The arts perplex and enlighten us; frustrate and irritate us; enliven and exhilarate us; prompt us to think and to feel; and bring us an ongoing, ever-renewing sense of community and common cause. 

Princeton3_JillDolan_1894The arts at Princeton form a bright constellation of our lives and concerns on campus and off, as we experiment with and experience together diverse visions of the past, present, and future.

We come together at theaters and jerry-rigged spaces all over campus to witness bodies in space, interacting with one another in surprising, creative, and hopeful ways. We watch the Black Arts Collective dancing across the stage at Frist, boldly and freely choreographing visions of a multiracial present and future. We cheer the dancers in BodyHype and diSiac as they tear up the stage with their embodiments of new social relationships and work their audience of peers into a happy frenzy.

We engage historical, canonical theater at the Berlind, from Shakespeare to Boris Godunov to other hallowed or forgotten texts, as students grapple with other cultural and historical ways of speaking, walking, and interacting. We enter the Matthews Acting Studio at 185 Nassau Street, curious to see how the black box theater space is reconfigured to provoke still other ways of encountering actors and audiences. We listen to new interpretations of old musicals produced lickety-split by Princeton University Players, and follow reimagined productions offered by the Princeton Shakespeare Company, and wonder at new work presented by Theatre Intime.

We prowl the Lucas Gallery at 185, startled by new two- and three-dimensional visual art that encourages us to look and think and feel differently. We listen carefully in Richardson and Taplin auditoriums to musical notes produced by classical instruments and laptop computers, as we revere and renovate what “orchestras” mean. We gather to hear poetry and fiction that was written on the page be pronounced into the air, admiring together in time and space how creative writers touch our minds, hearts, and souls.

And in our classrooms, we experiment with the relationship between bodies and ideas in time and space, reflecting on how art makes us citizens of a democracy that can always be urged toward a better, broader canvas of social justice. In arts courses, we rehearse for more democracy, practicing how to speak, write, and create work that advances our visions into the public and provokes us toward meaningful lives.

The arts perplex and enlighten us; frustrate and irritate us; enliven and exhilarate us; prompt us to think and to feel; and bring us an ongoing, ever-renewing sense of community and common cause. They invite us to contemplate the world as it was, as it is, and most importantly, as it might be, and urge us not just to observe, but to participate in creating and experiencing ever-new visions of human possibility.

 

Interview

See Jill Dolan interviewed by the Association for Theatre in Higher Education:

Credits

This article was originally published in 2015 by the Princeton University Office of Development Communications. It has been reprinted and adapted for the web with permission.

Photography by Kah Leong Poon

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