Theater groups take part in Quad Day, offer something new to try

By Carly Charles

With the surplus of Frisbees, T-shirts and flyers that students receive on Quad Day, the variety of groups and organizations that are available to speak with are countless.

But one special type of organization presents students opportunities that may not be available in other organizations: theatre companies.

Two of campus’s theatre registered student organizations  — The What You Will Shakespeare Company and the Penny Dreadful Players — will have booths on the Quad this year. And according to members of both groups, the booths may be a hard to miss for students.

Of his first encounter with The What You Will Shakespeare Company, Matthew James Marquez, general manager of the organization and senior in FAA recalled, “they were the friendliest during Quad Day when I went there, and they were also the loudest.”

But according to Marquez, it may not just be the group’s vocal present that will catch many students’ attentions.

“You should expect us to be in good, Elizabethan costume,” he said. “Because we’re doing Julius Cesar, you can also expect a couple of us to be wearing togas.”

While togas might be more breathable, full Elizabethan dress on a stiflingly hot late August day in Champaign is certainly no small feat.

The act of rehearsing for and putting on a play is generally a full, and sometimes quite rigorous, eight-week process; however, toward the start of the production process, members can expect to keep a very flexible schedule, as the group consists of members across many majors and outside commitments.

Marquez said students do not need to worry about having an extensive background in Shakespeare to take part in The What You Will Shakespeare Company.

According to Marquez, the theatre troupe prides itself in its ability to separate Shakespeare from the uppity, inaccessible vibe it often takes on in the classroom.

“Just because Shakespeare is regarded as a high class event, doesn’t mean we have to make it that way,” he said.

Marquez revealed that in the group’s history, the company has performed a production of “The Tempest” set in space.

The What You Will Shakespeare Company’s first production this season is the comedy “Twelfth Night” under the direction of Marquez. Auditions will be held next Wednesday, and rehearsals will begin the following week.

The Penny Dreadful Players are another esteemed, student-run theatre company on campus, said Stephanie Svarz, managing director of the group and senior in FAA.

The Penny Dreadful Players are a long-standing tradition, with this fall marking the start of its 22nd season. As the oldest student-run theatre troupe on campus, they perform a vast array of works, ranging from debut student scripts, to celebrated works such as Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.”

The story behind the company’s name is very representative of the plays they perform.

“Penny Dreadfuls were periodicals that were published with short stories, plays, sometimes poetry, satire … and it was not known for being very good,” Svarz said.

She described the periodicals as a form of cheap entertainment of the past, comparable to a PEOPLE Magazine today.

Despite any potential negative connotation with this type of publication, Svarz said, the organization strives to imitate the magazines’ times of beauty.

“Every once in awhile, something really beautiful and good could emerge out of the Penny Dreadful publication,” Svarz said. “We put on and put together the best of what we have from our student population.”

In addition to performing well-known and hailed productions, the Penny Dreadful Players also perform a great deal of original student works, Svarz said.

But within the beauty of their work, Svarz said, that the most rewarding thing for her is when she sees the members of the organization succeed.

“I think the most rewarding thing for me is to see when people get it  — to see that light bulb click,” she said. “I love seeing people get together, try things that they’ve never done, take risks and grow from it.

“That’s what theatre is about.”

Auditions for the Penny Dreadful Players will be held Sept. 9, from 6-10 p.m. in Gregory Hall. According to Svarz, no preparation is necessary, as they will consist of cold readings from the show.

Carly can be reached at [email protected]