“The Trojan women do not dance,” Ryan Dowd wrote in the Nov. 20 edition of The Heights as he covered the latest theatrical production, The Trojan Women. “The BC production of The Trojan Women speaks to the gravity of the situation these women were placed in, bringing a compelling post-apocalyptic world to Robsham Theatre.” Robsham, as the central location for the theater department at Boston College and many main-stage productions, has seen the bleak world of these women and so many more.
Although Robsham was built in 1981, it was not named until 1985. With buildings on campus named after alumni who have long graduated from college, like congressman Tip O’Neill, a similar backstory is to be expected in regards to the naming of the theatre. This, however, is not the case. It is named after a former student, E. Paul Robsham, Jr., who passed away in the summer of 1983 following his freshman year at BC.
As reported in The Heights in 1985, this naming is a break from tradition, but a break that is “especially appropriate,” as former University President J. Donald Monan, S.J., declared in The Heights.
This naming was concerned with “judging the worth of people not by what they’ve done, but by who they are,” Monan said. He also said that BC had the “happiness of naming it [the theatre] for students,” and that such academic buildings exist for BC students.
Robsham Theatre has brought many productions to the student body of BC since it opened its doors. Amadeus was met with overall positive reviews in the Oct. 28, 1985 issue of The Heights, maybe more so for the newly-named venue than the talented actors. Garvin Snell wrote that it was a “pleasure to watch a performance in the newly dedicated E. Paul Robsham Jr. Theatre; it enhances almost any performance given there.”
Fall 2006 saw the dark world of Macbeth, which was “an overall triumph, as it brought Shakespeare’s themes to life in a very vivid manner,” as reported in the Nov. 20, 2006, issue of The Heights. The year 2010 saw the play Isn’t It Romantic come to life on the Bonn Studio Theater, a play that “possessed everything that a great play should include,” according to Krysia Wazny in the March 15 issue.
There have been many more productions, including Ring Around The Moon in 2000, Codemonkey in 2009, and Into the Woods in 1999. Besides theatrical productions, various dance and musical groups at BC, like BC Bop!, have performed on the stage.
Such productions have an available and central location in Robsham. The facility is composed of a 591-seat main theatre and the black-box Bonn Studio Theater, which holds 150 to 200 people and is used for classes and workshops, as well as a green room, scenery and costume shops, dressing rooms, a design-classroom, and faculty and staff offices for the theatre department.
Robsham offers those who enter its walls more than just its facilities, however: the theatre gives students a space dedicated to the presentation of performing arts. Robsham Theatre, a department within the Division of Student Affairs and partner with the academic theatre department, seeks to produce dramatic arts programs for the BC community and hopes to further the learning and education of students at BC, as stated on their website, because the arts are a “crucial element of educating the whole student in the Jesuit and Catholic mission for higher education.”
With the high-quality productions that are put on each season at Robsham, it is easy to see that the performing arts play an important role in the the education and experience of many BC students.
The fall semester’s season finished with the productions of The Trojan Women and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a production which was considered “a resounding success and as promised in the show’s outstanding opening number, [provided] the audience with something familiar, something peculiar, and another something for everyone,” according to Rhoda Morrison in the Oct. 22, 2014 issue of The Heights. The spring will bring four productions: Shakespeare Anthology Project, One Flea Spare, Next Fall, and The Tempest.
With its history of productions and student collaboration, Robsham is truly home for some students on campus and a space for the BC community to step into the lives, emotions, and stories of others.
Featured Image courtesy of the Burns Library Collection