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Spotlight performance kicks off student productions

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By Haley Clegg

Suffolk University’s new studio theatre hosted its first student production on Friday, the inauguration of the new Spotlight Performances series, “Just Alright.”

The show, performed in front of a full house, which included department chair Marilyn Plotkins and the play’s writer Dylan Amerena, ran for roughly fifteen minutes and was followed by a lively reception in the faculty space upstairs.

Student actors Andrew Agnes, Sam Deans and Ellie Brind’Amour comprised the six-character cast.

The first use of the new stage punctuated a long moving process for the department from Archer to Sawyer, and showcased the improvements of the Sullivan Studio Theatre over the previous space in the Archer building.

The new theatre occupies the 11th floor of the Sawyer Building, adjacent to other classrooms and one floor below the theatre department’s faculty offices. In Archer, the theatre department was all one floor. One concern moving forward was the accessibility of faculty members to the students according to Communications Director Rosalind Beauchemin. The first few weeks of the fall semester proved these concerns unwarranted.

“It’s been great to see how connected students have remained to faculty and staff,” said Beauchemin in a recent interview with The Suffolk Journal.

Beauchemin recalls walking into the construction zone on her first day of work at Suffolk University last winter. The mosaic floor and high ceilings that previously made up the ballroom gave her an impression of the history of the space, which was once a ballroom for an alternative men’s club in the early 20th century.

Now, with new equipment as well as equipment salvaged from the C. Walsh Theatre after the move, the theatre department prides itself on having one of the best equipped black box theatres in Boston, Beauchemin said.

The theatre’s seating capacity ranges from 51 to 61, depending on the position of the riser system. The seating arrangements can be changed to fit an arena style, in which the audience surrounds the stage, or thrust style, an extended stage flanked by audience members on three sides, to accommodate different productions.

Technical Director Steve McIntosh notes that in the old theatre, crewmembers in the lighting booth had no direct view of the stage, instead looking through a monitor with a live feed of the theatre. The new lighting box is set above the audience, with touchscreen controls for lighting and sound, and a clear view of the action in the theatre.

“It’s kind of night and day, the difference in what we can do here,” said McIntosh  in a recent interview with The Journal.

McIntosh also says the theatre’s green room was designed with the double purpose of use as a common area for students to meet, work and relax between classes. The fully furnished room has outlets with USB ports, adjacent dressing rooms, and a callboard to display department news and events.

Several theater department classes, including Directing I, Playwriting I, Broadway Dance and Stagecraft, also meet in the new space, dubbed the Sullivan Studio Theatre for the late Suffolk alumni and donor Quinton J. Sullivan.

Department chair Marilyn Plotkins remembers Sullivan coming to Suffolk from Arlington Catholic High School in 1982, working on numerable student productions when no dedicated theatre department existed.

After Sullivan graduated, he remained in touch with Plotkins, eventually creating and overseeing a fund in his name to fuel the theatre department. The two remained in contact until Sullivan’s untimely passing in 2015, at only 51 years old.

Plotkins had already planned to name the school’s studio theatre in his honor, but now had even more reason to do so.

“When he died, my first thought was, here is a Suffolk student who understands how important theatre is to this school,” she said.

With the opening of the new theatre, Plotkins was touched by the way students and faculty embraced the naming of the theatre, even when they had no direct relationship with the late Sullivan.

Plotkins also expressed her pride in the new Spotlight series, praising Director Erica Lundin and Amerena for their courage in putting on the first show in the new space. The success and continued sense of community helps validate the move to a new building, when a long history in Archer loomed behind the department.

“I thought I would hate being here,” Plotkins said. “I love it here.”

The Sullivan Theatre will continue to showcase the Spotlight Performances, along with Fall Showcase productions of “Salem,” “Déjà Vu” and “Queer,” from October 6-9.

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Spotlight performance kicks off student productions