On March 9 and 10, eight fraternity brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) flooded the Cabaret clad in purple and gold ties — laughing, singing, and hurling footballs across the stage as they began their production of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys.
It is a contemporary English play that follows a group of secondary school students in their quest for knowledge, sex, and acceptance into a top university. It is a heavy script. But assistant director Billy Finn, a junior performing arts major, said defying the Greek life stereotype was one of the production’s goals.
“We wanted audiences to see us as more than just the bro-y guys on campus,” he said.
According to freshman performing arts major Amanda Wallace, an audience member, the production came as a complete surprise.
“It was not what I expected going into it,” Wallace said. “But I thought that the play’s message about pursuing an education that we care about was really pertinent to our students.”
However, despite the professional excellence of the production, director Eric Ibarra, a junior performing arts major and SAE vice president, said that all he wanted was for his cast and crew to tell a story.
“A major flaw I see in a lot of student shows is that they try to be professional productions,” Ibarra said. “All we were doing is trying to create a student production — a perfect storm.”
The show incorporated video projections, live music, and the choice to set up the Cabaret as a theater-in-the-round—a theater space in which the audience surrounds the stage on multiple sides.
Ibarra recently served as the assistant director for Shakespeare Society’s production of Twelfth Night, and said the experience with that show was a major influence for creating his own five-week rehearsal process. Ibarra described it as a collaborative effort, in which he urged his actors to ask questions.
“We would sit down, read the scene, talk about what happens, and try to find the humor in the serious stuff,” he said.
For Finn, the creation of The History Boys was not only a theatrical endeavor, but a powerful bonding event for the SAE members.
“It brought us a lot closer as a fraternity,” said Finn. “Unlike chapter, they actually had to be quiet and listen.”