SF State’s Brown Bag Theatre class is not held in a paper bag, rather the name of the class is inspired by a 1920s tradition.
“I think it probably even goes back to prohibition days when you used to carry around illicit liquor in a brown paper bag,” said Bill Peters, a professor at SF State who teaches the Brown Bag Theatre class at the University. “But the idea is that it is kind of a signal that it operates at lunch time.”
Brown Bag Theatre is a class that gives students the opportunity to be a part of their own theater company, in which they write, direct, manage and act in a play. For three days every week, theater students group together to produce a new play in the Brown Bag Theatre located in the Creative Arts Building at SF State.
“It has been the best experience of my life,” said Kyle McReddie, a senior at SF State who is currently participating in his third semester of Brown Bag Theatre. “It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of work and there have definitely been classes that have been put on the back burner because of Brown Bag but you don’t do it because it’s a class, you don’t do it because you get a grade, you do do it because you’re in love with it,” McReddie said.
Before the school broke for Thanksgiving break, people lined up in the Creative Arts Building outside the theatre to watch their workshop production of “The Weir.” The director appointed a theater student as the costume designer who was well-versed in period pieces and was able to pick out the right costumes to go with each actor’s part.
“It’s up to the director to decide about the costumes,” said Kathleen Lee, a theater student at SF State in her first semester for Brown Bag. “This semester has been so educational for me as a future director because we work with so many diverse peers with different skills and abilities,” Lee said.
“It is a class that is meant to provide a completely comprehensive experience to every member in it of what a repertory theatre might be like,” said Peters.
All students enrolled have the opportunity to work as crew members, house managers and help critique each other’s performances as the semester progresses. Each student acts in a play, although some act more than others.
“This is my first semester at Brown Bag and I auditioned and I was lucky enough to be chosen,” said theater student, Brendan Hong, who acted in “The 39 Steps,” “Metamorphoses” and “Reasons to be Pretty” this semester and will perform in the closing show, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” next week.
Students begin the audition process by signing up for the preferred play they wish to work on and are chosen by the directors for the particular semester. The plays that students take on each semester are selected in a collaborative effort by students and the professor teaching the class.
“It’s a totally fun and great experience, a great networking opportunity and a way to really get to know the department and the student directors,” said Hong.
Brown Bag Theatre plays are free to the public and usually take place from noon until 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in the Creative Arts Building at SF State. This week’s show, “The Last Five Years” runs from Dec. 4 until Dec. 6 and the last show of the semester is “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” It runs next week from Wednesday, Dec. 11 until Friday, Dec. 13.