By Samantha Lund ’16
A panel to examine controversial issues in a recent play took a quick shift Monday from a discussion on gender dynamics to an unforgiving critique on student involvement in the theater program.
The Kiss Me, Kate Panel convened to discuss the gender politics in the play. A group of students gathered in the SCAN Center Monday 6 p.m. to discuss the gender dynamics and roles regarding the Phillips Center opening night play Kiss Me, Kate. The panel was intended to be a discussion regarding the choice of a play with female abuse and stigmas but turned into an attack on the PLU faculty for choosing the play without considering the students.
Students said the play was chosen for the Phillips Center opening night gala to fill seats and please the alumni. Students at the panel voiced their outrage saying the play should have been chosen to represent PLU students and not to make alumni happy. The 1949 play was argued to be outdated and misogynistic – not an accurate representation of PLU. The students argued it was not for them but rather to bring in the money filled pockets of PLU’s Alumni.
When asked about the decision making process, Taylor Capellaro, a senior and actor in the play said, “It felt like we were just along for the ride.” Capellaro said the decision to do Kiss Me, Kate seemed like it came from higher up than faculty and nobody had time to have an opinion on the matter. The play had three months to prepare.
Theatre Professor Amanda Sweger said it was a go from the beginning even though she threw the script across the room several times while reading it. She said she did not have time to reflect on the consequences of the play. That answer did not to pacify students in the audience. The students said the play did not represent them and these choices should not be left up to the SOAC group alone but to the whole student body.
The panel was led by faculty and student actors in the play. Jennifer Smith, Director of the Women’s Center, mediated the discussion. Communication professor Dr. Peter Ehrenhaus urged students to ask about SOAC advisory committee and get involved if they want to make a difference. This discussion is no longer about gender roles in Kiss Me, Kate but about the lack of commitment to students the theater program displayed.
Edited By Naomi Bess ’16
Update Oct. 31:To get a balanced account of the issues addressed, below is a response from the Art Director of the Theater Department.
Jeff Clapp, Art Director at PLU sat in the studio theater of the new Phillips Center and explained his view on the topic. Clapp said he did not understand where the students in the panel were coming from. Clapp, the director of Kiss Me, Kate said the complaints seemed to come from left field. Clapp was not invited to be on the panel. Clapp was surprised by the way the panel went and thought the topic should have stayed on gender issues.
The director said the play was not meant to teach or get a rise, he said he did not see how people could react in such a negative way. Clapp said the show was meant to bring in an audience and open the new arts center with a spectacle, as he put it. Jeff Clapp explained how he and a group of faculty chose the play out of a list of 30 they had narrowed it down to. They chose it to be a fun song and dance musical in the hopes that such a show would bring in a big audience.
Clapp shared his opinion that if students thought it was outdated and therefore should not be shown, then they might as well throw out thousands of years of theater and what a shame that would be.