A stunning 'spectrum'

U.Va theatre group anticipates increasing prominence, appeal

As University students, many of us are familiar with the annual performances of “The Vagina Monologues” and “Voices of the Class.” But Spectrum Theater, the organization that puts on these shows, is less well-known.

Spectrum has broken from its traditionally minimal schedule this semester though, with a full spring set of productions in the works — starting with a performance of “The Arabian Nights.”

The group’s last full-scale production, Avenue Q in the spring of 2012, drew in large crowds, said Spectrum Artistic Director Stephanie LeBolt, a fourth-year College student. But even though the show was popular, people didn’t connect the success with Spectrum specifically.

“The show was really successful,” LeBolt said. “But, everyone knew Avenue Q and they didn’t necessarily know who or where it came from.”

Another problem with Spectrum’s success had to do with membership.

“In the past, people had done a show with Spectrum, but they didn’t consider themselves to be a member of Spectrum,” LeBolt said. “We want people to feel like they’re part of a community, it just takes a while to build that sort of thing.”

LeBolt and Spectrum Executive Producer Lauren Lukow, also a fourth-year College student, were the primary people involved with the organization last semester. This semester, however, they brought on an entire executive board of 12 people. The board includes publicity, technical and business positions to help make the organization a success.

As the organization expands, its identity and particular appeal have become increasingly important., LeBolt said.

“It’s called Spectrum, and that’s a great name — in the past it has been seen as the ‘spectrum’ of theater,” LeBolt said. “It’s not [First Year Players]—it doesn’t do big-scale musicals, and it’s not Shakespeare on the Lawn — it doesn’t do Shakespeare. So it has kind of been defined by what it wasn’t. Our mission this year is to try to figure out who we are — we provide opportunities for students to create challenging and provocative work that enhances the Charlottesville and University communities.”

This season, Spectrum is collaborating with Sustained Dialogue through the group’s “Breaking Grounds” reading series. The series aims to build on a legacy of thought-provoking and topical productions among Spectrum’s output.

Spectrum’s full-scale spring production, “The Arabian Nights”, is a modern adaptation by Mary Zimmerman of “A Thousand and One Nights”.

“It’s not a musical,” LeBolt said. “It’s a play with music and dance and improv in it. The different stories have different elements in them. The nice thing is that everyone doesn’t have to be able to do all three; you can kind of bring out or bring down the different elements that you really want to emphasize.”

LeBolt only hopes for growth of the organization in the future. In five years, she would like to see Spectrum Theater as “the third-pillar theater group on grounds.” By adding underclassmen to the organization’s board, she hopes future generations will be able to pass on the knowledge and enthusiasm of the organization.

This semester, “The Vagina Monologues” will be taking place in the Student Activities Building from Feb.13-15, and “The Arabian Nights” is also in the SAB from April 3-5. The “Breaking Grounds” reading series will take place three times this semester: Jan. 27, Feb. 17 and March 3.

related stories