One of my biggest extracurriculars that I am a part of at Penn is theatre. There are many ways to get involved in theatre at Penn, and one of the questions I get asked a lot by both current and prospective students is: “What are the different types of theatre that Penn has? How do you get involved?”
I break Penn theatre down into two categories: department theatre, and student theatre.
Department theatre is run by the theatre arts department (lovingly called the tharts department). This includes any courses, productions, practicums, or other opportunities provided by the tharts department. Being involved in tharts could include taking a course (or multiple), acting in a tharts production, or operating a lightboard for a tharts show, to name a few.
Student theatre includes a variety of performing arts groups under PAC (performing arts council), including groups centered around musical theatre, light opera, comedy, and more. Under PAC, there is also a specific organization called TAC-e (theatre arts council. The “-e” is a super special super secret addition to the title). This includes seven distinct performing arts groups, each with a different mission: African American Arts Alliance (4A), Front Row Theatre Company (FTC), iNtuitons Experimental Theatre (i), Pennsylvania Players (Penn Players or Players), Quadramics Theatre Company (Q), Stimulus Children’s Theatre Company (Stim), and PenNaatak (Naatak). TAC-e shows are completely student-run, -directed, and -produced (with the exception of Players, which has a professional director and music director each semester!).
The two different categories of theatre at Penn bring different experiences and opportunities depending on what you are looking for. If you seek an academically-based experience with guidance from/contact with the tharts faculty, or if you’re seeking to take classes but not act in a full-on production, then the tharts department is the way to go. If you seek a student-leadership-based hands-on experience with the different aspects that create a show at every level, then TAC-e is the way to go. Both offer incredible benefits and skills, and if you are even slightly considering trying out theatre at Penn, I encourage you to go for it. I think that theatre is a spectacular tool for teaching incredibly versatile and essential life skills to everyone. Not to mention, all the theatre shows at Penn are pretty amazing!
- Duval C.