Arts & Culture

Theater students push boundaries

Student directors and producers move off College Hill to explore ‘real world’ theater

Staff Writer
Friday, March 1, 2013

Studying abroad, exploring independence and breaking away from the “Brown bubble” are not unusual activities for students, but they can take unique forms in the world of theater. Undergraduates are taking their futures into their own hands — producing and directing their own plays and even traveling abroad to work on professional productions.

Cheno Pinter ’14 spent a month of winter break as an assistant producer of a play at the English Theatre Berlin, the only exclusively English-speaking theater in the city.

“It’s the first thing I’ve ever done totally on my own,” Pinter said. “And I chose to do it because I’m really interested in bringing English theater to other countries and how international theater is dealt with.”

Pinter said she already knew she wanted to visit Berlin, so she sought an opportunity to work in theater there. “I just sent a bunch of emails to (the English Theatre Berlin) saying that I knew they didn’t explicitly take interns, but that this is who I was, this is what I’d done and this is what I’d do for them,” Pinter said. “And they said yes.”

During her stay in Berlin, she worked on a production called “Big Love” by Charles Mee. Based on the Greek play “The Suppliants,” the play tells the story of fifty brides-to-be who run away to Italy to avoid marrying their cousins.

Balancing schoolwork and industry experience is possible as an undergraduate, Pinter said. After moving back to Brown, she continues to prove this — she is currently producing “New Weird America,” a devised, or scriptless, piece conceived and directed by Ari Rodriguez ’13.

The show opened Feb. 22 at 95 Empire, a Providence-based theater company. The production, the cast of which is mainly Brown students, is based on a Chilean folk dance called La Cueca, which uses handkerchiefs as the only means of interaction between the dancers.

When explaining the themes, Rodriguez said the piece is meant to highlight the interaction and occasional disparity between cultures in the past and present. “People have this sense that they don’t have a form to their day-to-day cultural experience, and yet we do live by this tremendous amount of codes,” he said.

Rodriguez agreed with Pinter that it is possible to take part in theater off-campus. “It is hard, but it was a lot easier than I thought,” he said. “We have to problem solve, and there’s nobody we can run to, but that’s what directing is anyway.”

Skylar Fox ’15 understands the added complications of working in real-world theater, he said. Fox has directed shows in the Boston area, and in 2010 he created The Circuit Theatre Company — a student-driven theater group based in the Boston area.

The company gives high school and college students an opportunity to become involved in the theater world through summer productions. “Young theater artists have a lot of energy and exciting ideas about doing things that they want,” Fox said. “So what we hope (Circuit Theatre) will become is a place where young artists can actually do the things they want to do — direct full productions, actually have their written work produced on a full scale.”

The company has successfully produced several plays over past summers and continues to grow in scale and popularity, he said.

He said that while he finds the work fulfilling, it has posed challenges. “It’s really easy to get space at Brown,” Fox said. “It’s very difficult to book space outside of Brown because we’re competing against some really big theater companies that have a lot of pull.”

Balancing schoolwork and the theater company can also be difficult. “It’s crazy. I spend a lot of time at the computer or (on) the phone while I’m here season planning,” he said. “It’s fun work. It’s work I like to do.”

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