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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Free Theatre Cooperative denied charter

Published: October 20, 2006
Section: News

A bid to charter the newly-formed Free Play Theatre Cooperative (FPTC) was defeated Sunday after more than two hours of discussion, Union officials said. The final vote was 9-8 against the proposal.

The Unions decision was based on an argument of duality of purpose regarding the FPTC and preexisting theatre groups. Several Union officials found the FPTCs mission statement to pursue ensemble, international, political, and experimental theater too similar to the constitutions of the Brandeis Ensemble Theatre, which specializes in ensemble, experimental and student-written plays on campus, and Teatro Revolucion, which describes itself as Brandeis own innovative activist theater company. The FPTC did succeed, however, in becoming a recognized club.

Student Union Vice President Aaron Gaynor 07 explained that for F-Board, it would be ridiculous to have two clubs come up for the exact same thing, adding that its no problem to get recognized any club that increases the benefits of the Brandeis Community gets recognized.

Michael Carnow 07, Co-Coordinator of the Brandeis Ensemble Theatre, felt the Union made the correct decision. Basically, I found there was no need for Free Play, he said. Its purpose was almost identical to BET — that which was not was identical to Teatro Revolucion. He added that theres no reason that A Summer in Des Moines [the FPTCs first show] could not have been a BET or [Brandeis] Players project. But they didnt try.

Robbie Schwartz 08, the Senator for Ziv Quad, agreed with the Unions assessment, adding that the Student Union needs to filter out two clubs with the same purpose so that there is more cooperation and more funds available to different types of groups.

A member of the UTC, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Free Play casts themselves as the saviors of theatre, when in reality, its just a purely egotistical and selfish gesture. I believe this is just people just padding their resume, trying to take advantage of the Brandeis system.

I think its good that they got recognized, said Adam Schwartzbaum 07, an Executive Board member of Teatro and a member of BET. The Union is taking a wait-and-see approach. Perhaps after this seasons productions, they will be able to make a more compelling case for charter. He added that in regards to duality of purpose, thats for the Union to decide, not me.

Senator of the Class of 2009 Shreeya Sinha voted in favor of chartering, saying that many activist groups on campus that often have duality of purpose are chartered because of organization, structure and vision. She added that she felt that the group had an amazing vision, yet was unique and diverse in their perspectives that would promote diversity and freedom of expression at Brandeis for students of any year, background and opinion.

While ultimately agreeing with the Senates decision, she said that a lot of Free Play members are paying [out of] their own pocket right now it feels bad to see that a club that cares so much is paying so much money. The F-Board should be paying for things like that.

Still, Sinha said, I was for the group because I was thinking What does the campus need this year? Theyre going to get their money whether its from the Union, out of their pocket, or from the UTC. At the end of the day, theyre going to do their show, and thats what I wanted to see.

Rajiv Ramakrishnan, the Senator for the Class of 2010, also disagreed with the Unions decision. I did and still do believe that The Free Play Theatre Cooperative is a great way for students to express themselves artistically and freely, he said. I by no means feel that they cannot already do this via other campus theater groups, but aspects of the FPTC, such as its commitment to put on a diversity and/or intercultural production every semester, make this club different therefore, I did not feel a true duality of purpose existed, and I voted in favor of this club.

Josh Rosenthal 07, Director of the Undergraduate Theatre Collective, said that the root of the matter was there are disagreements about how theatre should be run at Brandeis. He agreed with the Unions decision, saying its what I suggested from the start Free Play definitely has a right to exist, and the best way for them to do it right now is to use the non-financial resources of a Brandeis club which theyve already got covered in their framework for this semester without causing all this F-Board hullabaloo.

Josh Mervis 08, the FPTCs Artistic Director, said that while the ruling was not entirely what we wanted, and it's important to note that we are very pleased with the status of being a recognized club, it was a beneficial meeting. The Student Union essentially helped us shape where Free Play is going.

He added that the FPTC would either work with the UTC and receive funding through that route, as they said we should try doing, or we'll find that we cannot work with the UTC and maintain artistic autonomy, return to the Student Union and again request chartered status with this having been attempted. Still, Mervis stated that he felt working with the UTC is the best option for me as it unites all aspects of Brandeis theater, increasing the overall quality, thereby fulfilling my ultimate goal.

The Union, however, was initially hesitant to comment on tension during the meeting. It was extremely impassioned, said Gaynor. Every so often there will be a topic which everyone will have really strong feelings over, and this was one of them. Still, he added, I wish that Free Play and the UTC had a conversation before they got into the room I felt it was less a conversation over chartering their group, but over how undergraduate theatre is done.

Sinha agreed with Gaynor, saying that because the clubs walked in with a lot of tension the Union was the moderator. But this wasnt the sort of time to be doing this.

Schwartz, on the other hand, was blunt with his assessment. The FPTC should have been much more restrained, courteous, and followed the Student Union Laws, he said, citing raised voices, pounding tables, and what he felt were condescending answers to Union inquiries.

It felt like the Senate was in the middle of a theater civil war this should have gone to the [University Judiciary (UJ)]. He added that when it was suggested that the matter be brought to the UJ, one of the FPTC members said that one of the Judiciary members would be biased against the case.

Still, Rosenthal was quick to add that a lot of people read into the Senate meeting things that didnt exist. He said that there was no animosity between members of the UTC toward the FPTC, adding that Paternostro is producing a UTC show this semester, and Mervis chose not to act in the UTC only due to time constraints. We talk and we hang out its not a personal thing at all.

Mervis agreed, saying there is no animosity felt by anyone in Free Play towards the UTC. I in no way would blame them or anyone for our not being chartered. We simply have some things to do. The company needs to mature before that happens.

Regardless, both Gaynor and Sinha said that they hoped that the two groups settled their differences soon. Weve learned that theatre clubs are having difficulty dealing with the UTC, and the UTC is having difficulty dealing with all these other clubs, and I see this as an opportunity to bridge this divide between the two groups and figure out whats happening, said Sinha.

Gaynor agreed, adding that before FPTC attempts again to gain chartered status, members of the undergraduate theatre community should meet to see which model works best for them, he said. And if there are several different models running, thats fine, so long as they arent identical to each other.