‘Laugh/Riot’ takes final EU bow

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017 at 6:21 PM

For the past five years, Laugh/Riot has been the resident theatre department on campus. Artistic director Rob Connick, director and actor Josh Mizikowski and student actors Erika Krasneski and Eric Reiche all spoke on their past five years as a part of Laugh/ Riot.

“I think the proudest thing for me is seeing where theatre is now, compared to when we got on campus,” said Connick. “Our first production on campus had two students out of the 10 people involved. Four of the 10 that were on stage were my family.”

He continued: “To see where we’re at now, where we can consistently do 12 to 20 people casts, have enough talent to cast them, and still have people left over, [that] makes me really happy. It shows that even though we are going to be gone, there is enough interest on campus to keep that going.”

Laugh/Riot performed their final show at Edinboro at the end of April with “Trojan Women,” an ancient Greek tragedy.

As Connick stated previously, the organization chose not to renew their contract with the university. They have never been funded by the university and are at a place where they could not continue without financial support.

Due to the current financial status of the university, Connick further noted it was not feasible for either side to continue.

“Laugh/Riot has impacted me in a huge way. Rob has provided me opportunities that no one else would,” said Josh Mizikowski, director and actor. “Not only that, it is his unique style that gives anyone that works with the group the chance to explore, try anything, fail or succeed, and gain new experiences as an artist.”

But theatre at Edinboro is not vanishing. Dramatic Activities, University Players, and Alpha Psi Omega (APO) will put on performances throughout each semester.

“It’s a little sad to see it end so quick, but even with my short time involved with them, I’ve always liked it,” said Krasneski. “I always thought it was a great idea to have a community theatre at a university to offer more options for theatrical programming, and options for people to audition for.”

Krasneski continued: “Before Laugh/Riot came, from what I understand, there were only two shows a school year here, one with Dramatic Activities, and the other with University Players. To see it go and take such a big chunk, that we’re going to have to make up somehow, it’s going to be very difficult. It’s sad.”

Krasneski hopes the three remaining organizations will be able to pick up the slack that Laugh/Riot will leave behind. “We will hopefully live up to Laugh/Riot’s memory,” she said.

“It is very sad that what is happening is happening. I am very happy that this will be the last show to end on, because I feel like this is one of the strongest performances that I have witnessed while being a student here. If they are going to end at all, it’s best to end on a high note, with a very strong performance [and] with people who are both new to theatre and have worked with Rob in the past.”

He continued: “It’s bittersweet, but just seeing how we’ve all come together, there is still going to be theatre here, and there is still going to be a love and desire for it. It will be really hard and challenging, but I think that theatre isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”

Connick talked about some of the things he’s most proud of from Laugh/Riot’s time at Edinboro, including taking two shows to the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival.

“No other school in the area goes to that festival,” he noted.

“Doing ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Alice: Through the Looking Glass’ together, because they were so completely different, with different directing styles between myself and Josh Mizikowski, who directed ‘Looking Glass,’ that they worked together but were very separate and different, [was another memory].”

Connick continued: “And then I would say watching our cast get more comfortable with some of our darker stuff. We do shows that no place else will. The only reason we do those shows is because people audition and want to do them.”

Connick also mentioned that in the past five years, Laugh/Riot has seen close to 800 people attend their shows, with 700 people involved in productions.

“We’ve gone from some nights performing in front of one person, to now being disappointed when we have 20 people. So, we’re getting spoiled,” he said.

“Then again, that shows that people see the type of stuff that we’re doing, and know that it’s worth seeing,” said Connick. “Just because we won’t be here doesn’t mean theatre is going to die off. There’s still a strong system in place with both actors, backstage talent, directors and audience; they are going to want to see the same type of stuff.”

Connick continued: “I want to reiterate that we have been incredibly fortunate our five years here. The support that we have gotten from The Spectator, the radio station, as well as the students, the faculty, and the administration, has been amazing.

“I was going to be happy if it lasted two or three years. And I think it’s going to continue for however long people want to see this type of theatre.”

Reiche added, “I honestly have felt that through the theatre here with Rob that I have changed completely from the person I was.”

Mizikowski noted his ability to both work with and explore physical theatre has been an education that literally cannot be obtained anywhere else in the area.

“No one will be able to do the things he (Rob) did in the same way; he's truly an original.”

Anna Ashcraft can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com. 

Tags: laugh riot

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