With shopping period over and spring weather quickly approaching, student groups on campus are ramping up their programming — rehearsals and practices are being slotted into students’ schedules, and many groups are working toward a major semesterly goal. Brown’s many theater groups are no exception.
Student theater at Brown typically boasts an impressive variety of performances, ranging from operas to table reads to full-out Broadway musicals. While each group shares a love for the stage, all are planning unique productions to showcase what they do best.
Theater Arts and Performance Studies Department
The Theater Arts and Performance Studies Department will focus its attention on its annual “Writing is Live” festival this spring.
According to Communications and Audience Services Manager Brianne Shaw, the festival features new, in-progress plays written by playwrights in the University’s MFA program. The festival also includes a night of readings — Undergrad Underground — showcasing excerpts from plays written by undergraduates.
The festival will take place in two parts: “Part 1 features readings from first-year MFA playwrights, staged readings from second-year MFA playwrights and Undergrad Underground,” Shaw wrote in an email to The Herald. Part 2 will feature full-scale productions from the program’s third-year playwrights.
Part 1 is scheduled for Feb. 9-12 and Part 2’s shows will take place March 15-19. All performances will occur in Leeds Theatre.
Rites and Reason Theatre
Rites and Reason Theatre, established in 1970, seeks “to express the cultural, social and ideological concerns of the African Diaspora,” according to the Department of Africana Studies website.
They will begin their season with “Flipping the Script,” an event series offered in conjunction with the Department of Africana Studies. The series was “conceived, curated and moderated by Africana Studies graduate students” Melaine Ferdinand-King GS and zuri arman GS, Stage and Production Manager Kathy Moyer wrote in an email to The Herald.
The series, which kicked off Feb. 10, will focus on the history of Black community theater in Rhode Island.
On April 7 and 8, Rites and Reason will also host WORD!'s Spring Showcase. According to their Instagram, WORD! is “Brown/RISD’s spoken word/slam poetry group working to amplify the unheard and illuminate the unseen.”
To close out its season, Rites and Reason plans to put on “AFROFANTASIA: The Journey of Iyanu.” The play will be fully produced by Jason Tristan Brown ’23, with a cast of over twelve members, Moyer wrote. Performances are scheduled to take place between April 26 and 29 at the Granoff Center.
Production Workshop is a campus group committed to making anti-racist theater, according to board member Louisa Cavicchi ’25.
“The goal is to uplift marginalized voices in the theater community who haven't had a platform in entertainment in the past,” Cavicchi said.
PW is also responsible for maintaining the Upspace and the Downspace — the two black box theaters at TF Green Hall. As a result, the organization has a very busy season ahead. “We have this space — we want to be able to get as much theater in there as we can,” Cavicchi said.
“Our first show of the semester is ‘Hint,’ which is a parody of a murder-mystery board game that you might know,” Cavicchi said. Performances are currently slated for the weekend of Feb. 23-25 in the Downspace.
“Our March slot is going to be a festival of table readings of original student plays and student scenes,” Cavicchi added. The festival, called “Writing is Dead,” will take place March 10-12, also in the Downspace.
Cavicchi added that PW’s April slot will be devoted to another mainstage production in the Downspace, but applications for the process have not opened yet. In the meantime, she said that PW is accepting applications for the TWITS program, or “Two Weeks In The (up)Space.”
The program’s shows are a “generally more experimental kind of work,” Cavicchi said. PW will help produce the show over two weeks, March 8-21, that will culminate in a performance towards the end of the session.
Musical Forum will work on a couple of big projects throughout the semester, according to Co-Chair Miriam Arden ’23.5. The group is a “student-run musical theater” group that aims to put on one big production every semester, according to Arden.
“Our mainstage show this semester is ‘Spring Awakening,’ which we’re very excited for,” she said. “It’s like a rock-style musical, very angsty.”
The show was cast about two weeks ago, and rehearsals have already begun. Musical Forum is hoping to stage the show the weekend of March 17 in the Fleet Library at RISD, according to Arden.
The library “would be a very interesting, new venue for Brown theater,” Arden said. “It’s this very cool, almost gothic room.”
According to Arden, “there is a huge shortage of good theater spaces for student groups, so if we’re able to make (theater) in this kind of unconventional venue, that’d be very cool.”
In addition to its mainstage production, Musical Forum will host a musical festival towards the end of April exclusively featuring work written by students.
The festival will include “two short student-written musicals and one longer student-written piece,” Arden said. A more formal reading of the longer work will be held in mid-March, culminating in the full performance at the end of the festival.
Music Forum wants to “expand opportunities for students to create their own work and write their own shows,” Arden said, adding that the group is “always talking about how to break down barriers for getting involved in theater.”
The group is currently “trying to increase transparency with the audition process” and increase outreach.
Brown Opera Productions
Brown Opera Productions plans to “get back to (its) roots” this semester with two different presentations of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” according to President Emma Giventer-Braff ’23.
“Around March 17 and 18, we will have a performance that is gala style,” Giventer-Braff said. The performance will be an opportunity for vocalists and the pit orchestra to practice live at Alumnae Hall. “It’s going to be just a sing-through, basically,” she added.
For their second presentation of “The Magic Flute,” BOP plans to take a step out of its comfort zone and produce a film.
“The concept is putting ‘The Magic Flute’ in 1960s New York in a sort of Mad-Men-esque vibe,” Giventer-Braff said. “If someone had asked me two years ago when I became president if I would have imagined us doing a film, I would have thought that was out of reach.”
But BOP has grown tremendously since its inception in 2009, Giventer-Braff said, putting on its largest show yet last semester with a cast of 18.
According to Giventer-Braff, BOP will film and edit throughout the spring and likely screen their product in the Granoff Center on April 22.
Ensemble Theatre at Brown
Ensemble Theatre at Brown plans to concentrate most of its time and focus on its production of “Tick, Tick… Boom!” The performance is scheduled to take place in Alumnae Hall the weekend of April 14.
Ensemble remains “dedicated to the production of fully orchestrated ensemble musicals that foster an inclusive community,” according to this production’s Company Manager Xiaoyue Hou ’25. “This semester, we are also trying to improve and refine our DEI statement,” she said.
One way the group aimed to accomplish this was by opening “audition slots for performers of color first for 48 hours,” Hou said. After that period, slots were opened up to the entire student body.
Ensemble’s production team has already started planning for the show, and the group plans to post its cast list on Feb. 19 before jumping into rehearsals.
Kitchen Sink Theater Company
Kitchen Sink Theater Company is one of the newest additions to Brown’s theater scene, having formed just last semester. According to member William Malloy ’25, the organization is a “process-based theater group,” focusing on teaching its members “how we do” theater.
“We’re a non-hierarchical group where members of the company take on multiple different roles in production,” Malloy said.
This means each person in the group is involved in “every single aspect of a show,” member Catherine Jones ’23 added. Jobs are shuffled as lighting designers become directors, directors become stage managers and all take turns acting on stage.
This semester, Kitchen Sink is working on a documentary-based project. Malloy explained that they plan to conduct several interviews, transcribe them, cut them down into monologues and then construct a play out of whatever material remains. All of the interviews will be united by a common subject: basements and attics.
Jones emphasized the potential for ambiguity in such a concept, adding that interviewees will feel included to share whatever they want to.
Both Malloy and Jones said that the production would premiere sometime in late April.