Broccoli brings ‘Margarita’ to stage

Christopher Nguyen

And scene. The students stop and relax their shoulders, though something feels a little bit off about the performance.

Under the glare of the lighting, the director walks around the stage, trying to find the words to describe the problem. Whatever it is, they work together until it becomes close to perfect, even though they have been rehearsing for days. Even though they do not have acting aspirations. Even though they do not have some dictatorial force yelling at them. What they do have is a bond created by the love of theater.

The Broccoli Project is a student theater group started in 1991 by Plan II student Isaac Cates. The organization is largely composed of Plan II students (although this semester’s play features one non-Plan II student) and has slowly grown to become a unique part of the University’s theater scene. The group prides itself on being entirely student-run from direction to the funding. It is a hefty undertaking for honor students, but The Broccoli Project begins again each semester, ready to take on the next project.

“The Broccoli Project is definitely a way for us to handle things and work together,” said Jamie Boyle, a Plan II honors senior and one of the group’s producers. “It’s a good responsibility. With all the different positions — the assistant director, the director — it’s interesting to see how peers and equals work together and manage together. I think it’s a really good skill and to respect someone as a peer.”

The consistent theme running through The Broccoli Project’s production choices is that, well, there is none; the drama group is always looking to change things up. Some of the plays they have put on in the past include classic Broadway shows (“Cabaret”), English comedies (“The Importance of Being Earnest”) and even student-written plays (“Blood in Bethsaida”).

They pack the six- to eight-week period before the play’s opening to the brim with various duties, and the group executes the preparation with ease. The Broccoli Project has no domineering presence looming overhead to bark orders. Instead, they focus on having every member contributing in his or her own way.

“There’s always this unity with the cast where we get bonded together,” said Helena Stark, a Plan II honors and Asian studies senior and assistant director. “You make great friends, and you have a great time. The end product is the ultimate goal, but I think that everyone has fun along the way and doesn’t take themselves too seriously.”

The Broccoli Project also does not let its Plan II degree go to waste, because no matter the source material the members have an innovative interpretation, including in its latest play, “The Master and Margarita,” which will premiere this Saturday and run through next weekend.

The play does not fall into a traditional drama, as it tells the story of the devil coming to Stalin-era Moscow and a writer attempting to craft a story about Pontius Pilate. It is their most ambitious production yet, not only in plot, but also in execution with its largest cast of more than 20 students. Like with all of their previous productions, the group has placed its distinctive stamp on the play with the red and black costumes and the simplistic background of gray blocks.

“It’s probably not like anything you’ve seen so far,” Boyle said. “It’s artistic and intellectual. Usually, we try to do a comedy, and while this does have comedic moments, this one is a lot more darker, and we’re heading in a more academic manner.”

The group is emphasizing the academic spin with a discussion of the play being led by associate professor Thomas J. Garza after Thursday’s show.

And, if you’re wondering, The Broccoli Project’s name’s origin is only told to cast members but to see everything else they do, you only have to go to a show to understand the work put into the organization. The rest is just gravy — or broccoli.