The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Margaret Lawrence
Ms. Margaret Lawrence
Program Director, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College

Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College
Presenter Interview
Pioneering the role of the university-based arts center, The Hopkins Center for the Arts in New Hampshire, USA 
Active for over 50 years, The Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College is one of the pioneers of the now numerous university-based arts centers in North America. Providing the performances by various college ensembles as well as productions by leading international artists and companies and commission works, often created in residencies, the Center seeks to play an important role as a cultural hub of the community. The Center’s program director, Margaret Lawrence, is known as one of the foremost presenters in the USA. She spoke with us about the role of the university-based arts center and the many programs she and the Center are involved in.
(Interview: Yoko Shioya, Artistic Director, Japan Society)

Hopkins Center belongs to Dartmouth College. In Japan, a theater belonging to, or owned by a university would give the impression that it should be a facility for student activities. But in the U.S., many first-class theaters in many cities and states are actually university theaters run by professional presenters and presenting world-class productions to general public. So, I would like to ask you about the background and history of the Hopkins Center, and how the Center’s structure, programming and operations are related to Dartmouth College.
The Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College (HOP) was built in 1962. It was at the very beginning of the wave of major interdisciplinary art centers being built in America on college campuses.
  In North America, the majority of major arts presenters are actually based on College campuses. The support structure in this country fairly rarely includes municipal-based art centers. And for that reason campus-based art centers have really grown to be many of the leading arts-presenting institutions. The campuses see their role in their community as obviously not only teaching and inspiring their own students but also one of functioning as a cultural hub of the community they are in.

So in other words, before 1960, there were not arts center like those on campuses?
There were some arts organizations based on college campuses, such as Cal Performances at UC Berkeley, which is more than 100 years old. But the idea of creating one that was multi-disciplinary was not around until the big influx of buildings in the sixties, and we were on the very leading edge of that. Then, getting more into the role of a multi-disciplinary center rather than just campus-oriented, we predated the Los Angeles Music Center and Lincoln Center in New York City. In fact our building was the architectural prototype for the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center because it was by the same architect. And ours was built a year before it.
  So we came in the beginning of a daring kind of a grand experiment of placing an arts center in a community on a college campus, having an arts center that is more than just a theater; having a theater, galleries, and rehearsal spaces, and a film program—all these multiple aspects to it. That is something that we were one of the prototypes for.
  As for the relationship with the campus and the community, we are a part of Dartmouth College. I am a Dartmouth College employee. But we, HOP’s staff, are not faculty, we are not a part of any of the academic departments; but we are arts professionals who are College employees and report directly to the provost of the College. We have academic departments in our building: the Department of Theater, Department of Film and TV Studies, Department of Music, and Department of Studio Art; they are all “tenants” of the Center. But we are much more than just building supervisors for the academic departments, because there is deep collaboration with them all the time. Also, we promote student productions and student concerts.

How does the collaboration between you and academic departments take place? Do faculty members approach you with requests to book schedule times for certain artists or companies to present works at HOP?
I would love to work that way. But it often happens the other way around. I have an idea and then go to the academic department. As an example, we are working on a three-year project, a cross-campus/community programming initiative, which has involved the Theater Department. With a “Creative Campus Grant” provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, we’ve been spending three years looking at one theme, through the “eyes of an artist.” The program is named Class Divide. The Divide it refers to is the divide between upper class and lower/working class. There is a big divide in this country, and its economy, a socio-economic divide.
  Part of the project is that we commissioned a playwright/performer, Anne Galjour, to write a new play based on the experiences of people in our region, people of all classes. (*The premiere of this work, You Can’t Get There From Here was in November 2008 at HOP). That has involved bringing in the playwright a handful times in the last two years.
  As Anne began her research, her process involved talking one-on-one and also to circles of people with stories—in the community as well as on the campus. For example, she sat with a group of girls, asking them like, “What is ‘class’? What was the first time you met someone you felt was from different class? What were your fears? What are your secret thoughts when you think of people with money, or without money?” Lots of people and students were involved in this personally. Anne also could give classes and playwriting workshops on class in Dartmouth. Many such artists were coming and going. Then, last year we presented her work as a work-in-progress: no set, and the actor holding the script. We did two sold-out shows of that. Each night the audience could join in a discussion with Anne and talk about what they saw and what they thought about. Students were there, too.
  I was the lead commissioner of this play. Then I tried to get the Theater Department to think of a way that they could be a part of this initiative, bugging them, “Can you think of something other than workshops to do in terms of ‘Class Divide’?”
  As a result, this year, they are doing a student production of The Grapes of Wrath, because it is about poverty and unionization, and that is about “Class Divide.” So now they were a part of my initiative. They chose to do that to be a part of it. (*Performance of The Grapes of Wrath at HOP was February 18-28, 2009)
  So, many of our successful collaborations in programming are informal and based on human relationships involving common interests and excitement. I have developed personal relationships with faculty in the Theater Department. So I knew what they would like. With the Music Department, however, we have a more formal relationship. Each year we allow the department to request schedule time for three different performing groups and we bring each one in and do week-long residencies. It’s their choices but we are the producer.
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