If you were in class Tuesday morning in Girvetz Theater, your lecture was delayed because of technical difficulties. That was one person’s fault. His name is Matthew Weinglass, a senior in the BFA Theater program. He’s the director of “Dark Rapture,” a play opening tonight at 8.30 in the Girvetz Theater. There are those who would stop that opening from happening. Those who arrogantly dismiss the months of effort of 20 actors and technicians who have hustled and scrambled to put up a theater piece that is greater than their individual selves.
Productions like this bring a voice to contemporary playwrights whose work challenges the way audiences think of theater. A play like “Dark Rapture” shakes the cobwebs off, rattles the institutional cages of pretension and brings theater back to life where it has a pulse on the present. Now that you understand my point of view, let me tell you a true story, because when an injustice is exposed publicly, the power shifts. It’s taken from those in authority that use it as leverage to suppress art, and people like Matthew Weinglass are vindicated. Today, you are Matt’s jury.
First of all, to stage a play in Girvetz Theater, there are quite a few hoops to jump through. Matt booked the space months ago. He submitted proposals and ran a fundraiser to raise money to cover the cost, which is charged to any student group that uses that theater space’s equipment. Thirteen hundred dollars covers three days pay for an administrator to run the technical side of the show and oversee activities in the booth. But for nearly half that fee, you can hire a student to be at each show, with keys to the booth and knowledge of the sound and lighting system. No student was available, so Matt applied for the job and was hired. It was his way of saving over $600 and putting the salary he was to earn back into the show. But on Monday night, after a technical rehearsal that ran until 2 in the morning, Matt left the space locked up, with the slide and video projector reconfigured so the system could not be used by the professors during lecture on Tuesday morning. Consequently, Matt was fired on Tuesday morning, falsely accused of stealing equipment, referred to the dean and told the show was to be canceled. Matt admitted he was at fault for locking up the equipment; he confronted the accusations of theft and convinced the administrators to let the show go on. Now, Matt has to pay the wages of the techie who made five trips to Girvetz Theater on Tuesday morning, as well as the $1,300 for an administrator to be there for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday shows.
But no matter the cost, the show must go on. And that is why you should go see “Dark Rapture” and support a dying art. An art that is strangled by an administration that charges student groups like the Sherwood Players exorbitant fees to put on shows such as this one. It’s because of unjust policy like this that more theater isn’t done. To most, it isn’t worth the cost, and most underground work stays dead and buried. When theater is neglected and poorly nurtured, it becomes commercial candy, a poor imitation of television that takes no risks or gambles. Theater needs its champions, and it’s time to step up and prove that underground theater is alive and that it is vital.
Performances of “Dark Rapture” will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 p.m. in Girvetz Theater – $5 student donation, $7 general.
Peter Marshall Smith is a UCLA student affiliated with the Sherwood Players.