This month, Residence@95 focuses on the upcoming production of Desiring Simone, a devised theatre performance produced through the student-run theatre company at Brown University, otherwise known as Romp of Otters.

Production Manager, Flordelino Lagundino answers some basic FAQ’s about “ROO” and actor Dan Ruppel gives us some insights on this weekend’s show.

95: What exactly is ROO?

Flordelino Lagundino: ROO is short for Romp of Otters. It’s the graduate school theater company, founded this year, for the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at Brown University. This includes the playwrights and performance studies doctoral students who study up the hill at Brown University, and the actors and directors that take classes down the hill at Brown/Trinity Rep.
Romp of Otters was created so that the graduate students would have a testing a ground in which we put theories into practice. A place where we can ask questions. Those ideas that we have about our writing or acting or directing or thinking, they can all be tested and tried out in ROO.
It’s also a place where we do the kind of work that moves us personally. There is no grade. We have a connection to a show and we do it. If writer wants to work with a certain director, all they have to do is ask. There is no direct faculty oversight on the work that we do. I have found it to be very freeing for the participants. Their hearts are completely into what they are presenting. ROO is also a place where we can try new things as artists. If you are an actor you can direct. If you are a doctoral student you have the opportunity to act or write a play. There is complete freedom.
It’s a way for us to be more a part of the community in Providence. We are still working it out, but the dream is for ROO to build its own audience in Providence of people who are interested in experimental work, and that we as students integrate ourselves more into the artistic community. But ROO also fosters community among the students. I know it is close, but sometimes getting up the hill to the Brown campus can be difficult to do. And that the collaborations between the artists on the Brown campus and at Trinity happen happen infrequently. ROO is that bridge between the students so that we can be build strong artistic relationships for our time here now and for the future.

95: Where did the name come from?

FL: To be honest, I don’t know exactly where it came from. I know it came from either Curt Columbus who is the artistic director at Trinity Rep or from Erik Ehn who is the head of the Theater and Performance Studies Department. What I love about the name is that it is really kooky and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s fun. To me, the name suggests a messiness, and sort of unbridled energy deriving from this great group of artists.

95: What’s the process of determining what is produced through ROO?

FL: The theater company really is an open forum. If someone has a project, they tell me what they want to do and then I work with Ric Royer and AS220 to find a time when we can out it up. There is no jury. An artist just has to be something to show. That is something that is important to me as a producer. That there be no barriers between the audience and the artist. If an artist has something to say, I want them to have the opportunity and space by which to have their voice heard.

95: What can you tell us about the upcoming play, Desiring Simone?

Dan Ruppel: It’s a performance about Simone Weil.  Simone was a French-Jewish-Catholic-Philosopher-Mystic-Marxist, but she didn’t want any names, not even her own.  Still, there’s a certain gravity to her work, both her writing and her biography, that keeps you reading, that holds onto you, and that’s what this play’s about.  We joked that it’s “about” Simone the way the earth goes “about” the sun.  The question was: how do you (each of us, and each of you) make a play about someone who wants to “become nothing, ” when theatre is so persistently something.  That’s what makes it like life.  So we began with five aspirations, let’s call them “theatrical aphorisms,” that yearned to evoke Simone Weil.  Then they all started moving around.

95: What’s up ahead for ROO?

FL: That’s a good question. We are definitely planning for the future. The playwrights had a showing of their work this past fall in a program called 6×6 in which they showed short works. We want to make that an annual occurrence. We want to plan ahead for next year so that more people can be involved and plan for more more work to be shown. So I guess that I would like to establish traditions but at the same time keep the schedule open for new ideas.

Desiring Simone runs Saturday and Sunday, May 10 and 11 at 8pm.
Tickets are pay-what-you can.