Theater arts have long been a hallmark of Ithaca College. Consistently ranked as one of the best schools in the country for theater, it’s no surprise that there is a wealth of productions on campus. But students are also blessed with a wealth of theater options in the City of Ithaca, which add greatly to the culture of the town.
Theater presents an opportunity to tell diverse stories and brings to stage perspectives and cultures that often get written out of the mainstream cultural narrative. Diversity in theater arts has seeped into the culture of the Ithaca area at large, allowing productions to pose tough questions and enrich the arts scene in the community. Because of this, a community that places an emphasis on the arts in a way that Ithaca does allows for greater dissemination of important stories, oppositional voices and tough dialogues.
For example, the Dillingham Center’s 2017–18 season will begin with “Angels in America, Part I: Millennium Approaches” by Tony Kushner. The play explores love, sex and religion amidst the ’80s AIDS crisis. The Cherry Arts, a new Ithaca-based theater company, is opening its own theater and arts space with “What Happens Next,” a multimedia play focusing on two women trying to understand their relationships and themselves. The Kitchen Theatre’s “Smart People,” running through September, addresses the questions of whether our belief systems stem from our environment, or if some prejudices are hard-wired into us.
These theaters in town also provide great opportunities for students and other members of the college community to engage in the local art scene. A number of students, alumni and professors are involved in productions in town this semester. The Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, for example, is a nationally recognized professional theater that offers an internship program specifically for college students. These productions provide an opportunity for students to venture off campus and enjoy a show. Students of all majors should support local, independent art as this art often pushes boundaries in ways mainstream art does not.
Theater is a representation of the world around us. It displays our cultural anxieties, fears and pressing issues. Now more than ever, the questions that shows like these present and the subject matter they tackle allow viewers to open their worldview in an intimate way and enrich the community in a way that, sometimes, only the arts can. Students should support these independent, local productions and artistic spaces.