Chapter 22
The Play's the Thing

HRDC Freebies and Near-Freebies

The Harvard-Radcliffe Drama Club (HRDC) is an entirely student-staffed and student-run organization that produces a number of plays during the year. Most of the productions run for only a few weekends, maybe five to ten performances. But these are serious plays, e.g., David Mamet ("Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Oleanna"), musicals ("Legally Blonde, the Musical"), moderns from on and off Broadway ("Sunday in the Park with George"). How the students prepare for the performances, memorizing, rehearsing, singing, and hold down real course loads at a serious college, I cannot imagine. And these are not amateurish productions, either. Most of the plays we've seen, and most of the actors we've seen, have been first-rate. These are not like "community theater" productions. Yes, they are unpaid (amateur) but they certainly look professional. One is reminded of some of the notable actors that have come out of this group, for example, Jack Lemmon, John Lithgow, Tommy Lee Jones, Mira Sorvino, Natalie Portman, Elisabeth Shue. We go to these plays hoping to see the next John Lithgow or Natalie Portman. We have seen a couple actors who are just wonderful, playing multiple roles, drama and comedy and musical.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: most of these performances are either free or extremely cheap. For the free ones, you just reserve a seat by email and then show up fifteen minutes early.. For the non-free ones, there is a box office that sells physical tickets for a few dollars.

And they perform in some unusual venues. A lot of the free performances are at the Experimental Stage of the Loeb Drama Center, a small stage in the back that seats between forty and sixty. Some are on the main stage there, and cost a modest amount. Some are at a small theater at Radcliffe or at the Hasty Pudding. All of those are real theaters, with stages and backstage areas and all. The really strange venues include a converted swimming pool in a student residence (the pool leaked), and a residence library room filled with easy chairs and many dusty volumes. Regardless of the seating arrangements, all the performances have been terrific.

One last note: the biggest production we have seen was "Legally Blonde, the Musical" on the main stage at the Loeb. Excellent, by the way. The announcement before the show about turning off cell phones and not recording the show, you know, the usual stuff, was made by a voice that everyone recognized: John Lithgow. The audience actually applauded the announcement.