Wednesday evening, students crowded into rows of folding chairs at the edge of Winnick Chapel in Brown RISD Hillel around a simple set. Its centerpiece was a reflective pedestal that would serve as a pond, a bed, an ocean, a therapist’s couch and so much more over the course of the coming 65 minutes.
Nov. 16 marked the opening night of Kitchen Sink Theater Company’s inaugural production of “Metamorphoses” by Mary Zimmerman, a retelling of Ovid’s classic poem of the same name. The modernized reinterpretation touches on themes of love, wealth, greed, power, religion and how people change under the influence of these forces. The production was unique not only for the story it told but also for the group which brought it to life.
Kitchen Sink Theater is a student group that strives “to offer an alternative theater model, one in which members act, direct, produce and design together,” according to the programs distributed at the performance.
The 12 company members all took on multiple acting and technical roles throughout the performance — sitting with the audience, playing instruments, running sound production, operating lights and even acting as supporting set pieces.
“It feels exciting because everyone feels equally invested in the success of the show,” said Kaitlin Goldin ’23, a member of the company. “We’re all doing the dirty work of putting up posters, organizing to get funding. All that stuff (that) normally would have fallen on one person is now divided up.”
Goldin believes that this communal approach allows Kitchen Sink to stand out from the already vibrant theater scene at the University, as members are able to learn skills they might not have had the opportunity to cultivate in other theater groups. “Everyone is doing something they’ve never done,” she added. “We’re teaching each other and learning together.”
For Antara Chowdhary ’25, exploring the directorial process has been “especially rewarding.” Having tried directing before, Chowdhary explained that it previously always felt like guesswork. “I didn’t really know what I was doing,” she said.
But with Kitchen Sink, Chowdhary had the opportunity to watch and learn about directing from her peers. “People have exposed me to different ways of thinking,” she said, “and their different styles and all the different elements of directing.”
Many of Kitchen Sink’s members said they were particularly proud of the visual presentation of “Metamorphoses.”
“I really enjoy the set we’ve created,” said Yingshen Zhang ’26, another company member. “Everything from the set pieces, the sounds, the effects of the lighting we’ve come up with is a really conscious and specific choice we’re making.”
“We’ve also done something with light and set that I never would have thought of,” Chowdhary said, referencing the different forms of lighting the company used throughout the performance — including portable, colored stage lights, paper lanterns, string lights and several scenes lit entirely by flashlights.
Many of these unique production decisions resulted from the production’s limited budget. “I’m realizing just how much you can do with limited resources when you think creatively and work collaboratively,” Chowdhary said.
Zhang added that the simplicity of the production forced her and fellow company members to think carefully about their characters and actions. “There isn’t much in the way of production elements to support” the performance, she explained. “It’s mostly just us out there.”
To optimize the learning experience provided by the company, members let go of the “expected professionalism” which is prevalent in theater groups on campus, Goldin explained.
“My first year at Brown, I found it really difficult to join the theater community,” Chowdhary said, referencing the challenging audition process for many of the large productions on campus that only take a few actors per semester. “I did a few small, low-commitment theater productions, but the theater community was really lacking for me,” she said.
Through Kitchen Sink, Chowdhary feels as though she has gotten “to know these really talented people and work with them on something” they all take pride in.
For Zhang, Kitchen Sink’s non-hierarchical community has been particularly welcome. The audition process is “just meeting with this group of people (and) collaborating with other people who are also auditioning and exploring unfamiliarity,” she said.
“In a way, it feels kind of like we’re going back to being little kids — just putting up some chairs and a sheet and putting on a play in our living room,” Goldin added. “It's a really scary thing to do at a place like Brown, but I think (Kitchen Sink) has a lot of potential.”
“Relearning simplicity is really powerful,” Zhang added. “It’s a really fun thing to bring to the stage.”
Goldin hopes audience members that come to watch “Metamorphoses” are inspired by the “scrappy” product that Kitchen Sink put together and can admire that the company is trying to do something different within the University’s theater scene.
“Metamorphoses” is set to run through the end of the weekend.
“I hope people come with an open mind and I hope they enjoy it,” Chowdhary said. “I hope that this idea and adventure inspires people to create similar organizations or just try things out, learn new things and not be afraid of falling over.”