BU Today

Arts & Entertainment

Stage Troupe’s Combat: Not for the Squeamish

How to write and stage a play in just 24 hours (with a little help from your friends)

During the summer months, BU Today is revisiting some of the past year’s favorite stories. This week, we feature theater.

There are far more stressful careers, but playwriting can be unnerving. A playwright can struggle with writer’s block. He or she rewrites, revises, workshops, casts aside, revives, and revises anew, and those scripts that actually find their way to a stage face further dabbling by the director. It’s a painstaking process.

But there’s no time for the artistic temperament in Combat, Stage Troupe’s annual signature event challenging other campus performing groups to create and bring to the stage a short play. Teams of writers are given several mandatory ingredients they must incorporate into their script. The trick? They have just 12 hours.

This year’s Combat culminated in stage performances by Stage Troupe, Wandering Minds, BU On Broadway, and Liquid Fun on September 25 at the Student Theater at Agganis Arena. Envelopes with instructions were delivered to the teams at 8 the night before. The instructions: a theme (the CW TV show Gossip Girl), a required prop or costume piece (a cat carrier), a line that had to be incorporated into the script (“It has to be official, and it has to be urine”—courtesy of the NBC comedy The Office), and two tech elements (the theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey, played twice, and a red spotlight).

From 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. the next day, the teams blocked and rehearsed their plays. Curtain time was 8 p.m. Stage Troupe members describe their Combat play as “West Side Story meets Cats”—stray cats versus rich cats. Liquid Fun opened the evening with improv sketches based on the instructions. BU On Broadway’s production—a musical comedy—was about a family vacation gone awry. And Wandering Minds chose to take up what happens to a group of individuals who are sucked into the set of Gossip Girl (akin to the plot for the film Pleasantville).

Stage Troupe, the 2008–2009 BU Student Organization of the Year, was founded in 1949, making it BU’s oldest (and largest) extracurricular performing arts group for undergraduate non–theater majors—no acting, directing, or production experience is necessary. “Our mission is to stage high-quality productions and in the process build a community that provides Boston University students the opportunity to explore their artistic potential, develop new skills, and express themselves through collaborative projects,” says the group’s website. “We hold ourselves to a high standard of theatrical excellence, student leadership, and professionalism.”

Every year, Stage Troupe holds one-act play festivals and presents eight main stage shows. The troupe’s fourth production of the year, Really Really, a drama by Paul Downs Colaizzo and directed by Rachel Skalka (COM’16), runs tonight through Saturday, November 21. Set at an elite private university, the play focuses on a events at a college house party. A  sexual encounter that may or may not be rape occurs between two characters. The play seeks to shed light on “what happens when members of the privileged Generation Me must fend for themselves,” according to the program notes.

Jason Kimball can be reached at jk16@bu.edu.

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