For the upcoming school year, the URI theatre department will be taking a far more comedic turn than last year’s program.
Out of the four plays they are doing during the 2014-15 season, three of them are comedies.
When asked about the play selection process, theatre department head Paula McGlasson replied, “We begin in February and we form a play selection committee that consists of four faculty and three to four students, all of whom are juniors and seniors, and they provide a list of about 30 or so play titles and after about two months or so, we then whittle it down to the 4 that we will do for the year.”
McGlasson also elaborated why these plays in particular were chosen for the current season. She said, “We think of our student body, both men and women and what they have been studying, which they can apply to production work. We also look at past seasons because we don’t want to repeat ourselves too much. If we haven’t done a comedy in a while, we’ll be looking at a lot of comedies.”
A new initiative this year is the establishment of a new Social Media Team, consisting of eight URI students who will work to promote the Theatre Company’s upcoming productions.
The idea originated from the UnClassroom Initiative that was implemented by the Harrington School of Communication & Media in the spring of 2014. Â Students who participate in an UnClassroom class experience work with a client and are charged with solving a real problem or concern.
According to professor Regina Bell, a total of 30 students enrolled in a public relations course collaborated with the URI theatre department to increase awareness of the department’s productions both on campus and in the local community. The public relations students implemented several short and long-term recommendations to increase awareness of the theatre department by using traditional and social media.
“When we met with Paula and Bonnie on two separate occasions, we learned that they realized the Theatre Program needed increase its presence both on campus and in the local community of South County,” said Bell. “That was one of the main goals of the project. We concentrated our efforts on ‘Chicago.’”
She said, “The students formed a PR agency, which included an R&D team, a promotions team, writers and a social media team. Â Plus, one of the students made a video currently streaming in the Theatre website. Â We researched the strategies of our local competitors as part of a benchmark study to recommend strategic tactics to promote their Theatre Company. We learned our competitors are significantly using social media, especially Providence College and Brown.”
Bell said that the class measured the typical attendance of a production, and found that there was a significant increase of those who attended “Chicago” compared to the typical attendance average of those who attended other productions.
The URI Theatre season will begin in October with the play “Seminar” by Theresa Rebeck. The play, which debuted on Broadway in November 2011, follows a group of young writers; Martin, Kate, Douglas and Izzy, who hire a renowned writing professor named Leonard to hold a writing seminar for them in Kate’s New York apartment, where tensions and romance soon emerge amongst the four.
“Seminar” will be followed up in November by “Avenue Q,” the Tony Award winning musical/coming-of-age parable by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. The musical stars a cast of puppets portrayed by puppeteers, who are visible to the audience but not in the actual play itself. Â It has been referred to by many as an “R-rated Sesame Street.”
According to McGlasson, the reason why the selection committee picked the play was because it was different from last year’s choices. She said, “It is a play that basically has little dancing and requires a new skill which we haven’t really done before.”
The second half of the season begins with “All My Sons,” the only drama of the four plays, which was written by famed playwright Arthur Miller. Taking place in the Midwest after World War II, it centers on a businessman who has to face his past when he reunites with his old working partner following an incident that they were both involved in during the war. The final play of the season is William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” a pastoral comedy about a girl who flees her home when she faces persecution in a court led by her uncle.