Parent Magazine

Backstage Pass

The actors at BU’s oldest student theater group are many things, but there’s one thing they’re all not: acting majors.

By Jon Erik Christianson (CAS’14, COM’14)
Photo of Stage Troupe rehearsal by Vernon Doucette

“This is going to be the death of me,” I said as I typed “how to build a coffin” into Google. A few instructional websites came up, but none fit the requirements. We needed to build four identical coffins that were light enough to be carried, but also sturdy enough to be jumped on. To make matters worse, our most experienced coffin builder was not picking up his phone.

On the bright side, I had just found out that locating fake guns and explosives was going to be much easier than I had thought.

A scene from “columbinus”.

A scene from “columbinus”. Photo by Sarah Ann Adams (CAS’11)

This is just one window into my life with Stage Troupe, Boston University’s largest and oldest student-run theater group. The coffins were for columbinus, a play based on the Columbine High School massacre, and one of 12 productions I have worked on since joining the group in the fall of 2010. Established in 1950, Stage Troupe is an acting group with a difference: the actors are not professionals. One of its 300 members, I’m a student at the Colleges of Communication and Arts & Sciences by day and a member of the tech crew—or “techie”—by night. In an average year, we put on at least eight “mainstage” shows and host a myriad of special projects, such as biannual one-act festivals and a “Tech Show” (where the techies act, the actors tech, and the audience stays the same). The mainstage shows include a Parents Weekend musical in the fall—our 2012 production will be Little Shop of Horrors; scroll down for ticket details—and a charity show in the spring.

Unprofessionals Acting Professionally

The actors of Stage Troupe might not be professionals, but that’s not to say they aren’t professional—they’re just not theater majors in the College of Fine Arts. Instead, Stage Troupe seeks to give future engineers, teachers, and businesspeople a stab at the spotlight.

“It’s something that’s fun for me; I’d never want to make it a job,” says Allie Romano (CAS’13), a psychology major and current Stage Troupe treasurer.

Despite not wanting to make acting her job, Romano has certainly worked hard at Stage Troupe. In a little over two years, she has acted in eight productions, worked in eight technical positions, directed a one-act play, and spent a year as treasurer.

Her dedication stems from her very first experience with Stage Troupe, when she was cast as the supportive grandmother Nat in the family drama Rabbit Hole.

“When I think of Rabbit Hole, I think of sunshine and butterflies and beautiful fall afternoons and having hope again in life,” says Romano, who admits she found the transition to college life a difficult one. “It gave me everything. Troupe has given me a family; it’s given me something to do outside of classes.”

Travis Cherry (CAS'12) and Meagan Bernatchez (CAS’14) in “Farragut North”.

Travis Cherry (CAS'12) and Meagan Bernatchez (CAS’14) in “Farragut North”. Photo by Katy Meyer (COM'14)

Beyond Stage Troupe

While Stage Troupe may have given Romano a family, it inspired BU alum Josh Friedensohn (ENG’10) to shift career paths.

“Doing theater in college, which was never something I thought I was going to do, has oriented my career goals so much,” says Friedensohn.

In his four years with Stage Troupe, he held technical positions in more than 30 productions and served as technical advisor during his senior year. After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, he became a production and operations assistant at BU’s Tsai Performance Center. He’s also expanded his skills with the Vagabond Theatre Group, an arts organization based in Boston and founded by Stage Troupe members past and present.

Stage Troupe really ignited my passion for theater and creativity“I’m pretty sure in about a year I’ll be going to grad school for theater,” continues Friedensohn. “Stage Troupe really ignited my passion for theater and creativity and how I can apply my college degree to that creative field.”

Romano, on the other hand, says that although acting won’t become a career, Stage Troupe has nevertheless shaped her future plans. Hoping to become a school psychologist, she “would like to run a theater program at [my future] school.”

Before she gets that far, however, she’ll have to navigate her upcoming job that’s not a job—directing Stage Troupe’s fall 2012 Parents Weekend musical, Little Shop of Horrors.

“I love Little Shop!” she exclaims. “It’s so much fun; it’s dark and it’s creepy and it’s exciting and it has all this energy.”

Why I Cared about Coffins

Ryan Chernin (SHA’15), left, and Dan Stevens (SMG’14) in “columbinus”.

Ryan Chernin (SHA’15), left, and Dan Stevens (SMG’14) in “columbinus”. The names on the blackboard are those of Columbine High School massacre victims. Photo by Sarah Ann Adams

Through Stage Troupe, Romano found a family, Friedensohn found a different future, and I found a cause worth fighting for. Finding a solution to my coffin dilemma wasn’t just about ensuring the show could go on. columbinus was Stage Troupe’s spring 2012 charity show. Every dollar raised would be donated to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), one of the largest antibullying organizations in the country.

People in Stage Troupe, many of whom had been bullied in high school, came together to work on the show. To give the most money possible to GLSEN, we worked without a budget. In four weeks, we put up a show, coffin assembly included, with a strong antibullying message and raised over $2,000 for a worthwhile cause.

For me, Stage Troupe is special not because it supports a large membership. Stage Troupe is special because its large membership supports people, both inside and outside of the club.

Little Shop of Horrors will be performed October 19–21, 2012. Tickets will be available at the door at the Tsai Performance Center; students may purchase tickets in advance from Activities Information, located on the second floor of the George Sherman Union.

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