When the curtain opens on a Bryant Players’ production, the audience knows they’re in for a treat. The Players, Bryant University’s premier student-run theatre troupe, brings drama, comedy and song to the Janikies Theatre stage throughout the year, enchanting audiences and sharing entertaining and thought-provoking stories. Their most recent production brought to life the Tony Award-winning musical Into the Woods and was perhaps their most ambitious show yet.
For the members of the cast and crew behind the Player's performances, it’s a labor of love. They draw on a drive to test themselves, an affinity for their craft, and the bonds they’ve formed with one another. “I've always found theater to be an escape,” says Kylia Medeiros ’25, who played the Stepmother in Into the Woods. “Being part of the Players allows me to put all of my stress behind me and have fun with my friends while I’m doing what I love.”
A reputation for excellence
The troupe’s members include students from all four class years and represent a wide range of majors in both the University’s College of Business and College of Arts and Sciences. “Bryant has such a strong reputation as a business school, but we want to show that there’s another side of us, that there’s a place for theatre and the arts here and that there are so many of us here who are good at those things,” says Jordan Walsh ’23, the Player’s President.
“We want to be able to tell different types of stories and showcase all the different areas of talent that our members have. Some of us have a way of making people laugh and others are really good at connecting with the audience and getting them to feel really strong emotions.”
For many members of the troupe, being part of the Players is an opportunity to continue their passion at a higher level. “I got involved with theatre and musicals when I was in high school, so when I was choosing my college, I knew that I definitely wanted to keep doing this,” says Into the Woods’ director Matthew Raymond ’22. “The Players were one of the reasons I chose Bryant.”
The troupe also welcomes students without theatre experience who want to branch out and explore something new. “I’d always wanted to try theatre, but I had never really felt comfortable enough to get out of my comfort zone and join before the Players,” notes Stephen Grivers ’22, who played Jack—of Jack and the Beanstalk fame—in Into the Woods. Now, he’s performed in several of their shows—and brought the house down with his talent and confidence.
What you bring, what you take away
The Players perform three productions each year—usually a comedy in the fall, a one-act drama in the winter and a musical in the spring—allowing the students to stretch their talents and explore a variety of styles and genres. Past productions have ranged from Clue to Grease to About Her, an exploration of domestic violence.
“I don’t know if it’s a conscious decision to try to top ourselves each year, but I think we’re just too dedicated to this for us not to do our best.”
“We want to be able to tell different types of stories and showcase all the different areas of talent that our members have,” notes Megan Swenson ’23, who has performed in a number of Player’s productions, most recently as the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods. “Some of us have a way of making people laugh and others are really good at connecting with the audience and getting them to feel really strong emotions.”
Performing is also a way for the students to develop their own skills. “My confidence has really grown because of Players,” says Swenson, who delivered a dramatic monologue before About Her. “I used to be the most shy person, I didn’t even want to talk to people I didn't know. Because of Players and having to put myself out there and do all sorts of wacky things on stage, I've become a lot more comfortable with myself.”
A variety of talents
Working together, the students handle all aspects of their performances, from choosing shows to building sets to printing playbills. “We get to pick theshows we do and have full creative control over them as much as possible,” says Walsh. “You get to put your own personality and spin on everything that you do within this club.”
“I’ve never had the type of friendships that I’ve made in this club and I’ve never connected with a group of people like I’ve connected with the Players.”
“There are so many opportunities to do so many different things within the club,” says Alex Fox ’25, who played Into the Woods’ heroic Baker. He notes “If you don't necessarily want to act, you can build the set or run the lights or assist with the props or the costuming.”
Each year, the Players’ productions grow more elaborate as they build off their previous successes. “I don’t know if it’s a conscious decision to try to top ourselves each year, but I think we’re just too dedicated to this for us not to do our best,” says Walsh with a laugh. “It can seem overwhelming at times—but in the best way possible.”
Troupe of friends
The members of the Bryant Players cite the friendships they form with one another as one of their favorite things about the troupe. “I’m a commuter student, and when I joined the Player it was one of the first times that I felt like I had a really strong group of friends on campus,” says Grivers.
“One of the best parts of being in the Players is that I have a supportive group of people around me,” agrees Matthew Barbeau ’25, Into the Woods’ Wolf and Rapunzel’s Prince. “Joining the group was a good way to kind of get myself into the college environment and have a set group of people to see every day.”
“Working on something like Into the Woods allows us to come together and realize we’re not alone—we're all here to support each other."
The connections they make extend throughout their college years and beyond, and Players alumni often come back to reconnect with the new generations of performers. “I’ve met some of my best friends in this group,” says Walsh. “I’ve never had the type of friendships that I’ve made in this club and I’ve never connected with a group of people like I’ve connected with the Players.”
No one is alone
The Players, aided by Music Director E. Justin Simone devoted more than 1,000 hours to making this spring’s musical a success, an investment of time and shared effort they found to have advantages beyond perfecting their craft. “A lot of the time in college, we can find ourselves wrapped up in our own work and our own projects and concerns,” says Raymond. “Working on something like Into the Woods allows us to come together and realize we’re not alone—we're all here to support each other."
“A play is a huge collaboration that needs so many different people to be successful,” Barbeau notes. “And the more we hang out with each other and the more we work with each other the more you tend to enjoy each other’s company. You really get to know the other members of the Players on a personal level.”
All of their hard work pays off, the Players find, when the stage lights are lit on opening night and the Bryant community gathers to enjoy a great night at the theatre. “My favorite part, I'd have to say is just seeing the audience's faces light up and seeing their smiles,” says Medeiros. “It just really makes all the hard work and dedication really worth it.”