Suffolk’s Performing Arts Office (PAO) strives to make the arts accessible to the university’s community, disregarding experience or background.
“We make the opportunities available to you,” said Kathy Maloney, associate director of the PAO. “We help people achieve the things they want to do, whether it’s to produce a show, act in a show or learn about tech.”
The PAO is currently home to all 11 performing arts groups on campus: Seriously Bent (improv comedy), The Ramifications (acapella), Rhythm (contemporary music), the Jazz Ensemble, Dance Company (jazz, lyrical, ballet, tap, hip-hop, lyrical, modern dance), Wicked! (hip-hop team), Bhangra (Indian cultural dance), the step team, Voices of Zion (gospel choir), Rampage (show choir), and the Techies Union, which works behind the scenes on design and tech.
Each of those 11 groups have been around at least a year, some for much longer. Additions on the way include a new classical music group and a sketch comedy group.
“A key part of PAO is each group was started by students,” said Maloney. “For one, students came to us saying, ‘I really want to do improv. How can I make that happen?’”
The PAO helps a group through its first year, and if they have the numbers and the group sustains, they hire a professional director to work with the group. While everything remains student-run, the professional helps to improve skills and build progress.
Maloney said this spring will be a busy time for performing arts groups. As Seriously Bent performs weekly shows in residence halls and other groups perform around campus and the city, the Ramifications have a show planned for March 6 and Rampage has an evening of song and food on March 8. Wicked! performs on March 22 and the Dance Company on March 29.
The office also puts on at least five shows per year. The Fall Fest variety show and murder mystery dinner theater already happened, and Shakespeare in Hollywood will be February 23-25. (All shows are free and open to the public, with the exception of dinner theater.)
Last Friday was the second annual “Suffolk Idol” in which contestants entered the first round singing a song of their choice and a select few moved on to the second round to sing the national anthem. Freshman John Corrado won the title and will be singing the national anthem at the February 15 Celtics game.
The last two PAO shows, to be performed for incoming students at their orientation sessions, are “Stew” and “Acting Out.”
Stew is written and produced specifically for incoming students. With this year being Alphabet Stew, a song, dance, sketch, or monologue is created for each letter of the alphabet.
Acting Out is peer theater, or “edutainment,” as Maloney says. A variety of sketches are put together to raise awareness and get students talking about things they will experience entering college. Topics include drinking, safe sex, domestic abuse, diversity, and roommate situations.
At the end of March, the PAO will team up with SGA for the popular ticket series; the tickets will be for Les Miserable.
“Offering tickets at a discount is a way to make the arts accessible to everyone,” said Maloney. “[PAO] staff serves as a reference. We’re all into theater and it’s all what we know how to do.”
The PAO also houses the music practice room on the fourth floor of Donahue.
“If there’s something in the performing arts you want to do and don’t see it on campus, come see us,” said Maloney. “We will help you find it or help you start it up.”