It is eight o’clock in the evening and most students are studying at Gelman, grabbing a quick bite to eat at J Street or finding a way to procrastinate on their schoolwork. But in Buliding XX and on the fourth floor of the Marvin Center, students are sobbing, laughing uncontrollably and even screaming.
The sounds come from the students who make up the various student theater groups on campus, in the middle of rehearsal. In the midst of the SA politicos, the “Crossfire” groupies and the various other activists on campus exists a close-knit group of students who grace the stage with their talents every semester.
“A lot of times, it’s students who have done stuff in high school – students who don’t want to be theater majors but still want to act,” said sophomore Matt Johnson, artistic director of Generic Theatre Company.
“We all do theater for the pure love of theater,” said junior Caroline Nisbet, executive producer of Generic. “People come (to Generic) for theater that is more fun than political.”
About 100 students make up Generic Theatre Company, which developed about a decade ago. It is the oldest and most widely recognized student theater group on campus. Generic most recently put on the production of “12 Angry Jurors,” directed by Andrew Adler, which ran two weekends ago in Lisner Downstage. Generic is currently holding rehearsals for “Suburbia,” due to hit the stage in December.
“I think Generic takes risks-artistic risks,” said Adler, fifth year senior and member of Generic Theatre Company.
He said Generic is a very minimalist company in regards to sets and costume. For example, Generic performed “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” earlier this year without a set. Actors usually work in a black box theater, which creates a more intimate and low-key setting than a Broadway production with an elaborate set.
Participating in Generic productiosn or those of any other theater group does not require a theater major.
“Anyone who wants to do it is more than welcome,” said senior Annie O’Neill, a member of both Forbidden Planet Productions and The Exonerated Players.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan Club formed Forbidden Planet Productions 10 years ago and has started branching out to other forms of theater within the past five years. FPP is currently rehearsing its production of “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You” and “No Exit,” both due to come out in the first week of December.
“We tend to be more artistically avant garde than Generic,” said junior Matthew Krell, artistic producer of FPP. Because FPP has its roots in the risque “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which features male and female actors performing in their underwear, FPP tends to attract proposals and actors that are artistically left of the center.
Generic and FPP work closely together and share many of the same members.
“There are no Generic actors, no FPP actors, no Exonerated Players actors,” Krell explained. He has also acted in many Generic productions, such as last fall’s production of “Rough Crossing,” directed by Generic member Eric Ryles. Although there was a slight rivalry between the two groups only five years ago, Generic and FPP have now formed a support network with each other.
The two groups shared production space in Building XX last year for a few months. The University allotted the two groups a soundproof room meant for television production that lacked the lighting sufficient for theater.
“The first time I walked into the room, I thought the worst,” Adler said.
However, Generic and FPP worked together and split the cost of light trees and other materials necessary to transform the space into a full-fledged theater.
Both groups were happy with the outcome of the space.
Despite so much crossing over between the two oldest theater groups, up and coming theater groups are still flourishing. Last semester, juniors Julie Gordon and Brandon Perlman formed 14th Grade Productions with the help of the Jewish Student Association and Hillel. They performed their debut play last spring, “A Shayna Maidel,” a post-Holocaust drama, in the Marvin Center Amphitheater.
One of the major goals of 14th Grade Productions is to provide students with an alternate opportunity to be part of a theater production.
“There is theater on campus, but there can always be more,” Gordon said. “Anyone can join our group.”
Junior Michael Solow was drawn to 14th Grade Productions because he had a pre-exisitng interest, “A Shayna Maidel.” He was also excited to be part of a group that was building a theater company from almost nothing. Fourteenth Grade Productions had approximately $500 and less than 10 people involved in the formation of the group.
“It was a little hectic at first, but it ended up going really smoothly,” Solow said. “I would definitely work with them in the future.”
Fourteenth Grade Productions plans to do two shows this spring and will form an executive board this fall. They are currently accepting proposals for next semester’s productions.
Sophomore Jennifer Bellusci formed another new group on campus this semester, The Exonerated Players, which is currently rehearsing for its debut production, “Bang, Bang, You’re Dead,” a controversial play aimed at raising awareness for school violence in lieu of tragedies such as the Columbine shootings.
“The Exonerated Players are a group of artists that gather to perform politically-minded plays,” said Bellusci, who is also the Executive Producer of the group in addition to founding member. She said they choose plays for the purpose of delivering a message to the community around them.
Artistic Director of the Exonerated Players, sophomore Robert Monaco, is excited about this new politically minded theater group and he could not be happier with the people who decided to join.
“GW is the perfect place for this,” Monaco said referring to the political atmosphere.
Monaco is currently getting the performance rights for “Sound Biting,” a political satire on voting and American democracy to perform in the spring.
Making new friends is just one of the motivating factors that drives student theater groups.
“Some of my best friends at GW, I met through theater,” Krell said, who recalls bonding with his cast mates during rehearsals for “Rough Crossing.”
Students not only make friends through theater, but also learn about acting, themselves and each other.
The spring 2002 production of “Burn This,” provided Generic members with the chance to bond with one and other during a production. The play, which consisted of a cast of only four members, centered around the self-discovery of a woman and included issues such as homosexuality and drug abuse.
“It’s the most beautiful play that no one has ever read,” said Johnson, who played the part of Larry. “I learned more