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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Free Play Theatre Cooperative chartered

Published: March 2, 2007
Section: News

The Free Play Theatre Cooperative (FPTC) announced that it had been chartered by the Student Union on Feb. 11. The 19-1 decision came after a sharply-divided Union vote last semester, in which Free Play was narrowly denied charter due to claims of duality of purpose with the Brandeis Ensemble Theatre (BET).

Union Senator-at-Large Shreeya Sinha 09, one of the original proponents for chartering Free Play, said Im definitely in favorI was more in favor this semester than last semester. They were very motivated they were recognized, they really showed what clubs can do on campus.

Class of 2008 Senator Michael Goldman, who had voted against chartering last semester, said the Free Play Theater Cooperative has proved itself by its successes in the past months, and I am thrilled that it has achieved charter. He added that the operative theory [is] that theater at Brandeis needs a major overhaul, and that it is unfortunate that this successful club is getting screwed by the system. FPTC effectively proved to the Senate that they presented a unique sort of free theater on campus.

This enthusiasm for Free Plays success was not universal, however: Sam Levor, Co-Coordinator of the Brandeis Ensemble Theatre, said “we've always supported the expansion of theater at Brandeis, whether through BET, the UTC, or other venues. Though I question whether Free Play's purpose is significantly different from those of exisiting groups, I wish them well, and hope theater at Brandeis benefits.

The main hurdle to Free Plays chartering was claims that the organization shared a duality of purpose with the Brandeis Ensemble Theatre, which according to their constitution, provide[s] a unique, non-traditional theatrical environment within the Brandeis community. BET shall encourage the use of multiple venues, and shall strive to present student written and/or directed projects.

Since last semester, Free Play changed its constitution to provide students with a collaborative experience in theatre that mirrors that which is traditionally and structurally present in the professional world, as well as to provide free admission to most productions, excepting those with extremely high royalty fees, a goal no other theatre company on campus has achieved.

Josh Mervis 08, the FPTCs Artistic Director and one of the groups founders, explained his idea of FPTCs intended role at Brandeis: The focus is not so much about changing existing practices [FPTC] is a conduit through which people can pursue things they may not be successful in pursuing in other undergraduate theatre.

Last semester the FPTC produced three shows, including The Black Eyed, which addressed the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the hit Broadway musical The Last Five Years, and A Summer Evening in Des Moines, which took place in the Gluck Lobby in Usdan.

I was in this new space, says Katie Nadworny 09, who directed Summer Evening and is also aFPTC board member. Everyone said how are you going to do this in a lobby? Ultimately, she explained, FPTC places emphasis on the use of unique ideas and spaces because we want the audience to be involved not just observers.
The FPTC plans to offer three more plays this term. They are an adaptation of Shakespeares Julius Caesar with the characters portrayed by three female actors, Marisol, which is scheduled to be held in the main gallery of the Rose Art Museum, and an original rap musical called Greed, written and directed by Will Chalmus 07.
I think the best part of [FPTC] is [that] it leaves room to do original work its very much peoples theatre a opposed to entertainment theatre, says Chalmus.

The goals of the FPTC are not only to produce unique plays, but also to provide students with practice raising money for theatre productions. FPTC plays production costs are paid for through grants from academic departments.

Part of what makes us different is how we raise money through departments, through programs, said Mervis. According to him, this is giving students that want to look into producing the actual experience of producing, which in the professional theatre world often involves raising money for a production.

FPTC only plans to ask the F-Board for funding in order to cover the cost of royalties for scripts, Mervis added, saying that if at all possible, they intend to keep admission to all productions free of charge.

Still, there was some concern from members of the theatre community regarding Free Plays practices: For Free Play to offer high-quality productions without charging any sort of admission will probably mean F-Board doles out significantly more money from the general fund, which means less money for everyone, said Levor. BET makes it a policy to request funding at a level that limits the cost to both the theater going community and the general student body;

we do not hit F-Board or the student body with excessive costs.

Michael Carnow, BETs other Co-Coordinator, felt that while I still would argue that of their six productions, at least two if not five could have fallen under BET's umbrella as they are original works or experimental in nature, his biggest worry is that there will be a line drawn in the sand where certain people will boycott either UTC or FPTC productions. I can see this rivalry becoming petty and personal very quickly if it hasn't too some level already. I hope the leadership of both groups, as we go forward, will work together to try and create the best art possible.

They are bringing a celebrity in, they put on a show about the Israeli-Palestinean conflict Theyre really doing a great job. They are only asking for a couple of hundred dollars for rights, and for technical stuff, added Sinha. If they need more money to reach more of the campus, Im really in favor of it. It shows that theyre not only a really determined team, but they proved themselves for a semester.