For many, the fondest memories of childhood center on that one moment when the surrounding crowd is hushed in anticipatory silence, waiting eagerly as the heavy, offending curtains part and a heartwarming, beloved lion finally takes the stage. However, for that one moment to become possible, the men and women donning the friendly costumes needed to have been educated in their craft at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, Performing Arts departments all over the nation are notoriously understaffed.
In spite of this, the talented faculty of Kingsborough Community College has consistently put on quality productions at the Marine and Academic Center Playhouse.
During the academically hectic week before Thanksgiving Day last year, Professor Matthew A.J. Gregory was responsible for easing at least a fraction of academic stress through his stunning production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” “It’s difficult to be able to produce real, quality theatre because all of the faculty ends up having to wear so many different hats in order to get things done,” said Gregory. “I had so many jobs on it and each of the faculty members had to do so much to make this possible.”
Despite this, the production’s reception was justifiably favorable as the spectacle was able to overcome the various challenges with grace. Although auditions Kingsborough’s plays are open to the general public, the majority of their advertisement occurs at the college, itself. At least half of the cast, however, must be composed of the attending student body. Therefore, Kingsborough students are more than encouraged to audition.
Gregory explained that the show’s success was largely due to a unique program called My Turn, which enables senior citizens to attend the college free of charge and consequently create a convenient schedule to allow them to participate in its shows. “The fact that we have students who range in age from 17 to well into their ’60s or ’70s because of My Turn means that we have a student body to draw from that is so much wider and more diverse than any other university or college I’ve ever worked at,” he said.
Gregory clarified that the ability to work with an actor that physically represents his targeted age group is a benefit an actor is not likely to receive at another university, and that this, genuine experience would best prepare them for actual roles, where they would be asked to play someone of their type and age range.
On February 11, 12 and 14, the college put on their next production, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Paula Vogel, “How I Learned to Drive,” about a young woman’s memoir to her childhood sexual abuse.
The play was directed by Professor Ryan McKinney.
“The structure of the play allows for a great deal of creativity, from both myself and the cast,” McKinney said.
Just as “The Diary of Anne Frank,” auditions to this play were open to the public, as were those for “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” a musical that directed in the spring.
“My graduate studies were in musical theatre and they tend to be the pieces that I find myself gravitating toward as a director,” Professor McKinney added.
Ultimately, in spite of the infamous lack of instructional staff in the country’s Theatre Departments, the effects produced by the hardworking creative minds behind them continue to incite wonder, joy and even catharsis.
While literature may be the physical manifestation of the human psyche, theatre is its vessel. Recently, however, improvements to this national detriment have been made at Kingsborough.
“Here we have an opportunity to build a strong foundation for a program that for many years has been wracked with budget problems, staff and faculty cuts,” Gregory said.
“It is finally on the rise thanks to a lot of support from the administration and the president, without whom the program would continue to be derelict. But they recognize that there’s a great opportunity here.”