Frog & Peach Theatre Company’s ‘College Fun’ is a wicked look at campus politics

Frog & Peach Theatre Company’s latest play may be called College Fun, but it’s more fun for the audience than the characters. Ted Zurkowski’s new comedy focuses on an “elite university in Southern California” where the faculty all have their own points of view (and maybe their own axes to grind). Frog & Peach will be premiering the play as a one-night-only event on May 12, and director Lynnea Benson and several cast members joined me to tease what makes it so interesting.

“This is a group of professors ganging up on another professor,” explained actor Anuj Parikh, who plays the role of Dr. Pane. “There’s a real kind of gamesmanship to it, in that we are familiar with the language. Some of us are using it in a different way, but we all seem to speak this same language. And we’re all having fun while playing this very dangerous and rather horrific game with one another.”

“With a person’s future and with their lives,” agreed Lyneea. “I happen to know that the playwright has a lot of interest in language and how it adapts to cultural trends. So if you’ve ever been put out by phrases like ‘unpack that’ or ‘virtue signaling’ this is the play for you, because it’s a vicious game where words are the weapons.”

While the story of College Fun is obviously heightened for the stage, the environment that it plays in is not that far removed from what real university politics can be like. “it reminds me of college so much because I was an RA [resident assistant] during college,” said actor DazMann Still, who portrays Professor Jones. “I dealt with so many different types of politics—whether it was between myself and staff, myself and students, myself and faculty. I also work closely with the professors in my performing arts department. I have personally seen professors either leave because of the bureaucratic elements of that they have to deal with.

“It made me so upset when there was actually a professor that was let go unjustly in very much a similar circumstance of what we show in the play. He was one of the core elements of our program,” he continued. “So I find the character I’m playing to be my friends who have gone through this…and I guess myself to a certain degree. I totally get this environment. I lived in it. I was immersed in it.”

“I didn’t know what I wanted to study and I had to create my own major. It was called an ad hoc major,” recalled actor Alyssa Diamond, who plays Dr. Ram. “And there were so many electives I enjoyed doing much more than the actual curriculum at school. So for me, this is a play where I get to have a little bit of revenge on all those meetings I ever had…This is a very fun play for me.”

Just like the characters in the play have differing points of view, the actors have different ideas of what College Fun is about at its core—but all of them provide food for thought. “The play is just one big Catch-22 that snowballs and I think is very applicable in any kind of situation in one’s life,” reflected actor Jonathan Reed Wexler, who stars as Dr. Queeg. “Do you have to sell yourself out in order to advance? To deny your moral compass of who you are in order to act? What will let you sleep at night?”

“For a long time, I [said] the play is about revenge,” added Diamond. “That revenge is very much possible if you are relentless for it. But what I’ve learned so far over the rehearsal process is that [it’s about how] anyone can become a monster.”

“It’s kind of about the struggle that we all have between following entrenched rules that we’ve all had to live with all our lives and following our own nature,” reflected Parikh. “Exploring that interface between what we want to do and what we’re supposed to do.”

“The play’s about winning,” said Still. “It’s about beating the system. It’s about proving that you’re better than the people who you’re going against…Especially coming from my character’s point of view. I’m going to win, I’m going to beat you. You’re not going to have power over me.”

College Fun premieres Friday, May 12 at New York’s Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre. Tickets are on sale now at Eventbrite.

Article content is (c)2020-2023 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr and on Instagram at @BFTVGram.

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