It may not occur to us when we see a touring Broadway production with spectacular special effects or, seemingly, a cast of thousands, but a theatrical career can be as simple, and successful, as a single actor facing an audience and keeping them in thrall.
I can’t think of a better example of that accomplishment around here than Kevin Broccoli and his Epic Theatre Company, which over the years has used his monologues as a mainstay of their offerings.
The 30-year-old actor, director, and playwright started the company when he was still at Rhode Island College. He has performed elsewhere around here, such as at Perishable Theatre and especially 2nd Story Theatre, but Epic is his home base.
“The name was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, since it was just me and a few folding chairs,” he explained. “Over the years, I produced shows sporadically whenever a script or an idea would jump into my head.”
It wasn’t until 2012 that Epic put on its first full season at Hope Artiste Village, in Pawtucket, moving the following year to the Artists’ Exchange, at Rolfe Square in Cranston. Broccoli’s day job is as fiction specialist and head of circulation at the Mohr Library in Johnston.
Epic doesn’t shy away from taking on “epic” theatrical stories – they will stage a stripped-down new adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations in January and next year a new version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice the following month.
But it’s monologues that have especially captured Broccoli’s imagination and that he’s especially loved to write. He doesn’t even have to perform them himself, so it’s not about opportunities for ego trips. That was decisively proved last year when he wrote 150 brief monologues for others to deliver, in a production titled The Acting Company.
“My favorite monologues are always the ones other people perform,” he declared, citing Lynne Collinson doing something called Fearless and Emily Lewis doing Why I Chose Your Father.
Most of his work has remained in local theaters, but not all of it.
“There are a few plays I’ve written that haven’t been produced locally but have had other productions around the country,” he said. “Mainly Jennifer’s Wedding and a really weird play about global warming called Swimmers that requires flooding the entire stage at the end of Act One.”
Monologues may have been his first love, but he’s also been smitten by longer forms. “
For years, I had no interest in writing a full-length play, and now that’s mainly what I work on, and writing monologues is just a treat I give myself once I’ve completed a full-length piece,” he noted. “Locally both The House in Providence and The Diner and Mr. Stone were produced by Mixed Magic Theatre. Contemporary Theatre Company did my adaptation of [Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s] The Visit last Fall, and this October, Counter-Productions Theatre Company is going to be doing a play I wrote called Kill the Virgin.
“Epic will also be doing one of my full-lengths – American Strippers – in November. I’m a little hesitant to produce my own full-length works, but this play is one of my favorites, so I couldn’t resist it.”
What does he look for in works by others? Besides “bold plays – big plays” like Angels in America, which Epic has staged, he appreciates “a play where the writing itself speaks to me, not just the idea behind the show or the overall plot. There aren’t that many new stories out there, but there are characters that jump out at you and dialogue that really pops.”
Like the absorbing monologues and longer pieces that people have come to expect from Epic Theatre.