by Columbia alumni, according to Theatre Department Associate Chair Jacqueline Penrod.
Directed by 2009 theatre alumna AJ Ware, “The Penelopiad” is a tragedy adapted from the book and is based on Greek author Homer’s “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” The all-female cast for this contemporary version of the show features 12 student performers.
Penrod said she chose the show because it represents the idea of creating a community and taking care of each other, which is an ideology the Theatre Department strives to follow.
“We have brand new spaces that are going to enable us to create art—create theater—which is what we are here for,” Penrod said.
The combination of the student cast and alumni production team makes this performance special because it intertwines the program’s past and future, she said.
“Theater itself can feel a bit dated. I hope that alumni coming back see a very contemporary-looking, feeling and sounding production that feels like it matches the space that has been built for the students,” Ware said.
The reunion will include break-out sessions, featuring panel discussions from notable alumni, such as actor and 2011 acting alumna BrittneyLove Smith, a current ensemble member at Eclipse Theatre Company.
Smith said she is eager and excited to return to campus to reconnect with teachers and friends and to see the new features in the building.
“I don’t remember attending any reunions when I was in school,” Smith said. “I hope it is beneficial to everyone involved. We learn from the students, and they learn from us, so hopefully everyone is inspired at the end [of the day] and also more informed about what to expect from the industry.”