Take a break from basketball season and support our theater department

The drama of the current UK men’s basketball season may have tried your nerves, but that’s a good thing. While our university is well known for its court savvy and tradition of hoops excellence, it also sits in a position to be a cultural centerpiece for the state and, in fact, the whole Southeast.

Big Blue Country is a place every Kentucky kid wants to go for the excitement of basketball. But since our team has had its share of ups and downs this year, maybe we can turn our heads and dollars to another place on campus.

Do you know what Guignol is? No it’s not a pain reliever or a disease — it’s our campus theater. Tens of thousands of fans will attend UK basketball games this year, while mere hundreds attend our plays.

I was fortunate enough to be required to attend both fall productions, and it was a riveting experience in both cases. Katie Keene and Alex Kluemper were comic wonders as Trinculo and Stephano in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest;” the in-your-face criticism of media indulgence by Christopher Durang’s “Betty’s Summer Vacation” still rings in my mind. Our team made Shakespeare modern by making Ariel into a four-person role and through the creative original song “Ban Ban Ca-Caliban” by Ben Hayes and Nick Husted.

No offense to Derrick Jasper toughing out his injury and producing unselfish plays, but the real drama was the comic deftness and shocking brutality portrayed by Kluemper as Buck in “Betty’s Summer Vacation.” While Billy G. may have basketball smarts, they can’t compare to Willy S.’ eloquence, wit and pure genius. (If you didn’t get that reference, stop reading and go back to the sports page.)

It’s time to put our money where our priority should be: making students think rather than feeding the entertainment monster in each of us.

While I’m sure the university is grateful we fill its coffers with hoop dollars, why couldn’t we do the same with our plays? We have the talent sitting down there in the Fine Arts Building. Since the dollar follows the consumer, let’s demand better theater venues and grander productions with our attendance.

The only reason we tend to be great in basketball is that we demand excellence in our coaches and our players, and we then show up to support them. Our theater department is excellent; we’re just lacking in the support department. There’s no real reason why we couldn’t make Lexington the Broadway of the South. No other state or university is doing it, and it is sorely needed.

March Madness isn’t stopping you this year, so why not spend that ticket money on something infinitely more rewarding? While you had your head turned following the drama of the arrival and subsequent departure of Alex Legion, you missed the lasting lessons of “Betty’s Summer Vacation” and “The Tempest.”

Don’t let your depression from the Cats’ probable National Invitation Tournament bid keep you from “A Soldier’s Play.” Now you have no excuse.

If you have trouble understanding the plays, meet one of our professors, actors or stage crew before or after the play. I’m sure they’d be happy to accommodate you. They have just as much Big Blue passion, if not more, but they’d rather see your face light up, watch your heart melt or notice the thoughtful look on your face as you engage with a play.

Basketball may thrill us, but theater may change us. Basketball can incite us to madness, but theater may just cure our madness.

Duke Gatsos is an English education major. E-mail opinions