Reaching for Stars in the Sky

March 27, 2007

The BMCC Theater Club’s production of Guys and Dolls showcases impressive talent – and an innovative approach to theater arts education. Francis Badia’s mother always hoped her son would grow up to be police officer. But now that the BMCC theater major is about to play a character on the wrong side of the law, his mom is delighted.

The character is Harry the Horse – Big Julie’s bodyguard. “I enrolled in BMCC as a liberal arts major but always had a special interest in acting,” Badia says. Last year, with no stage experience and little hope of being taken seriously, he auditioned for the Theater Department’s critically acclaimed production of The Laramie Project. “I never expected to get in, but, incredibly, I landed a part,” he says. “I immediately changed my major to theater arts.”

A unique approachBadia’s experience is not atypical – at least, not for BMCC. “What sets our theater program apart is that students get to play meaningful roles right from the beginning – either as actors or doing things like costume or set design,” says Professor Diane Dowling, theater program coordinator in the Speech, Communication and Theater Department. “At other schools, they would have to wait till their junior or senior years.”

While some theater majors, like Badia, plan to make the stage or screen their life’s work, many go on to other careers, or to pursue Bachelors and Masters programs. And that, says Dowling, is what BMCC’s theater program is about.

“Whether we’re teaching acting, stage management or set design, we’re connecting it with other elements of the liberal arts – sociology, psychology, history, literature and even the sciences,” she says. “It’s our view that theater isn’t just about technical expertise, but about doing the research that enables you to understand the historical context of a play and what it’s really about.” Theater Club productions, including Guys and Dolls, are usually staged at the Tribeca Performance Arts Center, affording students the opportunity to work side-by-side with accomplished theater professionals. The collaboration has also yielded other benefits. “The Tribeca music director was so impressed by our students’ work that he as inspired to write some original music for their production of The Laramie Project,” notes Dowling.

A varied repertoireOver the years, Dowling has directed the BMCC players in a number of dramatic classics, including Othello, Antigone, A View from the Bridge and The Importance of Being Earnest. Guys and Dolls is the Theater Club’s first musical. “We chose it because it’s a landmark of the American musical theater – and because of the New York City setting,” Dowling says. “And, of course, it has all those wonderful gambler bad-boy characters who are so much fun to play.” Badia, who is 5’6” tall, gets a special kick out of playing Harry the Horse, who is one of the play’s more intimidating characters. “I come from a neighborhood where the shortest guys had the biggest attitudes,” he says, “so there’s a lot in this role I can identify with.”


Performances of Guy and DollsWednesday March 28 at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM in Theater 1
Thursday March 29 and Friday March 30 at 7:00 PM in Theater 1
Wednesday March 28 at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM in Theater 1
Thursday March 29 and Friday March 30 at 7:00 PM in Theater 1

share this story »