At Marist College, there are a great many clubs, 95 to be exact, that students participate in on a daily basis. Whether this be to receive those precious Priority Points to get good housing or simply for the love of the ideals presented in the club, it is clear to see that the Marist community feels that student clubs and organizations are an important part of college life. Of all the clubs on campus, however, one organization praises itself as the club with the most active membership of them all.
This club is the Marist College Club of the Theater Arts, or as it is most commonly known, MCCTA. Why is this organization such a force on campus you may ask? Well, a look into the club’s past and how it has evolved is the first step to answering this question.
MCCTA can trace its history back to the late 1950s, when, at the time, it was simply known as the Marist Theater Guild. It wasn’t until the mid-to-late 1970s that the club started to evolve. Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, Gerard A. Cox, was the catalyst for the advancement of the club over the next 40 years. He was, and still is, a lover of the theater arts and, so, decided to become the advisor to the club.
“Under his guidance, he allowed to club to grow and change,” said current Vice President of MCCTA, Curtis Brauner, who continued, “according to those who were at Marist during the time of Dean Cox, he really made the club a force on campus.”
So, what is it that makes MCCTA such a powerful force on campus today? Is it simply the intervention of one dedicated individual like Dean Cox, or is there more to it? Curtis Brauner continued to help shed some light on this question when told me, “MCCTA has always been a place that anyone could go to. That’s the point of theater. It’s meant to be a mirror of society. MCCTA is a place where anyone who needs a place to go, who doesn’t have another place they fit in, can go to find their niche. It’s a safe haven.”
Additionally, Professor John Roche, who was the President of MCCTA during the 1986-87 academic year, explained to me, “MCCTA draws in [people from] all walks of life. You don’t have to be a theater kid in order to enjoy it. It’s all about the different experiences that you have while active in this club. It provides an outlet for students to try something new, such as trying out for a show or giving acting a whirl.” It is for reasons like the ones noted by these members of the club, past and present, that MCCTA has one of the most active memberships of any club on campus.
However, these are not the only things to consider when pondering the status of MCCTA. According to Professor Matt Andrews, Associate Advisor of the club, “MCCTA is one of the most active clubs on campus. What I mean by that is look at the scope of what we produce in any one year. Think about what one show entails. Depending on the size of the show, take A Midsummer Night’s Dream for example, it has a cast of roughly 30 students, a crew of about 20. So that’s 50 students, all working on one show. Take that and multiply it by the seven to nine shows we produce in a year. This is why we are such a force.” These sentiments are supported by the 90-110 active members of the club per semester, as recorded by the Marist College club listings.
These numbers are hard to argue with and, the conclusions one can draw from the numbers are also evident from the opinions of other members of the club. When asked the same question, regarding why MCCTA is such a force on campus, current President of MCCTA, Kim Kenny explained, “Our membership is the main reason why. We have students who love the club and we have so many of them. This allows us to put on six, seven, eight productions a year, to provide entertainment for the people of our community, whether they love theater or not.” Clearly, there is a deep love shared by the members of the club, for their organization.
MCCTA has also grown dramatically in the past seven to ten years. This phenomenon is explained well by Professor Andrews, “Theater is as popular as it has ever been thanks to productions like Hamilton. It is one of those shows that breaks all pop culture barriers.” Professor Roche also echoed these same sentiments when he told me, “The arts are more important than they have ever been. Ever. In the whole world. We need the arts now more than ever. It’s a way of bringing words to life and I think that having this club is an amazing way for students to take part in something as big as that.” With such a testament to the arts coming from esteemed university professors, it is no wonder that a club so firmly dedicated to the arts, as MCCTA is, has such a powerful membership, all of whom are equally as dedicated to the arts as their professors.
So why is MCCTA such a huge deal? Is it the members who make up the club? Is it the dedication to the arts that is exemplified powerfully in its many shows each year? Could it be something simply innate to the nature of the people that advise and guide the club? Well, according to Professor Roche, “When you are a part of MCCTA, you learn skills you would never learn in the class room. Skills that can help you later in life, whether it be in a job or just life as a whole. You gain this knowledge through amazing, fun experiences. Theater is a great learning outlet, and I know its cliché, but you get bitten by the theater bug, and well, Marist has an infestation.”
Simply put, MCCTA isn’t a unique force on campus for any one reason. For all the searching that may be done into this matter, it seems that the answer is simple – MCCTA is a place that has a little bit of everything a person could need, with regard to the arts, and it is willing to share that passion, dedication, and friendship with anyone who finds themselves at the doorway to the Nelly Goletti Theatre.