Student-run avant-garde theater troupe The Broccoli Project returns to the stage

Jessica Garcia, Life and Arts general reporter

In March 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many student organizations to halt in-person meetings, collaboration and group work. Members of the Broccoli Project — a student organization and amateur theater group — felt this loss profoundly. 

Now, two years later, these thespians plan on a triumphant return. 

The Broccoli Project provides students with the opportunity to explore creative elements outside of their academically rigorous majors. While originally exclusive to Plan II students, the project recently became inclusive to all majors interested in showcasing their original work and theatrical adaptations. After two years, Broccoli Project member Magdalena Augustine said the troupe will begin with in-person productions starting this April.

“We want (the Broccoli Project) to be a center of fun, creativity and celebration of this cool art form,” Augustine, a Plan II and rhetoric and writing sophomore, said. “We’re not just going to be putting on plays and musicals. We want to do some experimental (and) art stuff — we want to do so much.”

Augustine said members of the Broccoli Project refer to their work as “avant-garde” theater — making use of experimental and oftentimes unusual tactics — and strive to avoid a stressful environment by embracing new ideas that poke fun at the rigid rules of theater. 

The Broccoli Project relies on in-person collaboration to create and share theatrical works, Grant Gilker, a Plan II and theater and dance freshman, said. When pandemic restrictions limited their in-person interactions, the group instead devoted their efforts to giving backing to the community. They hosted readings of BIPOC artists and donated unused funds to support social justice causes, such as the Black Lives Matter movement.

Gilker said they face the challenge of rebuilding membership since many previous members have recently graduated or are upperclassmen. Nevertheless, he said they hope they can attract students who share an interest in theater this semester.

“(The goal) is that we’re going to stick around and have the stamina to produce something that will begin to roll on its own again,” Gilker said.

In April, the Broccoli Project hopes to return to the stage for a performance where students with a complete or mostly finished script will showcase their work. The group also plans to organize a “play pitch” — a tradition that occurs once a semester where members yell out ideas at any stage and decide on at least two shows for the next semester.  

Traditions like the play pitch highlight the group’s focus on innovation, experimentation and unorthodox methods when creating avant-garde art, Gilker said. 

“(Avant-garde) sums it up beautifully because it’s strange (and) absurd, but it’s also ideally done in a way that is focused on a lot of consensus-based decision making,” Gilker said.

When applying to college, Riley Church, a Plan II and radio-television-film sophomore, said being involved with the Broccoli Project influenced her decision to study Plan II. Church said she values how the group brings together students who have a similar appreciation for theater, regardless of whether they want to pursue it as a career. 

“(The purpose) is to create a community that loves art,” Church said. “I’m excited for how this new group of people is going to be able to come together to create things and for all the nonsense and silliness that comes with it.”