It was more than four years ago, in the Fall semester of 2007, when three SF State freshmen met in the school’s production of “Troy: The Gates of Hell.” Little did they know they would spend the rest of their college years directing and acting in school plays together.
William Hand, 22, plans to graduate from SF State this May with a degree in theater arts. He recalls what it was like on the set of that first play when he met the other two co-founders, Kenny Toll, 23, and Shay Wisniewski, 23, who both graduated from SF State in 2011.
“It was a load of fun. It got us integrated into the department pretty quickly, but mostly it it brought three freshmen together,” Hand said.
Starting their own theater company wasn’t easy; none of them had much experience running a business before, but it was the skills they learned at SF State that helped get their momentum going. In particular, the Brown Bag Theater Company, a class at SF State where theater students work together to direct, act and produce hour long plays to show during lunch hours.
“Doing Brown Bag really teaches you how to produce,” Toll said. “You go in and you can be a writer and a director and you have access to everything in the department.”
This fall, they will end their season with a play they originally performed for Brown Bag Theater their junior year called “The Crimson Hotel.” The desire to do this play again was one of the main reasons they started the company.
“It was very successful, and we really loved the show and we really wished we could expand the show and make it bigger than what is was,” Wisniewski said.
Since they started the theater company a year ago they have produced and profited from two full-length plays, “King Henry VI” and “Bad Hamlet.”
Ben Landmesser, 23, studied theatre at SF State through Open University in 2008 through 2009. He did multiple plays, including Brown Bag productions, with the three co-founders which lead him to be cast in both of their plays.
“They have a lot of big projects they want to do, they dream big and they might not know how to pull it off, but they just figure it out as they go,” Landmesser said.
This year they will be starting off their season March 13 with a murder-mystery piece entitled “Suicide in B Flat” which will be showing at the Boxcar Theatre on Hyde Street.
The company is still young, but for now they are accomplishing one goal at a time.
“That first goal was to create a theatre company that can exist as a small business, which was the thing we had absolutely no idea how to do, and now we are slowly becoming experts of it,” said Hand. “The goal for us in the upcoming year is to connect with what we learned at school, which is to produce good, honest work that’s dangerous and deadly and that holds itself up to a standard that we feel kicks the crap out of theatre as we know it.”