Duquesne’s Red Masquers celebrate theatre and Sinatra

By: Corey Fischer | for The Duquesne Duke

Known across campus as Duquesne’s resident theatre company, the Red Masquers have big plans for this year and two exciting shows right around the corner.

Heading the troupe of young thespians is John Lane, a professor here in Duquesne’s own theatre department. An industry veteran, Lane has been with the department almost three decades and the advisor to the Red Masquers for the past few years.

Next up on the company’s agenda is its third annual Starlight Room Cabaret. Described as a sort of “supper club from the 1930s or 40s” by Lane, this year’s theme is Frank Sinatra. This one-night-only event is a celebration of Ol’ Blue Eyes and the songs that put him in the history books, like “My Way” and “New York, New York,” using the best vocal and instrumental talent Duquesne has to offer. This once-a-year night of food, music, dancing and singing is reminiscent of an era gone by and is happening this Sunday, Nov. 2 at 4 p.m. in the Union Ballroom.

Courtesy of Caitlin Young - The Duquesne Red Masquers, which was founded in 1914, are presenting the Starlight Room Cabaret this coming weekend.

Courtesy of Caitlin Young – The Duquesne Red Masquers, which was founded in 1914, are presenting the Starlight Room Cabaret this coming weekend.

Duquesne alum Sarah Murtha, who joined the Red Masquers during her years as an undergraduate, continued returning after graduation because of her connection to the program and what being a part of it all taught her.

“Lessons and skills that you learn here stick with you the rest of your life and carry over into other disciplines. It’s not just about theatre with us,” Murtha said.

Senior Molly Hamelin added that joining the Red Masquers gives students a wide variety of experiences in the theatre itself.

“I had no experience behind the scenes,” Hamelin said. “I acted in high school and that’s it. But now I’ve learned to do a ton of backstage stuff, from lighting to sound.”

The Cabaret is not the only thing the Red Masquers have on their agenda. Following the tribute to Frank Sinatra is a tribute to the playwrights here on Duquesne’s campus. For the 38th straight year, the Red Masquers are putting on their Premiere, where one act plays, all written by students with the occasional faculty or alumni submission, will be put on for all to see. These plays are directed, produced and acted by the students in the program. This student-run atmosphere is typical of the Masquers, and Lane says that while he may be the advisor, he is “purely a supervisor because the students do everything from lighting to sound to producing.”

These shows come at a time when the arts here at Duquesne are expanding exponentially. The construction of a new black-box style theatre capable of seating 120-150 patrons located next to the music school will allow the Masquers a permanent home and space to work. Lane said he is pleased with the theatre and cannot wait to work in it come the 2015-16 academic year.

Freshman Christian Sesek is very pleased with both the construction of the theatre and the expansion of the arts departments. He said that it is “very gratifying as an artist when people notice and love what you are passionate about and acknowledge that.

While the Red Masquers is one of two theatre groups here at Duquesne, the other being the Spotlight Theatre Group, they are the most diverse and liberal in terms of shows and genres. While the Spotlight Theatre Group only focuses on musicals and puts on one show a semester, the Red Masquers have made it their mission to do a number of shows per semester, with each one comprising of a different theme.

For those interested in joining the Red Masquers but may be on the fence, Mr. Lane advises to just “take the plunge and do it. There’s room for everyone here.” Those interested can log onto CampusLink and sign up or email Lane with any questions.

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