Space should go to students, not stars

by Beacon Staff • April 7, 2011

ArtsEmerson allots two EVVY days to opera company.

Our take:

Students should get priority when assigning space. 

Remember your Emerson tour? You appraised the student body, gawked at the impressive film equipment, and let your jaw drop at the Will & Grace set in the middle of the library. And, perhaps most memorably, you saw the Cutler Majestic Theatre.

It was the same theater printed on all the pamphlets Emerson sent you, but somehow it was different. Golder, grander, “gee-that’s an amazing theater”-er. And whether you pictured yourself on the stage, or saw yourself in the front row; one way or another, you probably imagined that going to Emerson was going to involve the Majestic.

But barring orientation, and possibly parents’ weekend, the Majestic hosts far fewer students than Emerson’s tours, promotional materials, and website would like prospective students to believe.

Last semester, ArtsEmerson, a program that brings international performers to the college’s stages, started managing the performances at the Majestic. Our stages are packed with world-class, professional performances. Our college brings in award-winning actors weekend after weekend. But as ArtsEmerson rockets our college into new reputational stratospheres, students are getting left behind—burned by the exhaust stream.

This year, only one student-run production was slated to step foot on the Majestic stage—the EVVYs. And now, in what is expected to be the 30 year-old award show’s most elaborate production to date—they have lost two precious prep days—to an opera.  True, the students working on the EVVYs only recently received more than four days to load-in the show. In 2008, the EVVYs got a fifth day, and only got its sixth last year. But shouldn’t the trajectory be in the direction of students gaining more use of its school’s stages? Apparently, six days of student access was just an aberration subject to the way “the calendar falls.”

Emerson’s burgeoning prestige is valuable, but shouldn’t impede on Emerson’s time-tested strength: its students. We are not the glamorous school with the sprawling campus or the high-profile speakers’ circuit; we are the beehive tucked away in an urban corner. Our history is embodied by the EVVYs, an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience under stressful conditions.

Emerson’s reputation is built on generations of talent that speaks for itself—this year, alumna Maria Menounos will appear on the EVVY stage—not blitzes of billboard advertisements shouting Emerson’s name at every T station.

The conflicting schedules of ArtsEmerson and the EVVYs is evidence of a conflict in Emerson’s two avenues for growth. There is the glamour of F. Murray Abraham and the grit of students who have performed on world-class stages. Though our school can benefit from drawing in world-class actors and plastering Boston with promotions, Emerson is best served in the long run by serving its students in the short run. Let us grow our talents and use our college’s facilities.