ITPs Creates Close Community Among Students

By Alice Contopolous

That’s right, they’re back. The witty, interesting, and distinctive student run, acted, and produced plays have returned. Their seasoned actors and directors are excited and ready to get you laughing with the show of a lifetime. The cast comes from all grade levels from all different schools, but they all have one goal: to put on the best, most unique performance the Bay Area has ever seen. Yes, Independent Theater Projects are finally here.

The production, better known as ITPs, was founded seventeen years ago by Berkeley High School students who “didn’t want to be involved in Berkeley High–specific theater,” explained BHS senior and director Gideon Lazarus. Seeking more options, they began their own group that produces plays with student actors and directors. But ITPs aren’t confined to BHS; talent in the group comes from a variety of local high schools and from students of all grade levels. In the past, high school graduates have even returned to perform in the show.

You may be wondering how you can become a part of such an amazingly innovative group. To join, anyone interested auditions in the fall should “have an interest in theater,” explained BHS sophomore and actor Misha Brooks, but that’s about it.

“We’re just looking for someone who wants a good time,” added Lazarus, stressing the group’s versatility and openness.
So, what exactly is ITPs? Well for starters, the show is composed of three one–act plays that focus on comedy and the teenage experience. As Lazarus described it, the plays performed in ITPs are either “older comedies, or about sex, drugs, and emotions.” The scripts are the single aspect of ITPs that aren’t student–created, but remain extremely unique. Lazarus assured that the directors “find plays that really no one’s ever heard of.”

“There isn’t a strict criteria,” added BHS senior and director Alex Senauke of the process of choosing plays to perform, which makes it “both liberating and challenging.” In the end, the directors always succeed in finding relatable, entertaining plays. With their flexible guidelines, there’s a lot of variation between the three one–acts, as each has a separate cast and director and ranges from twenty to forty minutes in length. While the production is always structured this way, Lazarus hinted at something out of the ordinary in the upcoming show, and mentioned that “there’s a surprise this year.”

More important than the show itself is the community that ITPs builds amongst its members. Brooks commented, “ITPs is a fantastic community and a great way to experience theater among your peers,” as the group truly becomes a family throughout the process of preparing the production for the public.

“We’re so much about community,” confirmed Lazarus, and “we’re all incredibly close.” It’s clear that creating a tight–knit group is the ultimate goal of ITPs, and the group seems to have succeeded. In fact, their secret rituals and traditions, unknown to non–members, have gained them their reputation as Berkeley High’s Secret Society. While everyone in ITPs loves theater, “the play,” said Lazarus, “is just a bridge to build community.”

Of course, the production is still extremely important, and this year’s show looks to be turning into a phenomenal set of plays. “It’s going to be really fantastic,” said Brooks. It’s “an amazing group of people,” he added, that’s “doing wonderful, committed work.” Everyone’s very dedicated, and Lazarus is simply thrilled to be “putting on something really, really exciting.”

Clearly, ITPs is more than your average theater production. It’s also a close community bonded by its members’ love for theater and entertainment. “ITPs is really just a unique thing,” says Brooks. As it is a completely student run production, members have more freedom and a greater ability to express themselves and connect to each other and their audience.
ITPs student directors hold the “highest expectations of their actors,” said Senauke, which motivates them to “generate their best performances.” ITPs isn’t just theater projects, it’s independent theater projects, and its individuality shows in its unconventional structure and unique production.

Now there’s one last thing that’s absolutely vital to your knowledge of ITPs: showtimes! The Independant Theater Projects open Friday, February 24 at 7 PM at Live Oak Theater. If you can’t make opening night, don’t sweat it. The production will run a total of four shows, including ones on February 25, March 2, and March 3, so don’t miss it! Its going to be great this year, and group members are all eager to share the experience with you.

ITPs is truly special, and, Brooks added, “I feel honored to be a part of it.” It creates an amazing community and production that everyone can and should experience. Well, it’s finally time for the curtains to open. Make sure you’re in the audience when they do.