While there are plenty of great theater options across the Schuylkill in Center City, you don’t actually need to go that far to enjoy a good show—Drexel University has its own theater company right on campus. That’s right! Drexel University, the famed engineering school, is full of actors (and quite a number of engineers who can act). The student-run Drexel Co-op Theater Company collaborates with theater professionals from the community to put on a number of excellent shows each year.
Celebrating the 125th anniversary of Drexel University, Devil’s Auction travels back in time to 1892 to look back at what theater in Philadelphia was like when Drexel was founded. That year, a horrible fire killed seven performers during a performance of the original Devil’s Auction at the Grand Central Theater (which once stood where the parking lot adjacent to the Walnut Street Theatre is today). For one night, the spirits of these long-dead performers are brought back to life for one last shot at performing their show and touching the hearts of their audience.
The show is a work of devised theatre which means that there was no writer. Instead, the story, the characters, and everything that went into the show originated through collaboration between the actors, director, and musicians.
Every Drexel Co-op Theater Company show allows students to get hands-on experience working with professionals in every aspect of the theater industry. Students doing tech work with professional designers; students performing work with professional directors and, sometimes, professional actors.
Devil’s Auction stars Dave Sweeny (Johnny Showcase) and Martha Stuckey (Red 40 & The Last Groovement), two well-known performers in the Philadelphia theater community who also contributed original music to the show. They are outstandingly talented and hilarious in their roles of John DePol and Augusta Sohlke.
The show is fun, weird, quirky, enchanting, sometimes sad, often hysterically funny. The music is wonderful and witty. The cast does a beautiful job of telling this crazy story and works together as a team while also showcasing each performer’s unique talents. The set is amazing. No really. There are moments when the set and the performances combined are absolutely mind-blowing. I really enjoyed this show and I recommend going out and catching it before it closes Saturday!
If you can’t make it to Devil’s Auction, or you want to see more of the Co-op Theater Company, the next main stage production will be Avenue Q in the spring. Be wary that Avenue Q has a shorter run than most CTC shows and will run from May 12-14.
Drexel also puts on a NewWorks Festival and a Winter Cabaret in March. The NewWorks Festival is two nights of new 10-minute plays written and put on by students and will be held this year on March 16 and 17. The Winter Cabaret showcases students from the Musical Theater Performance class and will be held on March 18.
Tickets to Devil’s Auction can be bought online and can also be purchased in-person at the URBN Annex Black Box Theater starting an hour before each show. Drexel student tickets are available for $10 and non-Drexel student tickets are available for $15 with an ID. This is the last week of the performance and there are shows Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. The show runs 2 hours with one 10-minute intermission.
If you see the show, don’t forget to say hi-I’ll be selling tickets at the Box Office!