Halloween is a time for pumpkins, witches, tricks, and treats. This year, however, I learned that one of the best treats that you can receive on Halloween is using this spooky date for a cause bigger than candy corn and caramel apples. Headed by our student run theater organization Upstage, a group of CCU students spent our All Hallows' Eve trick or treating for the homeless!
This year, the faculty has begun to emphasize using theater as a "means of social change." So when the university announced they would be opening a food bank in student housing for hungry families in the Conway/Myrtle Beach community, Upstage (of which I am vice-president) decided it would be a great place to lend a hand! One of our wonderful professors Robin Russell kindly opened up her home and friendly neighborhood to us. She put flyers in mailboxes with promises of song and dance from the theater kids if everyone prepared a few canned goods to be collected for a good cause.
And the response was overwhelming! Because Halloween night was also preview for our third Mainstage show, A Midsummer Night's Dream, I arrived slightly late to the scene after completing my backstage make-up duties. By the time I arrived, members were already stockpiling the back of an SUV. Then, with multicolored lightsabers (a gift from Robin- to light the way and to be able to find each other's groups!) and bags in hand, the troops split up and scoured the neighborhood.
When first knocking on a door we would often get crazy looks (i.e. "Aren't you a little old to be trick or treating?") but after explanation, residents ran to their cupboards or leapt to their feet to hand us items that they had already set aside. Porches with candy bowls and "take one" signs also stuck bags of non-perishables a few feet away for us to take without a doorbell ring. And… yes. We did have to sing for people. It just so happened that most of us trick or treaters were in Robin's production of The Rocky Horror Show that closed a few weeks ago. So we did the time warp again… and again… and again… to the delight of the neighbors, many of whom had actually seen the production and were so excited to meet Brad and Janet off of the stage.
Although it was a school night, we still had an entire trunk full to donate by the end of the event (check the picture!). After some awesome homemade chips and dip, refreshments, and a tour of the house, the night was over. I can honestly say it was one of the most magical and rewarding Halloweens I've ever had. Not only was it a blast to be with my friends and be (somewhat) using our theatrical talents, but we were actually doing something worthwhile for our community. And we have, hopefully, established a good tradition for years to come!
As the department continues to discover ways to help the world at large with our art, I hope to investigate this concept on a personal level and through Upstage. Next semester we will continue two more well-known community outreach events, the Vagina Monologues and Relay for Life. But is there more to be done? I have only barely skimmed the surface of this exploration. A few entries down the road I may delve deeper into these ideas. It's definitely not something to learn overnight or to even accomplish in one's lifetime, but I've got to start somewhere.
I recently wrote a paper for my non-realism class about Theater of the Oppressed and Boal's work, and- although that's a whole other subject completely- it's worth discussing how the craft could change the lives of others beyond simply performing a musical or play on a big stage for all to see. I'm sure most of my readers have been a part of fundraisers or charity events that relate to the theater. Please, share thoughts, comments, and your own stories!