Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). A & O Productions
A&O (Activities and Organizations) Productions is Northwestern University's major student-run programming board. Chartered by the Associated Student Government, A&O includes eight committees that work together to provide a variety of entertainment for the entire campus: the Executive Board, Finance and Marketing, Promotion, Concerts, Speakers, Special Events, and Production. The students working on the committees volunteer their time.
On the A&O website (March 14, 2003), the group defines itself as “a non-profit undergraduate student group at Northwestern University. ... [The] mission is to enrich the lives of students, faculty and staff by providing unique large-scale programming events that appeal to the Northwestern community's diverse tastes and interests. Such events have traditionally included concerts, speakers, comedians, and films. ...[The group] is committed to bringing high quality events that provide entertainment, educational, and cultural value at a reduced cost...helping to further enhance the sense of community at Northwestern.”
The types of events organized by the events committees include theater performances, lectures by poets, writers and politicians, debates, the A&O Ball, and concerts, which comprise the majority of the events. The events are held at a variety of locations on campus and some, such as the A&O Ball, are held off campus. On-campus venues, chosen on the basis of the anticipated size of the audience, have ranged from Pick-Staiger Concert Hall to The Gathering Place, a bar once located on the lower level of Norris University Center.
The debates and speakers address the issues of the times, such as the Schlafly vs. Waddington Debate in 1991 on abortion, the 1986 Gubernatorial Debate between James Thompson and Adlai Stevenson, and the 1985 debate between Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin titled “Yippie vs. Yuppie.” The speakers' themes included popular or controversial subjects of the times such as a series on Operation Desert Storm in 1991 or a lecture by the lead singer of Public Enemy on “Hip Hop and the Youth Movement” in late 1993.
The A&O Ball is a large winter event that attracted approximately 3000 students and was usually held in Chicago at a large hotel. Pumpkin Prom, an annual Halloween fund-raising event, also attracted a large audience to campus or off-campus venues. Drive-in movies, presented in the Allen Center parking lot, were leased from a company that provided the screen, projector, and film. A&O sponsored Freshman Mixers at Norris Center for a number of years before deciding that these were not well attended; in 1991, the organization began sponsoring a Freshman Comedian instead.
During the time span of these records, the bulk of A&O's events was concerts. The performers were popular in the years in which the concerts were held and ranged from popular local or regional groups to nationally-known attractions such as Blood, Sweat and Tears in 1970. There were some annual events such as the Blues BBQ in which popular performers were invited back year after year. Most of the concerts featured rock music.
While some years seem to be more active than others, A&O Productions took its charge seriously and programmed some large scale events requiring a great deal of preparation and coordination.