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Alabama arts students deserve same respect as football team

Caroline Builta

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A few weeks ago, The University of Alabama’s Department of Theatre & Dance put on a production in the Allen Bales Theatre entitled “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915.” The show featured an ensemble of three black actors and three white actors attempting to put together a presentation explaining the genocide of the Herero people by the German government. 

The performance was a powerful one and addresses what sophomore Anne Dillon Loflin’s character, Actor #5, describes as “the horror of our capacity to casually inflict suffering.” It was an important and memorable production and yet, my experience was almost completely ruined by the girl next to me who could not seem to get off of Snapchat. 

Although a Fine Arts course is a core requirement for the students at this University, that is the extent of the exposure that many students will receive to the arts at UA. Two different people in the audience stood up in the middle of the performance, left the show and then returned to their seats. Multiple people sitting in the center section were texting throughout the entirety of the play. 

As previously mentioned, the girl sitting next to me was sending Snapchat messages for almost the entirety of the last forty-five minutes of the performance. The ensemble was giving a spectacular performance – during the last bit, there is a particularly harrowing section featuring Christopher Ciulla, Christian Hatcher and Scott Lakey and yet I couldn’t be fully appreciative of the experience because of the disrespect of another patron. 

Once a week, almost the entirety of this campus comes together to support the Crimson Tide on the football field. Nick Saban is jokingly referred to as “Lord Saban” and students on this campus take their loyalty to our athletic teams very seriously. But how many students on this campus are aware of what our performing arts students and alumni are doing?

Michael Luwoye, the first actor to play both Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in Broadway’s “Hamilton”, is a UA alumni. We have students in the Theatre & Dance department who absolutely have the talent to follow in his footsteps and make a serious cultural impact, but benched football players are more recognizable on campus than the students who are consistently leading actors in these high-quality productions. 

School spirit at Alabama is a powerful and unifying force, but it should not be limited to our athletes. Students at UA often bemoan the reputation of our University as being “just for football,” yet don’t take the initiative to explore what else our University is offering. Our performance arts students are doing important, meaningful and engaging work. The shows that this department puts up every semester are just as worthy of attention as the Ole Miss game and have the potential to teach students powerful lessons that they may need to hear. 

When we don’t praise and appreciate these events, we are doing a great disservice to ourselves as well as to our University. Our football team leaves themselves on the field every week and we walk away from that with a sense of pride. I guarantee that this ensemble is leaving their hearts on the stage every night and you will walk out of this production and every other departmental production thoroughly moved.

If you can spend four hours sweating in Bryant-Denny to watch our football team play Colorado State, then you are more than capable of turning off your phone for two hours to fully immerse yourself in a meaningful and thought-provoking performance.

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Alabama arts students deserve same respect as football team