Check out our exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the Penn State Thespians' production of The Drowsy Chaperone.
If producing a different play almost every single weekend of the academic year sounds crazy, just wait until you meet the members of No Refund Theatre.
More commonly known as NRT, this inclusive theatre club is committed to providing performing opportunities to students of all majors. Each semester, the club produces 8-10 entirely student-run performances in a wide variety of genres.
PAC got the inside scoop on the organization from NRT’s current president, senior film and video major Julie Whelan.
“No Refund Theatre is a community of friends coming together to make really cool art,” said Whelan. “We believe that all students, regardless of major, should have the chance to get involved with theatre on the Penn State campus, so we try our best to provide as many opportunities as possible.”
For many NRT members, the club serves as a creative outlet and an opportunity to collaborate with fellow creative-minded individuals to produce a meaningful piece of theatre.
“We are entirely student-run, so there is a lot of artistic freedom that comes along with putting on an NRT show,” said Whelan. “It’s a really cool moment to see the final product come together and think, ‘We did that. Every single part of that was created by us.’”
NRT prides itself on providing opportunities for students to contribute to all areas of a production, including acting, directing, and more.
“Personally, I’ve participated in aspects such as acting, tech, and directing,” said Whelan.
NRT has already completed two shows so far this semester, and next in the lineup is Deathtrap, directed by Sam Phillips. The show will run from September 28-30 at 8 p.m. in 111 Forum, and admission is completely free. To see what else is coming up for NRT this semester, check out their calendar at norefundtheatre.weebly.com/fall-2017-lineup.html.
So, what if you really want to be involved with NRT, but you’re already crazy-busy with a million other things? Not to worry.
“NRT is great because you can really participate as much or as little as you want and still be considered a member,” said Whelan. “Some people choose to stick with doing one show a semester, and there are some crazies who do a lot more than that, bless their hearts.”
If NRT sounds like your cup of tea, here’s how you can get involved.
“The easiest way someone can get involved with NRT is to come see our shows!” said Whelan. “They’re free and really frickin’ good, so I’d suggest it. If you’re looking to get involved with the acting side of things, we have two rounds of auditions a semester. The best way to hear about all upcoming auditions and other events is to like us on Facebook at facebook.com/NoRefundTheatre/ or email us at email@example.com.”
For a lot of members, NRT has provided opportunities that extend beyond the stage.
“Through my three, going on four, years of being a part of NRT, I’ve learned so much more than just how to direct a great show or deliver a solid monologue,” said Whelan. “I’ve learned how to be a better listener, I’ve learned how to be a better friend, and I’ve learned how to be a better leader, just to name a few. Our members can take what they learn from this goofy club and apply it to the real world, which is really frickin’ cool to me.”
Whether they’re flash-mobbing in the HUB or lighting up the stage at Schwab Auditorium, the Penn State Thespians rarely go unnoticed in the arts community on campus. They’ve made a name for themselves as the oldest continually active student-run organization on Penn State’s campus. The club has a rich history of dedicated performers, which is something the club’s current members certainly don’t take lightly. They work hard to put together shows each semester that honor the efforts of Thespians past and pave the way for the future of the club.
PAC sat down with the club’s new president, Christie Fisher, to get a feel for what it’s really like behind the scenes of Penn State Thespians. Fischer, who also serves as PAC’s Theatre Marshal, gave us the inside scoop.
“Our mission is to offer artists an outlet for their love of theatre while also providing quality theatre for the State College community,” Fisher said.
As for what’s in store for the club for the fall semester, the Thespians will present their production of The Drowsy Chaperone in Schwab Auditorium, October 12-14. The club will also hold auditions for their January cabaret, MasquerAIDS, next month, as well as for their fall children’s show, Harold & the Purple Crayon, which will be shown December 2-3 in Schlow Library.
“Thespians’ primary goal is to put on great shows,” said Fisher, “but my favorite part of our club is our philanthropic effort.”
Thespians is heavily involved in the Penn State Dance Marathon.
“We have two amazing THON families who many of our members have become very close to, myself included,” said Fisher. Thespians also puts on an annual cabaret, MasquerAIDS, whose proceeds benefit the Center County AIDS Resource Center.
As president of Thespians, Fisher knows firsthand the way the arts can truly impact someone’s life.
“I still get butterflies before I step on a stage,” Fisher said, “but the feeling after the curtains close and knowing you gave it your all is the best feeling in the world. It also helps my memorization skills, builds confidence, and makes me a better public speaker.”
Ready to jump up on the Schwab stage and join them?
“All types and levels of theatre lovers are welcome and we are all very supportive of all of the arts across Penn State’s campus,” Fisher said. “Becoming a member of Thespians is a yearlong process, which sounds more difficult than it actually is. For more information, you can email our vice president, Lauren Goodyear, at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
by Walker Konkle, 2016-2017 PAC President
Over the years, it has become a prominent fact that arts education in K-12 schools can significantly increase test scores, creativity, motivation, and even language skills. Here is our question: If the arts can positively impact a teen’s life, then why not a college student? The answer is -- it can!
Studies indicate the performing arts can help students improve their grades in all academic subjects, and students who received a regular exposure to some form of art had a spike in brain activity, even at the smallest of levels. An additional benefit is better studying habits, because the performing arts teach students discipline, as those who practice the arts must set aside their own time to improve and rehearse their skills. These students need to learn from the regular feedback they receive and constantly develop new skills to become better at their craft. Further, the performing arts teach willpower. Students involved in the arts never giving up, even when they fail or feel like they aren’t improving at their craft.
Above all else, the performing arts are almost entirely about being creative and allowing yourself the freedom of expression. Without this voice, a society is prone to become dead inside and most likely to become oppressive rather than using these sources for good. Although it may seem biased, the emergence of creativity is one of the most vital steps in human development, and it is proven that a human society cannot move forward without its existence.
If given the time, I could go on and on about the benefits of the arts and why they are so important to us. But in the end, the skills acquired while learning performing arts do not disappear when these students leave the stage or the studio. They are skills that stay with you for life.
With UPUA elections today, we spoke with each of the candidates for student body president to learn more about their experience with the arts and what they plan to do for arts organizations if elected.
What do you foresee as the largest issues for arts organizations on campus?What impact have the arts had on your personal, academic, and professional life?
Geisinger: Throughout my entire life, prior to coming to Penn State, I was known to most as being a dancer. When applying to college I had full intentions of double-majoring in Biology and Psychology and minoring in Dance. Unfortunately, my first semester took me by surprise and I had not realized the extent to which my studies and involvements with other organizations would take up my time. At Penn State, if you want to be a part of the Dance Program, you must apply and try-out all within your first semester here and most dance organizations hold practices at the late hours of the night- during which I dedicate my time to student government involvements.
Dance is very much the activity that has always been my peace of mind. Throughout my entire life I have had a passion for the arts in all walks- dance, musical, bands, orchestra, etc. Although I am unable to participate in these activities myself at the moment, I plan to re-involve myself post-graduation when I have more time to myself.
Jordan: For me personally, something I have always admired about Penn State is its talent. Whether that be talent in the classroom, talent on the playing field or talent within the arts. After being someone who's been involved in musical groups in high school, I was excited when I got to Penn State to see that the arts were held to a high standard. Being able to be at virtually any event on campus whether it be convocation or a night of remembrance for our lost students, music is always present in the Penn State community. Having this access makes me extremely thankful and has heightened my appreciate ion for the arts, especially at Penn State. And Alex completely agrees with this! For him as a former marching and concert band member, he was astounded at how the arts at Penn State are incorporated into daily life.
What do you foresee as the largest issues for arts organizations on campus?
Geisinger: In my opinion, and the opinion of many representatives on my ticket, the biggest issue facing the arts organizations at Penn State is that the the communities seem to be extremely cut off from the rest of our student organizations.
What I have learned from my involvement in Penn State Lion Ambassadors is that there are immense ways for our arts organizations on campus to be showcased at other organization events. I think that a majority of our students do not recognize the extent to which we have developed organizations, programs and classes for the arts. Not only do we need to make the entire Penn State community aware of these entities, but we also need to make sure they appreciate them.
Jordan: Based on comments heard from performing groups, I noticed that one of the issues groups face is space for practicing. For example, I know many offices for preforming organizations are in the HUB, but when it comes to performing this may not be the best place where members feel comfortable. Furthermore, we know traveling to perform can be costly. Students should always have the opportunity to travel with their organization if they would like to show their talents, and Alex and I want to work with ASA in the future to make sure organizations have the resources to do so.
During your term with UPUA, how do you plan to strengthen the arts at Penn State?
Geisinger: Something that we have already begun discussing as a team is ways in which we can help organizations, specifically the arts organizations, get in stronger contact and build closer relationships with one another. In preliminary endorsement meetings, we had the opportunity to ask specific questions to performance organizations about what they would like to see their relationship look like with UPUA in the future. One thing that we talked about was the development of a system that would work alongside what is currently in place with ASA, so that students are not fronting their own money for materials being used by the organization.
It is also important to remember that arts can not be arts without an audience. In order for the programs we have here to be as successful as they possibly can, we must ensure that students are interested in being that audience. In my opinion, it is UPUA’s responsibility to ensure that each student organization is reaching the highest level of success as possible. For the art’s organization this means helping them get the word out about events, helping spread the message of importance about the arts and our arts organizations, and developing a solid working relationship in the future.
Jordan: One ideal I am most passionate about in this world is collaboration. Collaboration is the key to success, and I can see performing organizations playing an essential role in reaching this goal. I plan to incorporate organizations in the conversation more. What better way to promote outreach than to have preforming organizations involved. Further, we mentioned working with ASA to ensure that all organizations have access to their funding. We know that it can be difficult for performing arts student organizations when they have to front their personal money to travel.