Players serves a similar purpose of other Montclair State University theater groups such as Peak Performances and the Department of Theater and Dance, but what is it that separates it from those groups, and what makes it tick?
Players separates itself from the other two groups by featuring student performances — unlike Peak Performances — and isn’t limited to theater and dance majors. “Our president and vice president are both English majors, and most of our e-board isn’t even made up of theater people, and most of our membership too,” said Rachel Rizzo, a senior English major and the vice president of the organization. “You can try out regardless of what your major is, so it’s for people who either don’t have the means or the desire to focus solely on theater. They still have this outlet to perform. It’s all outside. This is all students.”
The types of performances Players puts on are akin to the other groups in terms of genre, with the organization putting on a comedy, a drama, a classic and a musical each year. The number of performers for each production varies. According to junior theatre studies major and Players secretary Bailee Gilbert, “Our musicals usually have between 15 and 20 performers, but earlier this year we did ‘Macbeth,’ and that only had five.”
Despite featuring as few as five actors in a production, Players is a significantly large student organization. “If you just want to talk about members this semester alone, we have 108 active members,” said Bobby Serrani, senior English major and Players president. “If you go all the way back from our very first meeting of the year, which was September 14, there [were] 222 active members of Players, a crazy number of people.”
The casting process is almost completely in the director’s control. “When it comes to casting, each director is allowed two days, one day for auditions and one day for callbacks in our office, to just hold those processes [and] do whatever they want,” said Serrani.
The board decides what shows to put on for the upcoming academic year at the end of the previous academic year. “The incoming e-board, they sit down and they have a two-day really long meeting, the first meeting, we seek just any show we think is a possibility,” said Rizzo. “We narrow that down in each category to five or six shows, and then we go home, research the shows more ourselves, come back, discuss them out, pro-con them.”
Following the discussion regarding the shows, two are chosen and voted on, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the one show that wins the vote gets to be performed. “Our musical this year, ‘Urinetown’ wasn’t what the members voted on initially, but the show that they did, we couldn’t purchase the rights for, so ‘Urinetown,’ was our backup plan, so we got the rights to that,” said Rizzo.
The process of hiring a director is similar to the one used for picking out shows. “Getting a director is fairly simple. I don’t get a vote. The e-board votes on it. They come in, talk about what they’re doing and then do pros and cons for each of their proposals,” said Serrani.
In terms of recent changes for Players, Serrani oversaw both the redesigning of the logo and the return of gold into the organization’s official colors. “Now it’s black, white, purple and gold,” said Serrani. “Those are the little minor things. As far as innovating the executive board, when it comes to voting, when the e-board votes for a show or for any kind of voting matter, they have to also give me a reason why they’re voting for whatever and a reason why they’re not, so it decreases bias.”
Serrani’s upcoming graduation means a change in management, which could mean a radical shift in direction for Players. “Next year’s e-board is female-driven. There are two male-identifying people on this year’s executive board, so I feel like it’s going to be a very strong, very feminist Players next year.”
All Players shows take place in the Student Center Commuter Lounge, with the exception of most MILF performances besides the upcoming one.
The next big production from Players and the final one of the year will be the musical, “Urinetown,” which has 8 p.m. showings on this upcoming Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. showings on Saturday and Sunday.