For the love of theatre and community

Little Theatre President Claire Bingaman talks about how the club helped her find her footing in college and how she is working to extend that welcoming atmosphere to future generations

Cast members from Little Theatre’s most recent performance, Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth,” which was streamed on Facebook last Friday and Saturday (Cara Smith)

Claire Bingaman

My name is Claire Bingaman, and I’m serving my second year as president of Little Theatre. I would argue that the amount of hours I’ve dedicated to this club should at the very least grant me a badge of honor from Student Life, but I’d also accept verbal praise; and  I wouldn’t change it for the world. There’s something that this club helped me to discover within myself that I had yet to find. So I’ve been working infinitely to repay my debts. Now this may sound like a cheesy advertisement for how great a club can be or a mere love fest for Little Theatre, but I do want to give you an honest picture of what it’s been like for me. 

I didn’t come to Canisius like everyone else. I was anxious all of the time and experienced routine panic attacks, developed migraines, lived away from home for the first time (four and a half hours, to be exact) and had to make new friends for the first time since middle school. I think I signed up for about ten clubs at my freshman club fair, but I don’t recall being married to the thought of Little Theatre upon arriving here. Despite the fact that my mediocre college essay was centered around how quitting dance and pursuing theatre changed my life, I didn’t listen to that when I entered college. The truth is: Little Theatre came to me. I auditioned for a show — my ego probably vastly smaller than it is now — and was the only freshman cast. I had two “friends” within the club before auditioning, but actually joining changed my life. 

Flash forward to now and all of my friends are a part of the Little Theatre family. Even my friends who aren’t still support me within the club, and ask about it often. Little Theatre truly has people who are closely connected and accepting like no other place. The members we have now I truly would not change for the world. Here we are in the midst of our second show of the fall semester, during one of the most depressing times in the recent history, and yet, the new people who joined this year encourage us to push ourselves into contributing light, positivity, and connections within the club and to the campus as a whole.

That being said, I know we’re not perfect. It may have taken the club a few crucial lessons and experiences, but we have worked extensively towards changing for the better. Now more than ever before, I see how the club has changed and evolved, especially in how it’s viewed by it’s e-board members. When people come, they stay — and there’s a reason for that. Admittedly, in the past, we were shortsighted in our ideals for the club. We  rather selfishly sought our “best interest,” while not making an effort to support or work with other clubs and the campus community as a whole. Now, we truly want to elevate the club to something it wasn’t in the past. We know our reputation hasn’t been perfect, but the people currently residing on e-board are conscious, careful, and empathetic people that want to ensure the best for the club so we can give the support we’ve received from others to others — not just because it was right once before. By this I mean that we recognize tradition is not always right and anything bad from before we’ve sought to change. I can confidently say that no member is solely looking out for their own self-interests; they’re thinking of the bigger picture and supporting one another in the process. I know this paragraph is a tad general, but I sincerely hope our club’s growth continues to be recognizable through tangible actions and not mere words on paper. I could not be more proud of the dedication implemented by the members of this club, and I have nothing but faith in the future generations of Little Theatre. That, above all else, brings me hope for a continuously positive future. 

Little Theatre is not just another club on campus; it serves as an avenue for art while also providing an environment to make — as clichéd as it may sound — lifelong friends. Not to mention so many of my professional endeavors were in part due to a friendship I made in Little Theatre. We categorize as a social club, and we’re all coming together to create something we love alongside those we care about. Although I try not to live my life in the past, I can’t help but wonder where my college journey would’ve taken me had it not been for Little Theatre’s willingness to take me under its wing. As a human being who adores theatre, I can only hope to create an environment within the club that presents a safe haven for others in the same way it did for me — and I know our club is prioritizing that.

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