Anker: Atrium serves as meeting ground for theater artists

Marcie Anker takes readers on a “safari” through the Annenberg atrium.

Marcie Anker

Marcie AnkerMy name is Marcie Anker, and I’m addicted to the Discovery Channel. But, this isn’t one of those bad addictions – it’s a good addiction. Good addictions do exist, OK? I can stay awake into the wee hours of the morning watching “Planet Earth” or “Jungle Cats” knowing full well that I have to be in class in five short hours. But it’s so worth it.

I love the Discovery Channel so much that I’ve decided to create my own edition called, “Planet Theater: Atrium Safari Edition.” On this particular expedition, I’ll be taking you through the incredibly diverse habitat known as “The Atrium.” Now, some of you may have heard myths and tales of The Atrium, while others may have actually been brave enough to traverse the unpredictable terrain. I’m here to serve as your tour guide, to help you identify the different species that exist in this habitat and how to interact with the various species while keeping yourself safe and sane.

Let us begin. Ladies and gentlemen, please keep your arms and legs to yourselves, do not speak directly to or look directly at any creatures without permission, and lastly, and most importantly if you hear an inhabitant singing, do not, I repeat, do not, ask it to quiet down. I don’t often frequent The Atrium as much as I once did – the environment is constantly changing and, frankly, I just can’t keep up.

Throughout history, The Atrium of the former School of Communications and Theater – I really don’t know what it’s called now – served primarily as a gathering and feeding ground for students of all disciplines. However, the theater species hold the tightest control on the area. Thespians have no place to call home on the vast Temple campus, aside from the two stages. The third floor of Barton, the decrepit building that houses math and science students, is where all theater students are herded, forced to share only four classrooms. Because of this, a mass migration has occurred to The Atrium, where the thespians, much like Christopher Columbus, have claimed this previously unclaimed territory.

The general terrain of The Atrium is made up of an assortment of high and low tables, recently accompanied by several uncomfortable eyesore couches. Do not ever sit on the couches. The couches are for the lone wolves who have lost in the game of social Darwinism when it comes to securing a table. Being such a bustling environment, there obviously has to be a food source – Lucky Cup. Be sure to come to Lucky Cup in between classes, otherwise you risk being trampled to death during the feeding hour.

There are several distinct species that dominate and thrive in this Atrium environment, and shortly, I will teach you identification tricks to ensure your survival. The species all stem from the same tree, but branch in vastly different directions: actors, musical theater actors, directors, designers, stage managers, faculty and, if you’re lucky, you might even be able to spot one of the elusive playwrights.Sometimes, a brave film or journalism major will try to intermingle with the theater majors, but they aren’t fooling anyone.

Usually wielding a camera or recording device, these outsiders are easy to spot – although the film majors of the male variety do serve as satisfactory mating partners for the thespians. But these interlopers are few and far between, usually traversing The Atrium at a rapid speed, so as not to disturb the theater groupings. Good choice.

The easiest to identify, and perhaps the most dangerous of the groups, are the musical theater actors. Musical theater actors often move in packs, they have a strong sense of loyalty to one another, so if you mess with one MT, you ultimately will have to answer to the pack.

Often times, MTs can be identified by their profuse sweating and tight exercise clothing, revealing their strong, limber and flexible structures. The sweating can be attributed to the rigorous dance and movement training that the MTs undergo on a daily basis. However, the telltale characteristic of an MT is their voice, soaring above the voices of all the rest, often in song. Although The Atrium in no way resembles a stage, the MTs are always exercising their powerful voices among the others. And, as I said earlier, never, ever, complain about the noise or ask an MT to quiet down.

There is no wrath like the wrath of an angry MT. I should also mention that MTs are always dressed to the nines – when they aren’t sweating. You should compliment their colorful composition, they’ll appreciate flattery.

The actors, however, are trickier to identify. Like chameleons, the actors are able to blend and assimilate into nearly any group. Unlike the MT actors who move in packs, actors have a tendency to fly solo, so look for a loner at a table, not the couches. If you happen to notice a person sitting, muttering to him-or-herself, appearing to be clinically insane, be not afraid, it is most likely an actor memorizing lines.

Actors generally lug around abnormally large book bags and/or bags full of miscellaneous items that would seem useless to the outside world; these are props. Actors must carry their props with them wherever they go because an actor never knows when a prop will be needed. Props aren’t typically used as weapons; however, I have seen a case or two of prop-related violence.

Directors are often the observers. They watch and take in all of the events that take place in The Atrium and take note of people’s behavior.  If you feel someone’s eyes on you in The Atrium, chances are it’s not a stalker, but a director. Directors are very savvy, clever and astutely aware of their environment – they are hard to catch. The other species attempt to be on their best behavior in front of the directors, because the directors are ultimately the judges of the bunch.

Stage managers, too, are incredibly aware of their surroundings. Perhaps the most organized of The Atrium environment, the stage managers are also the most susceptible to fits of extreme anxiety and stress. The stage managers hold the weight and the problems of all of the other groups combined while trying to maintain a state of elegant composure. Stage managers often have the biggest hair because it holds all of the secrets of the theater department.

The designers are the ultimate survivors and have found a way not only to adapt to, but also to thrive in this environment. The designers have found secret coves to retreat to when The Atrium becomes too chaotic. Several coves on the outlying regions of The Atrium give refuge to designers of all mediums. Likewise, the faculty members have separated themselves from the masses. Above The Atrium on either side are breezeways where the faculty can stand above us commoners like watchdogs, saying to each other, “Everything the light touches is our kingdom.” We, as their servants, must look up and pay our daily homage to the faculty, the most evolved of us all.

Well, that’s all for today’s tour. If there is anything to take with you from this lesson, it’s this: Do not use the couches, do not tell an MT to be quiet and do not feed the actors.

Feed me.

Marcie Anker can be reached at

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