Dramsoc’s Keith Thompson lifts the lid on the society and offers an insight into the work of UCD’s beloved dramatists
As Dramsoc prepares for its annual awards ceremony, the DAs – a night where the entire society pats itself on the back and drinks itself into oblivion – it may be interesting to reflect on the year and assess this society’s individuality and its place within the college as a whole.
Let’s look at some numbers: 135 performances of 30 different shows, six Irish Student Drama Association nominations, five Freshers’ Projects, three major charity events, three autonomous festivals, one Leaving Cert production, and in the region of 30 different workshops. The bare statistics are impressive, but what may be more startling is the fact that any day you’re in college you can see not one, but two different pieces of theatre at a very low cost.
Numbers, however, are never the whole story and Dramsoc, as a society, is not universally liked. A piece of toilet graffiti in the arts block basement may be illustrative. “What do Dramsoc do?” asks an anonymous egesting student, a question he himself answers with “Sit around under the stairs wanking and talking shite.” The gentleman has a point. On the face of it Dramsoc do a lot of sitting around under the stairs talking nonsense. In my first year in college, though I was particularly interested in acting, I wouldn’t go near the place, for precisely this reason. And one can sympathise with the tormented souls in the computer rooms whose study is often interrupted by a wannabe troubadour murdering some Ray LaMontagne under the stairs, or the shouts from a small game of rugby played with an empty Coke bottle. Hopefully a solution to this problem may have been found in the conversion of the Dramsoc office beside the Trap into a recreational area.
Should one be brave enough to venture past this obstacle, and I feel no shame in saying one should, there is a different world altogether waiting on the other side, equally as loud but infinitely more enjoyable. The theatre itself, on any given day, is always a hive of activity. As the majority of productions require some kind of set, one of the production managers or their numerous assistants – the greater part of whom are engineers – will be hammering, sawing or painting. There will invariably be someone up a rickety wooden ladder adjusting lights or hanging drapes, while actors will be rehearsing scenes, getting into costume or just helping out with anything that needs to be done. The open-door policy initiated by this year’s committee invites anyone and everyone to enter the theatre – and once inside, gently informs them of a flat that needs painting or a drape that needs hanging.
And it’s this point that needs particular attention. The dedication, passion and commitment of so many members is startling. Many people work long hours in the theatre, as much as most jobs, for practically no reward – no money, no name in lights, nothing but grief from the parents – purely because they love it. Plays are often rehearsed, designed, built, lit and performed – all within two weeks. Every show performed, besides the cast and the director, require about ten others behind-the-scenes personnel. Each week, almost without fail, these positions are filled and all for the simple goals of having a laugh and creating something interesting and new. I doubt whether there are other places that can conceivably cater for every single aspect of creativity. Whether your talents and interests lie in art or music, graphic design, set design or construction, lighting, writing, directing, acting, dancing, singing… there is something there for you.
It may be useful to put all this in perspective. In a huge university where (despite all their protestations to the contrary) the authorities have proved a significant factor in advancing student alienation and discontent, the college societies are trying desperately to uphold John Henry Newman’s belief that college work should never get in the way of your education: “If then a university is a direct preparation for this world, let it be what is professes… We cannot possibly keep them (students) from plunging into the world, with all its ways and principles and maxims, when their time comes; but we can prepare them against what is inevitable; and it is not the way to learn to swim in troubled waters, never to have gone into them.”
It is impossible to qualitatively assess the importance of societies to student life. Society alumni always come back and say college constituted the best years of theirs. Maybe they did, and maybe they will for most of us. It certainly seems that way for those in Dramsoc, and as the DAs approach it is difficult to begrudge them that little pat on the back.