Georgetown Law Students Get Big Break On Stage (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Georgetown Law Students Get Big Break On Stage

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:08
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I’m Rebecca Sheir and today we are all about law and order. We're going to kick off this part of the show with the people who study and practice law, people you can find in droves here in Washington, since we both the densest concentration of them in the country. We're talking of course about lawyers. But before you can stamp that fancy-pants title of esquire after your name, you have to go to law school, right. And D.C. has a bundle of law schools, one of which we're going to visit right now.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:39
The ting is though, we're not going to visit a lecture hall or a moot courtroom. No. We're going to visit...

MR. JACK MARSHALL

00:00:44
My name's Jack Marshall. And this is your 40th anniversary production.

SHEIR

00:00:48
...a stage.

MARSHALL

00:00:50
Please turn off your cell phones. These are Victorian times. They won't do you any good.

SHEIR

00:00:56
This, as you've heard, is law professor Jack Marshall on stage at Georgetown University Law Center's Hart Auditorium. This past weekend the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society presented its 40th anniversary production of Trial By Jury.

SHEIR

00:01:37
It was this same politically satirical operetta that launched the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society back in 1973, thanks to a certain first-year student by the name of Jack Marshall.

MARSHALL

00:01:48
Early on, I was sitting in what was then the moot courtroom, now it's called the Hart Auditorium. And was looking at it and it had an installed judge's bench and a jury box. And I was just sitting and saying, boy, this is a set for Trial By Jury. What a great thing to do Trial By Jury.

SHEIR

00:02:04
Marshall convinced a beloved professor to play the judge. He got his roommates to produce and he took on the role of director. And on opening night of the two-show run he says…

MARSHALL

00:02:12
We were hoping to get, maybe, you know, the friends of the cast and about 600 people showed up. They had never had more than 200 in the moot courtroom. It was a complete mob scene.

SHEIR

00:02:22
The same thing happened at the second performance. And next thing you know, the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society was born.

MARSHALL

00:02:28
Its motto has always been, America's only theater company with its own law school.

SHEIR

00:02:32
Pretty appropriate actually, given that W. S. Gilbert was himself a lawyer. But that designation also sets Georgetown's Gilbert & Sullivan Society apart from the many other Gilbert & Sullivan Societies at other colleges and universities, like Harvard, MIT, Yale.

MS. MATTIE COHAN

00:02:47
I was a member of the Barnard Gilbert & Sullivan Society as an undergrad. And I will say it influenced my choice of where to go to law school.

SHEIR

00:02:54
Hence, Mattie Cohan's decisions to attend Georgetown in 1985.

COHAN

00:02:58
I actually knew there was a Gilbert & Sullivan Society at Georgetown. So the first day I was here, there was a little, like, student-organization bazaar going on with different tables. And I walked up to them and I said, I'm yours, take me. And that was the start of a lifelong relationship.

SHEIR

00:03:15
And that's the thing about the Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society, through its 40 years, many things have changed. Like how it went from producing just one operetta a year to an operetta, a Broadway-style musical and a play. But what hasn't changed, Mattie Cohan says, is the desire of alumni to remain involved, as supporters, performers and networking resources.

COHAN

00:03:36
Georgetown is a big impersonal place in many ways. And this was a very, very personal experience to take away and to remain in that connection of community. I think that this is a very large, weird, sometimes dysfunctional family, but it's a really important one in a profession that can be isolating and very cutthroat.

SHEIR

00:03:59
Not to say that being involved with the Society isn't hard work. It means learning lines, building sets and attending rehearsals, all while juggling a heavy course load. And this guy knows that feeling well.

MR. ROBERT PLANTHOLD

00:04:12
My name is Robert Planthold. I am a third-year law student at Georgetown University Law Center.

SHEIR

00:04:17
He also just wrapped up his term as the Gilbert and Sullivan Society's president. And according to Planthold, it is possible to strike a balance.

PLANTHOLD

00:04:25
Law students do have free time, but it's usually not structured. And basically being in a student group like this theater group forces you to structure your time.

SHEIR

00:04:36
Have you had any struggles with that?

PLANTHOLD

00:04:38
Sure. I've had to ask for extensions a couple of times. But we're very much about helping each other out to ensure that we don't fail as law students just so we can succeed as a theater group.

SHEIR

00:04:50
Or vice versa.

PLANTHOLD

00:04:51
Right. Right.

SHEIR

00:04:51
Because the way Mattie Cohan sees it, law school can be one of two things. For some people…

COHAN

00:04:57
Law school can be three years of their life.

SHEIR

00:04:59
But for others, like, say, the folks in the Gilbert & Sullivan Society,

COHAN

00:05:02
Law school is something that happens during three years of your life.

SHEIR

00:05:06
And, says Jack Marshall, once those three years are done, who knows where life may take you?

MARSHALL

00:05:11
There's a wonderful Hollywood actor you'll see on TV named Bobby Gant, known as Bobby Gonzalez when he was here. And he graduated, moved to California and I don't think he lasted more than a few months as a lawyer, and he's been a, you know, full-time actor ever since.

SHEIR

00:05:29
Not that Bobby's Georgetown Law skills haven't come in handy. His latest television appearance was on NCIS, the popular crime drama, earlier this year.
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