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From opera to Shakespeare: exploring theatre at Brown this year

The Herald's official guide to Brown theatre

Brown's on-campus theatre scene can seem like a slew of acronyms — MF, PW, BOP, BUGS, S&B — but they are acronyms worth keeping track of.  It shouldn't be surprising that a school that can count stars like Laura Linney '86 and John Krasinski '01 among its recent alums should be home to such a vibrant, creative theatrical community. Here to ensure that you never miss a show is The Herald's guide to theatre at Brown.

Brown Opera Productions (BOP)

A relatively recent addition to the Brown theatrical scene, the members of BOP have put together one full-length opera each year since 2005, in addition to numerous performances of classical vocal music. Last spring, BOP took on "L'elisir d'amore," a 19th-century Italian opera about a powerful love elixir that's actually nothing but wine. A concert of arias and a production of the Puccini operetta, "Gianni Schicchi" are both in the works for the coming semester.

BOP operas and concerts take place in either Alumnae Hall or Grant Recital Hall and are free, no tickets required.

Brown University Gilbert & Sullivan (BUGS)

The purpose of Brown University Gilbert and Sullivan is right there in the name — this student-run group has dedicated themselves to performing the comic operas of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, or "the kings of topsy-turvydom" as BUGS president Michael Hogan '11 called them in an e-mail to The Herald. Recent BUGS productions have included "The Pirates of Penzance" and "Iolanthe" and shows often feature both Brown students and a few local actors.  

This fall, BUGS will perform "Ruddigore, or the Witch's Curse," "a ghostly parody on stock melodrama," Hogan wrote. BUGS shows are always free of charge and open to the public in Alumnae Hall.  


The Brownbrokers board specializes in student-written musical theater, presenting one full-length original musical every two years. In November 2009, Brownbrokers staged "Leavittsburg, OH," a musical written by Nate Sloan '09 that told the story of an Ohio native returning home on vacation from her Ivy League school to reconcile her past and her future. In addition to the bi-annual full-length production, Brownbrokers also hosts events like the Mini-Musical Festival, featuring 15-minute-long student musicals on "off-kilter topics" like "dolphin love affairs, kids at fat camp and viral marketing campaigns," Brownbrokers chair Rebecca Sigel '11 wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. Sigel wrote that her experience as an actor in "Jesus Christ: Superhipster" "was a really fun and non-intimidating way of trying something completely random on for size."

Productions like "Leavittsburg, OH" involve both students and faculty members from the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, who work closely with student writers to perfect their work and who direct the full-length musicals.  

Shows can take place in Stuart and Leeds theaters or T.F. Green Hall. Tickets for T.F. Green Hall shows are available for reservation online or at the Production Workshop box office on the day of the show, and students can buy tickets for shows at Stuart or Leeds through the theaters' box offices.

Musical Forum (MF)

Like Brownbrokers, Musical Forum also focuses solely on musical theater productions. The difference is that MF is an entirely student-run organization. Students are responsible for "every part of production — from performance, to orchestra, from set-building to stage management and from producing to directing," Alexandra Keegan '12, an MF board member and the director of the recent MF production of "Into the Woods," wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.  In addition to a full-length musical each semester, MF also hosts musical revues and cabaret nights. MF board member Lauren Tucker '12 wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that "Nunsense," the fall semester musical, is "slated to include ballet-dancing and country-singing nuns … not a show to be missed!"

MF shows take place in T.F. Green Hall. Tickets are free and available at the box office on the day of the show, or for advanced reservation on the Production Workshop website prior to the show.

Production Workshop (PW)

In terms of shows staged, Production Workshop is the most active student-run theater group on campus, putting on approximately seven productions each year. Plays are chosen by a board of students and can include "straight plays ... musical theatre, original work by student playwrights, wild performance installations, and just about anything else you can dream up that sounds interesting," Abby Colella '12, a member of the board, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

"PW is you. Every PW show is acted, directed and designed completely by students, and we focus on producing shows that are relevant, exciting and organic to the Brown community," Colella wrote.

This year, PW will start their season off with "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" by American playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis, which will run in T.F. Green Hall Sept. 17-20. PW shows are free, and while one can often get a ticket by showing up to the box office on the day of the show, it's a good idea to reserve a ticket online. Ticket reservations usually happen two days before opening night, in a mad rush at midnight on the group's website.

Rites and Reason

Rites and Reason represents the theatrical side of the Department of Africana Studies. As the department website states, productions at Rites and Reason are "dedicated to giving voice to the diverse cultural expressions of the New World." Shows are the result of close collaboration between members of both the Providence and Brown communities and feature actors from a wide range of experience and professional background.

Last spring, Rites and Reason staged the original work "Our Hands are Sore from Praying," written by Janine Heath '10 and directed by Connie Crawford, adjunct lecturer in theatre, speech and dance. The theatre also hosted "The Black Lavender Experience," a festival of plays and conversations focused on the work of queer playwrights.

Rites and Reason productions take place in the Churchill House theater and tickets are usually available from the theater on the day of the performance.

Shakespeare on the Green

Shakespeare on the Green is the only theater company on campus without a fixed home — the troop often performs their productions of Shakespeare's plays in the open air, incorporating campus geography into their staging.

"We don't just produce plays. We are a community," board chair Olivia Harding '12 wrote in an e-mail to The Herald, adding that the group hosts social teas, play readings and workshops and the occasional masked ball in addition to their fall and spring shows.

This semester, Shana Tinkle '11 will direct "King Lear." Shakespeare on the Green shows are free, non-ticketed events and can take place almost anywhere on campus.

Sock & Buskin

Founded in 1901, Sock & Buskin has the closest ties to the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies­ — plays are chosen by a board of both students and faculty members, and most plays are directed by professors or visiting artists. S&B shows are often the largest and most elaborate performances on campus, and S&B offers a diverse selection of five productions each year. Sam Shepard's "A Lie of the Mind," directed by Professor of Theatre, Speech and Dance Lowry Marshall, will start off the season, followed by a production of "Pippin" directed by Kym Moore, visiting assistant director of theatre, speech and dance.  

Tickets for S&B shows can be purchased online or at the Brown Theatre Box Office in the lobby of Leeds Theater. Student tickets are $7, but free tickets for first year students are often offered for Thursday night

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