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Spotlight on theatre at UR

I’ll be honest with you: I’m a die-hard theatre kid. All through high school, I was consistently involved in productions, branching out to local groups to learn more about new performance genres, and spending hours upon hours reading Angels in America or Jean Giraudoux’s modernization of Electra. For my birthday, I’d get tickets to see touring productions or the latest Broadway insider biography to hit Barnes and Nobles’ Culture session. (You get the picture.) So when I decided to enroll at the University of Rochester, I knew that I needed to find ways to make sure theatre would still be part of my life in college.

The first thing to know about UR theatre is that we have a LOT of it. You can blame me for not doing my research, but I was genuinely surprised and thrilled to find that so many of my peers shared my passion for the stage. The theatre community I’ve found here has been foundational to both my creative endeavors and my social life. I’ve gotten to work with incredibly talented, kind, and forward-looking artists, and I’m so very excited to see what I’ll be able to learn next in terms of craft, leadership, and shaping artistic visions. The class of 2026 is off to an impressive start, and I’m eager to see what incoming classes will continue to add to our community 🙂

Next thing to know: we have academic theatre and student theatre. The University of Rochester International Theatre Program (URITP) is housed by our English Department, and student theatre exists in the form of student-run clubs funded by Wilson Commons Student Activities (and Drama House, which I’ll get to later!) I’ll do my best to give you an overview of the different groups you’ll get to know on campus, starting with my home turf: TOOP.

Image courtesy Ben Gien.

The Opposite of People (TOOP) is the only straight play student group on campus (meaning we don’t do musicals). With a core group of around fifty active members that anyone is free to join, we put on at least one show per semester, with recent productions including Pride and Prejudice and Murder on the Orient Express (my directorial debut). We build a show from the ground up starting after each semester’s activities fair, assembling the cast, the production team of designers who take care of lights, sound, set, props, and costumes, without forgetting stage management, run crew, and props masters. We also have the TOOP Writers’ Guild (TWiG) which meets once a week to workshop theatrical writing, and at the end of each semester writers can submit their works to be performed during staged readings. TOOP is noticeably also a social group: we kick off each semester with a bonding event to get to know our NOOPs (new TOOPs) and have Bigs and Littles, so you can trace your family tree back in the history of our group. What I’ve really enjoyed during my time in TOOP is how much I’ve been able to expand my interest in theatre: I’ve acted in two shows, but I’ve also set designed and even had the opportunity to direct. For the coming year, I’ve been elected to Production Manager, placing me in charge of assembling designers, managing our extensive storage, serving as a technical consultant, and organizing tech week. Check out my friend Madeleine Fordham’s excellent guide to TOOP to learn more. I may certainly be biased, but if you’re looking to get started in theatre on campus, we’d love to have you! 

Image courtesy ROC Players.

Up next is ROC players, our student musical theatre group! ROC players has been around since 2017 and operates on a similar schedule of one show per semester, having most recently finished up a run of Urinetown. They have very impressive production design, and collaborate with Music students and other campus groups to source a full orchestra for each show! Their production team includes a choreographer role and lots of opportunities to get involved as an assistant stage manager, which is how my wonderful friend Hannah got her start in the group 🙂 ROC players regularly have Saturday movie nights, and pair up members of the group as “ROC buddies” to help you get to know your fellow thespians. They’re a very silly bunch, and can be regularly found in iZone (one of our collaborative libraries) studying or playing pranks on their castmates. Definitely seek them out if musicals are your passion!

Image courtesy OBOC.

Now, for some groups I have less personal experience with. Off-Broadway On-Campus performs a giant cabaret in Strong Auditorium each semester, with fully staged numbers from all your Broadway favorites ranging from ‘History of Wrong Guys’ to ‘Cell Block Tango.’ You can audition for and be involved in as many or as few numbers as you’d like, making it super easy to get involved! OBOC also does a beautiful job of painting the tunnels each semester, so you always know when they’re about to perform. There’s also XTG, which performs contemporary works in Mandarin. They’re not technically a UR group just yet, but they’re very easy to get involved with provided you can speak Mandarin, and they create truly excellent sets!

Wrapping up on the student side, I want to highlight Drama House, which is part of Special Interest Housing and home to about 18 people, plus a handful of associate members, who share a passion for the performing arts of any kind. We regularly put on house productions (recent shows include Almost, Maine and Infinite Black Suitcase) in a low-stakes environment, and it’s a fun, easy way to branch out from whichever theatre group is your home base.

Okay, we’ve made it through the student groups. Now you get to hear about University of Rochester International Theatre Program (URITP) (or Todd as some still call it), which produces typically two productions per semester, the latest being Nigel Maister’s inspired take on The Crucible. URITP is hosted in historic Todd Union, and productions have shifted to our new black box theatre the Sloan Performing Arts Center. One big difference you should know about Todd is that this is theatre you can get academic credit for: every student involved in a show, onstage or behind the scenes, will get credit that goes into their graduation requirements and GPAs. You can pursue degrees in Theatre at the major, minor or cluster level, taking classes like Intro to Stage Lighting for Theatre and Voice for the Actor to hone your acting or design craft, and can apply for paid positions in the scene, costume or props shops. URITP is a well-oiled machine, and trains classes of assistant stage managers each semester to learn about running productions and assist with the shows themselves. Do not mistake me: being involved in a Todd show is a huge time commitment, and will likely engulf your life for half a semester. But they also produce incredible shows, and have truly amazing faculty, production staff, and resources that will change the course of your involvement with theatre.

Image courtesy URITP.

I’ll leave you to digest this mound of information. Keep in mind that your choices don’t have to last forever: you can be a member of as many of these groups as you like, provided you can budget your time accordingly, and nothing prohibits you from joining groups through your final semester. We interact with each other plenty, and just had our very first Theatre Formal this past weekend! Wherever you fall in theatre, be it play or musical, student or academic, you can and will find your niche here, and we will be thrilled to welcome you into our community.

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