On January 18th, 2023, the Department of Contemporary Theater and Art had the fortunate opportunity to travel to New York City. For one day, theatre and art students went up to New York City to see Broadway shows, go to art museums, and witness the bustling life of the Big Apple. But how did this all come together?
Dr. Coltrin, previous Chair of the Art Department and assistant professor of art, and kb saine, Director of the Contemporary Theatre Studies program, joined together to make this unique experience possible for their students. While talking about the creation of this trip, it was clear that both professors wanted what was best for the students.
Since both departments frequently looked for ways to connect, it was kb who started looking for productions that represented the art life on Broadway. Then, during the middle of December, kb talked to Dr. Coltrin about the chance to see a show called The Collaboration, directed by Anthony McCarten, an on-Broadway production. This play was about Andy Warhol and Jean-Michael Basquiat, two artists who worked together and grew friendships while dealing with their interests.
Dr. Coltrin and kb saine thought it would be an excellent opportunity to show the visual art and theatre students a show that some were familiar with and others not.
“As the art history teacher, I knew he would be particularly interested in the Warhol-Basquiat relationship, and I knew that would tie into what he taught,” Saine stated, “We haven’t been able to pull off a trip in the fall, so I reached out to Dr. Coltrin at the end of last semester and was like ‘This will be the first week of school. What do you think?’ He was like, ‘Well, let’s figure it out.’ He and Jackie helped me make it all make sense,”
With the help of their Administrative Assistant, Jacquelyn Fluker, they spread the word across the two departments, and fifty students went along for the ride. Many of the seats were first come, first serve, then with many taken, students were allowed to bring their friends and family.
Sikara Sokel, a junior and painting major, who attended this trip, voiced her excitement after hearing the news of the journey coming to be.
“It was a really good price and opportunity, and I figured that an opportunity like this does not come around super frequently. I am not always going to be able to drop everything to go to New York on a Wednesday, so I might as well do it while I can,” she said.
Two theatre major students, Kayla Davis, a freshman, and Sarah Ward, a sophomore, said how excited they were to get the chance to go to New York during the week.
Kayla said, “I thought it would be a great opportunity to experience professional productions and watch professional actors. And to experience a big city like NYC. I expected it to be pretty crowded and busy, with lots of traffic; I expected to get lost a few times.”
“The main reasons I decided to go on the trip was to see two wonderful professional productions and to spend non-rehearsal and school time with my friends and fellow artists,” Sarah emphasized, “I was really expecting, not to sound cheesy, to immerse myself in art and culture in a place that I love with people that I love. Also, to get lost. Thankfully, I achieved all those things besides getting lost and wandering aimlessly.”
With the group arriving outside the building, the motion to see The Collaboration was in full effect. Most, if not all of the students, were thoroughly impressed and glowing with excitement after seeing the show. Dr. Coltrin was the most pleased after he heard some students talking to him about what they had thought.
“As a teacher, I like my students thinking about art in different ways, and so the chance for them to think about these two artists who I regularly teach in my classes and I’ve exposed my students to get them to think about it in a new way was exciting,” explained Dr. Coltrin.
Sikara gave her insight into what she thought of the production.
“I love live theatre, so I was excited to be able to see another show in a professional environment,” she said.
The group had seen The Collaboration at the matinee show, which meant they could disperse and go on their separate ways to do what they wanted afterward. In addition, some students were in New York for the first time.
“I have never been to New York, so I was so excited to have the chance to visit, but it definitely would not have been as much fun without my friends!” Kayla reminisced, “This trip gave me pretty good insight into what to expect. There are many people, and everyone is moving much faster than in smaller towns like Shepherdstown. It is hard to go slow and enjoy anything in New York City.”
Then, some said that they had been here before this trip.
“This was not my first time in New York; I went once in 2018 to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, once in 2019 to see Beautiful: the Carol King musical, and this trip in 2023, to see The Collaboration and Little Shop of Horrors. For the record, I loved my experience and the show I saw each time I went,” Sarah Ward explained.
As Dr. Coltrin puts it, ninety-five percent of college campuses cannot get to New York in five hours or less. On top of that, they don’t have a unique connection between their art and theatre departments. So, this was not just any typical New York trip; this trip was a memorable trip that came to be between two dedicated professors with the thought of opening a new door to students.
Throughout the day, groups of students went out and did numerous things with their friends. Exploring the city as the day turned into night.
“My group went to the Museum of Modern art before seeing The Collaboration. Then, after the show, we went to the Museum of Art and Design. I have been to MoMA before, so I knew what to expect. Still, the Museum of Art and Design was a cool experience,” Sikara stated, “I was more excited to spend a day with my friends. I am not a big city person, so I was anxious about being in such a highly populated place. Still, I knew it would be fun since I was with a group of my friends.”
“My group mostly just walked around the city and tried to take everything in. we went in a few shops and stopped by Central Park,” Kayla said, “I would have liked to see more of New York City. Unfortunately, I did not really see much besides Broadway and some of Central Park. There are seemingly endless things to do there. If I have a chance to go again, I will try to create more of an itinerary and find more places I would like to see.”
Sarah explained, “One of my favorite things to do when visiting New York is to visit a shop called “Theater Circle Gifts.” Every time I visit, I purchase a script and score from their shop. If anyone cares, I bought the script for Company on this trip. My friends and I also visited Central Park and took some really nice pictures. If I had more time, perhaps next time I visit, I would go to the Modern Museum of Art. The only reason my friends and I did not go in was because we missed the time cut-off to buy tickets.”
As a bonus, kb and some of her students saw an off-Broadway production called Little Shop of Horrors, directed by Michael Mayer.
kb explained, “The musical was added on. Dr. Coltrin asked if we wanted to see a second show, and of course, I said yes. The goal was The Collaboration; we got lucky with Little Shop.”
The students were all mesmerized during and after the show ended. Some said that the “attention to detail was incredible,” and others said it was a “well-produced, highly conceptualized show” and could not wait to see what was in store.
By the time the group had to leave to head back to campus, everyone had a fun and exciting time overall. Some make memories with their friends and family, and some enjoy the adventure they have gone through. Now comes the big question: will there be another opportunity like this in the future?
Both professors say yes!
kb saine explains, “Yes, we might even do one this semester, but there will at least be one every year. The only reason it has not happened in the past years was because of Covid. This was an exceptional opportunity, so it was up and back in one day instead of an overnight trip because we usually take an overnight trip. I do not think we will try to do an up-and-back in one day again, but we usually plan further in advance. This was just a very specific opportunity, and the show only ran for a short amount of time.”
Dr. Coltrin picking up from what kb had said, “One of the things that kb and I have talked about as well now that we have a thriving theatre program and we have more student demand is to make two trips, one in the fall and one in the spring. So I hope this model is the exception to the norm in that we had to plan it so quickly, but I hope that we will figure out a way to get our students there whenever we see opportunities like this.”
Those in the theatre and art department who did not get the chance to go this round have no fear because Dr. Coltrin and professor kb saine are planning another memorable trip coming soon!