I find myself carefully planning my weekends. Not because I have infinite social engagements, but so that I can see all the various theater performances on campus. Between the seven or so student theater groups, including three with at least five mainstage performances every year, and a very active theater department, there are normally a couple of shows every weekend. As an active member of the Princeton theater community, I feel the need to support my peers. Plus, I enjoy seeing the shows.
That said, many theater performances on campus are fairly empty. Some performances even have more community members than students seeing the show. Though I’ve generally found that other students involved in theater do a fairly good job supporting each other and seeing the various performances around campus, a lot of other students, including friends of those involved, don’t seem to make the time.
I’m not sure why there is such little student support for theater on campus. Interestingly, most of the dance shows sell quite well. Perhaps it is because they are a rarer occasion: most dance groups have one or two shows a year, whereas some of the theater groups have more like six or seven. If students are interested in making a point to see a dance group, I suppose they would be a lot more likely to attend, knowing they only have two chances per year. Regarding theater groups, with many more performances available each year, it’s easy enough to continue saying “I’ll just see the next one” and never actually go. Students’ apparent disinterest in theater performances could also be the result of a lack of advertising or disinterest. However, while these factors may play a role, I find it difficult to believe that students are unaware of these events, especially given all the publicity on social media and around campus. Moreover, the shows are picked and designed to appeal to the student body, such as Theatre Intime’s April show that touches on mental health issues.
I have to assume that students have at least some interest in seeing performances, but they simply don’t prioritize the performances enough in order to actually attend them (after all, it's probably fair to say that many others, like me, grew up occasionally going to local performances with their families). I suppose this issue can simply be chalked up to there being so many options of entertainment and students lacking a specific motivation to attend performances, such as having close friends perform. Given these factors, going out of the way to see a show for two hours would just no longer seem worth it, with so much else on one’s plate.
Though I know we are all busy, I think students should exert more of an effort to support the campus arts. For one, like athletes, many students work extremely hard putting these shows together. From the actors to the production team to the student theater boards, a lot of time goes into bringing all of these shows to the stage. Moreover, many shows involve themes that are present in students’ lives. For example, Harvey, Theatre Intime’s April play, is all about mental health and relationships – something I know many of us can relate to. Plus, the University makes it easier to attend shows by providing free tickets to various events through the Passport to the Arts Program. My three tickets are typically gone by November and I’m always shocked when someone uses one come April, but administrators have told me that many students never use any of their tickets.
Along these lines, we should really all put forth more of an effort to support our peers in all their endeavors, be it art, sports or something else entirely. I myself am guilty of the same lack of effort, having grown up going to sports games with my family, occasionally even going in high school, and yet not putting forth much of an effort to watch sports game while here. I’ve always intended to go to homecoming or a big basketball game or something — I just never have because other events keep popping up. But I’ll be sure to finally make it to a basketball game this season.
Marni Morse is a politics major from Washington, D.C. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.