A Peek Behind the Curtain: The Swat Theater Scene

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

(From left) Patrick Ross '15 and Sasha Rojavin '15 in Ivona: Princess of Burgundia

So you’ve decided to come to Swarthmore. We know the first question burning in your mind (after, “What’s IN the ‘meatless balls’ at Sharples?”) is, “What do you need to know about theater at Swat?” Well, we’re here to provide answers. Read on for a Gazette perspective on everything theater: faculty, student shows, Drama Board, and the Vagina Monologues.

The Department

Deep within the depths of the dark Lang Performing Arts Center (LPAC) basement, across from the F(r)ear Theater, lives the Theater Department (except for the half who live on the third floor). It is from this dark and scary space that some of the most creative work on campus is produced.

Swarthmore’s Theater Department is a very close-knit group of professors and students. They somehow manage to fill that dark basement with an atmosphere of collaboration, questioning, and laughter.

The Regulars

Swarthmore has a usual slew of shows that the theater department puts on every year. The most prominent is Production Ensemble, the year’s major faculty-directed show, which goes up in the spring. Last year, Professor Elizabeth Stevens directed “Ivona: Princess of Burgundia.” We all know you came to Swarthmore to be inquisitive, question norms, and challenge the way you think about theater and every social interaction you’ve ever encountered: Ivona did just that. Production Ensemble represents Swarthmore’s tour de force of talent and perspective. Go Garnet!

Other products of the theater department are Senior Company (also faculty-directed) and seniors’ theses. These shows are opportunities for the department’s (hopefully) shining stars to showcase the work they’ve done over the past four years. Basically, these students demonstrate their acquisition of Swarthmore ideology before they graduate.

Have they challenged social norms? Check.

Have they changed your perception of the world/theater/the concept of
performance? Check.

Have they problematized? Check.

Have they done something totally “different,” “original,” and “unique”? Check.

Great, sounds like they fit right in. Get your diplomas, kids!

Drama Board

Drama Board is a group of students who occasionally deign to find a play, a director, a cast and production funds, then jump through the hoops of securing a performance venue, then get some technical support behind them, then postpone opening night a few times, and then put together a pretty great show. Here are a few recurring theatrical events, brought to you by Swarthmore Drama Board:

Sometimes, if the theater gods smile kindly upon Swarthmore’s campus, Drama Board puts together a musical. Last year’s was The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Actors, singers, dancers, musicians, costumers, lighters, set designers—all come together for this fun event, and it’s entirely orchestrated by students.

Because Swatties never miss an opportunity to engage with social paradigms and challenge the concept of perception and the human condition, we have a One-Act Festival. Also completely student-run, the one-acts allow students to explore different roles in the production process in a more relaxed, experimental setting.

Lastly, the Vagina Monologues at Swarthmore. Enough said (almost). After their second year of production, the current plan is to have this piece run every year. What better place than Swarthmore to promote feminism and challenge gender norms?

Other Non-Department Events

Aside from Drama Board’s productions, Swat’s campus sees a fair amount of extra-departmental productions.

The Orientation Play, which you all will witness very soon, is a testament to Swatties’ wit, creativity, sarcastic humor and ability to make fun of ourselves. Short vignettes represent certain obstacles that incoming freshmen might face, causing laughter from the newcomers in the audience (you!) and hilarity for the returning students who see the truth in the play.

Arts Weekend, formerly a part of Garnet/Family Weekend, takes place each spring. Swarthmore harnesses its talent from abroad and a-near to compile a weekend packed with fun, artsy events. Brining in both alumni and students, Arts Weekend demonstrates the powerful base of talent present in the Swarthmore community.

Lily Jamison-Cash ’15 is Arts Editor here at The DG. If you’d like to write about theater, visual arts, dance, and writing at Swarthmore, email her at ljamiso1@swarthmore.edu.


  1. And don’t forget the Yellow Stockings Players – Swarthmore’s extra-curricular Shakespeare theater troupe that presents one show each semester!

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