Respect the Arts

Cast and crew of the Stevens Dramatic Society's "Musical Comedy Murders of 1940"

I’m ashamed to admit this, but until last Friday night, I had never seen one of the Stevens Dramatic Society’s performances. I knew that this group was impressive—it was never a matter of me thinking that sitting in DeBaun Auditorium for an SDS show would be a waste of time. It was more of me making an excuse, going home the weekend of the show, or putting my alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes to the test (Look it up, you’ll understand what I mean).

I finally found myself in front of the stage with two newer friends last Friday night, absolutely enthralled, humored, and bamboozled by the cast of “Musical Comedy Murders of 1940.” To start, the set design was absolutely beautiful—the placement of each book, the carefully selected furniture, and the secret-doorway-opening mechanism all contributed to the spectacle. Not to mention its location within DeBaun, which in itself imparts an old-time feeling and adds to the ambiance of it all!

I cannot even come close to articulating my respect and appreciation for the actors and actresses that shuffled across the stage, narrowly escaping death by the Stage Door Slasher. To the real-life Stevens students who transformed themselves into Helsa, Elsa, Roger, Bernice, Patrick, Sgt. Kelly, Ken, Marjorie, Nikki, and Eddie: hats off to you all for your hard work. You had me engaged the entire time, which for me is impressive given my uncanny ability to fall into a deep slumber when seated in a comfortable, semi-reclining position.

This week, I’m not going to moan and groan. No—today, I am celebrating the efforts of the Stevens Dramatic Society beginning from its inception in 1910. For over 100 years, the society has provided space for artistic expression and innovation at a university that now boasts the latter as one of its major tenets. I recently learned that former Head of Theater, Harold Burris-Meyer, was an emerging leader in acoustical engineering and electronic sound reproduction during his time at Stevens in the ’30s and ’40s, serving as yet another example of the enchanting synergy that results when art, engineering, and technology intertwine (Don’t believe me? Check out the “Campus Traditions and Activities” exhibit on the first floor of the library). The caliber of the performance this past weekend attests to the Stevens Dramatic Society’s “do-it-yourself” mentality which has been paramount since its beginnings in the early twentieth century.

To those who were like me and never thought twice about attending an SDS performance, I ask that you reconsider your plans the next time a show comes around. Bring new friends, sneak in some snacks, and keep that cell phone on silent, for when you respect the arts in the present, you pay tribute to all those who have traipsed across DeBaun stage in the past.