As students settled into the cushy, red chairs of Cloak Theater, sophomores Caro Granner and Samantha Torres began Fall Term planning meetings for their new club, Lawrence Inclusive Theatre (LIT). Over the course of an hour, these two co-presidents and the rest of the group exuded eagerness as they covered a wide range of topics regarding the club’s future plans. Co-presidents and club members alike shared ideas back and forth about activities that the club hopes to host over Fall Term to draw both theater and non-theater community members together, and to form committees within the club to better run and publicize the new organization.
From the start of the meeting, it was clear that this group was excited to work with fellow Lawrentians to create a friendly and, as their name emphasizes, inclusive theatre-making experience for anyone interested, regardless of experience. “The more community that we have here, the stronger we’ll be,” Granner reminded everyone as the club wrapped up their meeting. All present had contributed to the discussion, many with ideas for outreach to other Lawrence clubs and organizations that might wish to co-host events or participate in some way with LIT.
LIT is new to campus this year. However, Torres explained that it had been an idea in the making for some time already. The conversation began as a casual group chat the previous term between several people about issues regarding a lack of diversity in theatre. An interest in bringing attention to these issues, while also allowing everyone to have access to the fun of theatre was quickly established, and ideas for a real organization began to form. Though the club has not yet had the chance to be approved by the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC), LIT is a branch of Performers Enhancing Diversity at Lawrence (PEDAL) and is already well established. Speaking on the formation of the club, Torres mentioned the support of many professors who helped to make the birth of LIT a reality. “They were all willing to work with us, and because of that we were able to say ‘Wow, this is doable, this isn’t us fighting [the Conservatory] or us versus them. We just have to start utilizing the resources that we have.’” Seeing that the Cloak Theater was hardly in use on weekends, Torres and Granner decided that this was the opportunity to make the club a reality by hosting meetings there. The result is a group of engaged students who gather to plan future open mics, readings and other events which invites the Lawrence community to participate in theater together.
While LIT originated from discussions on the lack of People of Color (POC) casting in theatre, Torres emphasized that LIT is meant for everyone. “It’s not just about diversity in terms of race,” she explained. “It’s about diversity in terms of the types of people we represent, so we’ll include the LGBTQ+ community, POC, invisible identities and other groups you don’t just think of off the bat.” Granner expressed a similar sentiment, saying “Theatre is community-driven work, and we want our work in theater to be for the Lawrence community at large, not any kind of bubble of people or just select people.” Networking with a wide variety of organizations to help achieve this inclusivity was clearly an important aspect of the LIT meeting, as several participants offered to contact other clubs and groups about potential collaborations.
Torres reassured anyone interested in the organization who may not feel that they are cut out for acting that “there are different levels of theatre, you don’t have to come onstage to just act, there’s plenty of other things that are available to people. The way we want to shape our organization is that you don’t need experience to be a part of theatre, you just have to be willing to be there.” Torres and Granner agreed emphatically on the importance of having people of all varieties from the community join in this effort: “We need you. We need you to make this happen. We need people to support us.”
The nature of a club such as Lawrence Inclusive Theatre is beneficial on many fronts. While LIT intends to bring awareness to the issues of the lack of diversity in theatre, it also serves simply as a place of community spirit for anyone interested in some aspect of theatre arts. LIT encourages people to attend future events and join the organization to continue this work, but its main purpose is to benefit its members by creating a safe and open space for exploring theatre. Granner concluded her thoughts on Lawrence Inclusive Theatre’s mission by stating, “We also want to support you, we want to offer you resources to do the kind of work that you want to do and to really bring as many people into our efforts as theatre makers as possible, because the more the merrier!”
Anyone interested in joining LIT should contact Caro Granner and Samantha Torres, or attend one of their regular meetings in the Cloak Theater in the Music-Theatre Building next to the Chapel.