New theater group sets stage for political plays, dialogue

Aliza Appelbaum

This fall, another theater group will join the ranks of Northwestern’s performance ensembles. Spectrum Theatre Company, founded this year, aims to produce political theater and inspire dialogue on campus and in the community.

Several students started Spectrum because they said they wanted to see a different type of theater – something that would provoke thought and inspire dialogue. They are committed to portraying a wide range of political viewpoints, not just the ones represented by members.

“I’ve always wanted to do theater that made a difference and had an impact on the audience instead of just being entertainment,” said Communications junior Emily Schaeffer, one of Spectrum’s founders. “I saw there was this hole in theater at NU. I wanted to do something to make people think and discuss and get involved.”

Schaeffer, the executive director, said the first interest meeting was held in November. The executive board was decided this quarter, and members are choosing plays to produce next year. She said the board hopes to plan other programming around the shows to make students aware of the issues being presented.

“Other (groups) do some political theater,” said Schaeffer. “But no other group is devoted only to political pieces, especially when combined with outreach the way we will be doing.”

Robby Karol, a Communications junior, said getting involved with Spectrum seemed like a natural choice.

“We’re very politically involved and politically interested people,” said Karol, the group’s business director. “We thought we would bring together these interests of ours – theater and politics.”

Karol said the first show Spectrum will produce is “Stop, Kiss,” scheduled for Fall Quarter. Co-sponsored by Rainbow Alliance, the show will coincide with the anniversary of the attack on gay teen Matthew Shepard. Spectrum also plans to produce “The Exonerated,” a play about wrongfully accused death row inmates, during Winter Quarter.

The two plays were chosen from about 27 submissions the group received on its Web site, Karol said the submitted plays had a wide range of topics, including everything from Greek tragedies to “really experimental” theater.

“We are not a group that aims to show only one side of the political arena,” Karol said. “We want to spark discussion on campus, and the important part of that is that people need to listen to each other. Start a dialogue about an issue and get people to communicate. That’s what we hope will happen when people see these plays.”

Communication sophomore Aurelia Clunie said she was drawn to Spectrum because it offered so many involvement opportunities to students.

“I’ve always been interested in theater for social change,” said Clunie, the associate art director. “I was really happy to hear about a theater company devoted to exploring all sides of important political issues. I liked that a student group would choose to focus on something like that.”

Clunie said she hopes people see the plays, whether or not they agree with the views being expressed, so they can start a meaningful dialogue on campus between among students of all different backgrounds.

“I’m really excited about where Spectrum could go,” she said.

Reach Aliza Appelbaum at [email protected]