Finding Their Light

UMBC’s Department of Theatre takes center stage at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts – and extends the university’s impressive legacy in college theatre’s biggest annual festival.

Greggory Schraven

Washington, D.C. – It’s 7 a.m. and a pickup truck pulls up outside the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as the purples and pinks of a May dawn fade into morning daylight. Inside the truck is the entire set for the UMBC Department of Theatre’s production of Lynn Nottage’s play Las Meninas.

It’s going to be a big day for the students, faculty and staff gathered at this early hour to prepare for UMBC’s appearance at the American College Theatre Festival (ACTF). But before the cast performs before a sold-out Terrace Theatre 13 hours from now, there’s a truck that needs to be unloaded. And a set to build. And a show to rehearse. And all of it accomplished on an unfamiliar stage.

The first hurdle has already appeared. A broken freight elevator means that the pieces of associate professor of theatre Elena Zlotescu’s dynamic set must be taken up bit by bit through the Kennedy Center’s standard elevators.

Greggory Schraven ’97, the department’s technical director, is already rallying his bleary-eyed troops from the back of the pickup truck. “God gave you muscles as well as good looks,” Schraven says to one student without a piece of the set in hand.

Director Eve Muson clucks like a mother hen over cast members feeling the crush of pollen on this warm spring day. Other students hope for a glimpse of Broadway legend Bernadette Peters, who is rehearsing for a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies elsewhere in the building.

Read the full story in the Summer 2011 issue of UMBC Magazine.

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