Arbogast spreads her theater wings at Colgate University

This summer, Colgate University student Charlotte Arbogast took on a paid position as the production stage manager for a series of five plays directed by Matias Umpierrez through LONEtheater productions.

Colgate University is funding more than 200 research ventures, including Ms. Arbogast’s position, ranging from the genealogy of Confucianism to the examination of exoskeletons in barnacles. Ms. Arbogast’s position is Colgate’s first research program in the theater discipline.

Ms. Arbogast, a dedicated theater major, lives in Wilton and attended Wilton High School for two years. She has earned Colgate’s Dean’s Award four times consecutively. She has been involved in many of the plays put on by Colgate’s theater program, including “A Mouthful of Bird” and “A Dream Play,” where she held the lead role. She acts as a technical assistant in the theater’s scene shop, is involved in her school’s mentoring program, and spearheaded the school’s craft club with a friend. She applied for this research position with LONEtheater at the end of last semester.

“Stage managing wasn’t something I thought I’d be able to do,” said Ms. Arbogast, who has been more acquainted with the acting side of theater throughout her college career. “It gave me another view of theater.”

Ms. Arbogast and the theater company’s mission statement call their brand of performance “site-specific theater.” Plays are put on for one person or one party, often in public places, and often have an interactive element. “Far,” one of the five performances that LONEtheater put on for the “undergroundzero Festival” between July 2 and July 25, began at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park and finished after actress Lily Narbonne led her audience to a mailbox a few blocks away. Audience members must print out an instruction sheet and hold it in a visible manner so the actors can discern whom exactly they are acting for. At the climax of the scene, which deals with a mother and a letter filled with unspoken truths regarding his father that she plans to mail to her son, the onlookers are given the letter and left with the choice of whether or not to mail it.

Five plays happened at once; while “Far” took place in Central Park, “Exodus” was set in the director’s apartment and “Witness” began in Bowling Green Station. The Clemente Sotovelev Cultural Center was outfitted to look like an abandoned building for “Pact” and audience members were led through the dressing rooms and backstage areas of a theater for “Amnesia.”

Most of the plays were put on eight times a day over six days, spread between two weekends, and each one was about 30 minutes long.

“Scheduling [was the hardest part] since there were five plays going on at once,” Ms. Arbogast said. “The actors had different schedules and they all needed to rehearse. There were issues of sharing spaces and things like that which required organization and communication.”

The position of stage manager was unusual for this project due to the public nature of many of the “stages” used. Ms. Arbogast figured out the blocking for each scene and was in charge of the props used, including writing the letters to audience members used in some of the performances. She also typed up rehearsal notes and performed odd jobs during rehearsals.

“There was no tech, so most of it was scheduling, getting props and just being there to help,” she said.

Ms. Arbogast is thrilled she was able to be involved with this project, and feels the experience has been an integral part of her training in theater.

“This was a unique opportunity, and I’m so glad that I took it!”