With all the various theater theatre groups on campus, the M.W. Repertory Theatre Company has its own niche at WPI. The group puts on three shows every year, each a little edgier than typically found in WPI productions.
M.W. Rep’s next play is this weekend and is sure to spark discussion and reflection. The Awakening of Spring runs Thursday–Saturday, Sept, 26–28 in WPI’s Little Theatre. The nightly show begins at 7 pm; admission is $5.
This version of the play was originally written in the early 1890s by Frank Wedekind. According to Michael Higgins, a sophomore industrial engineering major who is producer of the show, the version being performed was translated from the original German by Francis J. Ziegler in the late 1900s. This original production is not the more recent musical version. It contains mature-themed elements of the often-banned controversial play including topics like child abuse, homosexuality, rape, abortion, and suicide.
A group of WPI students who were looking to create theatre that was a little “fast and loose” founded the group in 1988, says James Hanlan ’08, a member of the M.W. Rep board of directors. According to the M.W. Rep website, the students were members of Masque, WPI’s drama club, on a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. They returned with a plan to “explore out-of-the-way plays” and also to bring new people into productions by offering everyone a chance to participate.
“Today it’s a little less fast and loose,” Hanlan says with a laugh, but M.W. Rep is known for its offerings and for the democratic way it is run. Students and alumni are equally able to participate in a play through a stage role or a behind-the-scenes role. Anyone can come to a meeting to propose a show, participate in voting, and then have any role.
Membership fluctuates every year and many members are also involved in WPI’s other theatre groups like Masque or the various Student Comedy Productions groups. In addition to the typical fall and winter shows, M.W. Rep also runs Sunburns Theatre, a summertime production group, which produced A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody by Ron Burnas in August. Past M.W. Rep shows include Bob, Legacy of Light, and In the Next Room.
Hanlan says, “We are lucky as a theatrical group.”
Alumni have returned to direct shows or act, says Hanlan, who directed American Buffalo in 2011 as an alumnus. He says the board of directors is being revitalized to bring a sense of stability and direction to the group. When he was an active M.W. Rep member as an undergrad, he says, the board of directors wasn’t especially involved. Hanlan, who shares the board of directors with an alumni member and a community member, says they can give a broader view of M.W. Rep’s approach. “We refounded the board to give stability on the board and so some issues wouldn’t crop up with each show,” says Hanlan. Board members can act as a consistent resource to those involved in plays.
Hanlan expresses gratitude to the supportive WPI theatre network. “We are grateful to the drama theater program and the Humanities and Arts Department because they allow us to use the Little Theatre,” he says.
“The physical environment is the same as a regular show,” says Hanlan of M.W.Rep’s general feeling. “What is different is that the students pick the show. Meetings are open to anyone who wants to show up and then they all vote.” But, says Hanlan, M.W. Rep isn’t just for those who think their involvement ends with a vote. “If you vote,” he says, “it is with the expectation that you will be involved in the show.”
Some students can even receive academic credits for M.W. Rep work, and the experience they gain is invaluable. Hanlan says, “We are lucky as a theatrical group.”