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At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 5, in the RPI Playhouse, the house lights will go down. As the curtain opens, a bedroom in the home of the Reverend Samuel Parris will appear, and the audience will be transported back to the year 1692 and the Salem witch trials. The magic will be supplied by the RPI Players, who will launch their 75th season with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

Yes, Rensselaer, a technological university without a single drama major, can look back on 75 years of student theater that has entertained audiences and surprised some critics. Jen Norton ’04 wrote in her November 2002 Polytechnic review of The Tempest: “I will be honest — when I decided to see this play I made a mental note that it was only a college attempt at Shakespeare, and an RPI attempt at that. I didn’t expect it to dazzle me.”

Since 1929, the RPI Players have been exceeding expectations, and mounting acclaimed productions. They have performed dramatic plays, comedies, and musicals by Shakespeare, Neil Simon, Samuel Beckett, Agatha Christie, Bertolt Brecht, Lerner and Loewe, to name a few — usually to full houses and favorable reviews.

The RPI Players in the 2001 performance of "Chess."

By Margaret M. Knight

Joey Faust ’05 has been a member of the Players since his freshman year. “I had done some acting in high school,” he says, “but nothing short of being a professional actor could have prepared me for what it’s like to work with the Players. Somewhere between the bright lights and all the theater terminology you get a really amazing feeling of actually entertaining. Anyone who’s ever been on stage can tell you that it’s addictive.”

Eugene Kosarovich ’89 loved the support and cohesiveness of the Players in his student days.

“I remember working on shows and helping each other with homework at the same time. I’ll never forget one time when a group of us were walking quickly to get backstage in time for a cue. We were ready to play our parts in the production, but we were talking about a mathematical series expansion all the way to the stage.”

From the first weeks of its existence, the company established an identity as a talented, hard-working, fun, and dedicated group of Rensselaer students. In fact, the Players’ strongest recruiting tool today is the weekly Friday night work party. The promise of free pizza and camaraderie attracts both experienced theater people and novices, bringing new people into the organization and accomplishing the seemingly endless tasks faced by a theatrical production company. It’s hard work, but it’s also a “huge social thing. We don’t just do shows together, we’re great friends,” Faust says.

The anniversary is rekindling the strong kinship of Players past (known affectionately as Old Timers) and present, as the group prepares to celebrate three-quarters of a century of theater at Rensselaer.

Faust, chairman of the 75th Season Committee, has been poring over letters, newspaper clippings, old Transits, and playbills, and he has been immersing himself in the history of the Players and assembling artifacts for display throughout the year in the lobby of the Playhouse.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in March, June, September, and December by the Office of Communications.

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