By Aaron Samuels ’20
What a weekend! Between Friday and Saturday, I had the pleasure of seeing two performances at the Hop.
It’s one thing to walk into a theater and be treated to a polished performance, with actors or musicians crisp and confident with their well-rehearsed presentation. If this is your cup of tea, the Hop provides these experiences on a regular basis.
But seeing art in its working stages, hearing the thoughts and concerns of artists about their work—these are privileges usually reserved for the privacy of rehearsal spaces. Not this weekend. Not at this arts center.
On Friday night, Martha Redbone, a multi-award-winning American roots musician, gave a performance of Bone Hill: The Concert. This autobiographical, musical journey details Redbone’s family’s history in Appalachia. She and a band of seven others sang and played their way through over 100 years of Redbone’s Native and African-American heritage.
All of the performers besides Martha herself, who needed no crutches to tell her life story, sat with their scripts and music in hand. Staging, too, was minimal, with most actors remaining seated for the duration of the show.
Before the performance, I along with 25 other first-year Arts Ambassadors students had the opportunity to hear Martha speak. She said that the performance is still a work in progress. Even with her cool demeanor, the glint in her eye was apparent as she alluded to the tremendous possibility her score provided for a fully staged and dynamic musical. She had a similar energy and passion as she performed Friday night; without having heard Martha speak beforehand I would have had no idea that the piece was not in its final form.
After the show, audience members were invited to participate in a question-and-answer session where Martha explained both the process of her work and divulged into details of her fascinating life, to clarify and deepen the audience’s understanding of the complex concert.
On Saturday I headed to the intimate Bentley Theater to see Orwell in America. This play depicted a fictional book tour taken by George Orwell across the United States and his evolving relationship with the tour’s publicist.
Before the show began, the play’s director and Dartmouth Professor of Theater Peter Hackett made some brief remarks. He spoke about the play’s impending run in New York City and the wonderful fact that the show was very much still in a flexible form. That night’s audience would be the first to see a brand-new scene and a new actor’s debut in the play (a change especially significant in a three-person show).
After the show, the playwright Joe Sutton, a Dartmouth professor of theater; the play’s actors, one of whom was another professor and the other a Broadway veteran; and Hackett came onstage for a question-and-answer session where fascinated audience members got to ask questions about the show’s process, the actors’ choices and the playwright’s intention.
These two performances encouraged audience members to not only think about issues presented in the works but about the process of art. The quality of questions asked in Q&A sessions following performances both on Friday and Saturday night quickly revealed the insight of Hop audiences—and their comfort communicating intelligently with artists.
As the arts center of a world-class college, where innovation, learning, and creativity are all encouraged, the Hop is a place that not only brings in incredible entertainment but one that models the College’s intellectual creativity. The regularity of the unique opportunities to interact with artists and to view work in early forms reveals just how special a place this arts center is. And I, for one, am honored and thrilled to be able to spend four more years enjoying all that the Hop has to offer.
I’m a ’20 from Westport, CT. On campus, I am proudly involved with the Dodecs, one of Dartmouth’s a capella groups, and the Handel Society. As an Arts Ambassador, I cannot wait to experience firsthand all of the wonderful treats in store at the Hop for this season!