Ivy Tech takes the stage
Community college delves into theater world with first play
By Laura Gleason | Special to the Hoosier Times
March 25, 2012
BLOOMINGTON — Ian Martin went to a performing arts-themed high school in Cincinnati and missed being involved in theater when he enrolled at Ivy Tech Community College last fall.
“A couple months ago, I was a little weary about being in community college,” he said.
But as luck would have it, Ivy Tech is putting on its first play this semester, and being part of the cast has transformed Martin’s experience of the college. “I’m really glad I’m here. The group of people is amazing, and the concept is so dynamic,” Martin said.
The play, “Waiting for Lefty,” is a 1935 drama about class and labor struggles. Artistic director Paul Daily sees performing a play as a step toward providing Ivy Tech students with a comprehensive, well-rounded college experience and hopes it will be the first of many plays performed in a flourishing arts program at the college.
Daily, who has an acting background, helped start a theater company in New York City, where he lived for many years. He and his wife moved to Kokomo after the birth of their first son. Daily, missing the stage, started directing a reader’s theater group at Ivy Tech Kokomo for students, in which the actors performed with their scripts in hand.
Eventually he suggested putting on full productions and including faculty and staff in the cast. The school supported the idea but didn’t have a budget for it. “I said that was fine, I’d do it for fun. I’m a minimalist director anyway. I don’t need a lot of sets and costumes,” he said.
Then Chancellor John Whikehart from Ivy Tech Bloomington called with a question. “Do you want to come down here and do the same thing, only get paid? I said yes,” Daily said.
Ivy Tech Bloomington currently offers one theater-related class, theater appreciation. Ultimately, Daily would like to see Ivy Tech put on multiple productions a year and offer three or four theater classes for credits that can be transferred to IU.
“In terms of how this affects Ivy Tech, it’s a large step in helping with retention and in creating the college experience for the students,” Daily said.
The auditions were advertised in January, and more than enough people came out. The play has mostly male roles, and they were filled mainly by Ivy Tech students, with a few IU students mixed in.
Daily is currently working on his master of fine arts degree in directing, and one of his assignments for his “Directing Realism” class is to produce a realist play. He chose Clifford Odets’ “Waiting for Lefty,” which is about a union of taxi drivers deciding whether or not to go on strike, because its themes of class and labor issues felt fresh. “I think it’s a terrific play and I think it’s so relevant right now,” Daily said.
His actors seem to agree. “It’s really timely; it’s overtly political but it isn’t partisan. The answer doesn’t lie in them supporting FDR or the union, the answer lies in the guys standing up for themselves, taking charge of their own state of affairs and trying to change it,” said Nathaniel Alcock, a sophomore at Ivy Tech.
Alcock came to Ivy Tech to make college more affordable, finishing his general education credits before transferring to IU. Although he enjoyed participating in theater in high school, it didn’t occur to him that he could pursue it in college.
“I probably wouldn’t have been involved in any theater unless somebody explicitly said that they were looking for Ivy Tech students to be in a play, because that world just isn’t open to us. We don’t have any connection to it,” he said.
Now that he’s come into contact with the IU theater department, he’d like to get more involved once he transfers. “Theater wasn’t really on my radar before this. I would love to audition for another production sometime.”
This sort of reaction is precisely what Daily has been hoping for as he and others at Ivy Tech work to flesh out the college’s arts programming.
“When you’re going to a school just to take a class, it’s easy to stop going when it gets hard or when it’s something you’re not interested in. When you start adding other activities in, more of your sweat and blood is involved, and you’re going to stay committed to it,” Daily said.
The play will be performed for the public, but Daily sees its function as being mainly by and for the Ivy Tech community. “I’m not competing with BPP (the Bloomington Playwrights Project) or Cardinal Stage Company to put on a professional production. I’m not competing with Monroe County Civic Theater to do community theater, I’m not even competing with IU to do an IU production. I’m giving Ivy Tech students the opportunity to perform in an Ivy Tech production and have an educational experience,” he said.
There’s more to college than racking up credits and getting a good GPA. For Daily, it brings to mind a passage he recently read by Ken Neufeld, president and CEO of the Victoria Theatre Association. “Can you remember the first time you bought a gallon of milk?” Neufeld asked. Generally, the answer is no. “Can you remember the first time you saw a play?” Most people can.
“That’s because theater is something that changes your life, and we remember things that change our lives. I hope there’s some of that here for these students,” Daily said.
If you go
WHO: Ivy Tech Community College Bloomington
WHAT: “Waiting for Lefty,” a play by Clifford Odets
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. April 13-14, 18-21; 2 p.m. April 21
WHERE: Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center’s Rose Firebay, 122 S. Walnut St., Bloomington
TICKETS: $15 general admission and $5 for students/seniors; available at the Buskirk-Chumley box office at 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., 812-323-3020, or by visiting www.bctboxoffice.com
Ian Ketcham, left, a theater student at Indiana University, goes over lines with “Waiting for Lefty” director Paul Daily. “Acting is all me-me-me,” says Daily. “Directing is so different. It’s about finding the strengths in everyone else and helping those surface.” Ryan Dorgan | Herald-Times