Founded in 2005, Epic Theatre Company began with the idea of celebrating local talent in RI and producing edgy plays in small spaces. As per the company’s mission, they strive to create “event” theater that attracts people away from their screens and brings them out to the stage.
“We find that our biggest challenge is getting people to engage in the performing arts at a time when there’s so much digital content to experience,” Kevin Broccoli, founder and artistic director, explains. “So everything we do at the theater is not just a matter of doing good work; it’s about creating an experience to rival what’s going on at the movies or on streaming services.”
To do this, Epic undertakes big projects with big ideas that grab (and hold on to) people’s attention spans. “We’ve produced shows made up of over 500 monologues and just as many performers, plays where the content got racier throughout and the audience was invited to leave if they couldn’t handle it, and full-length productions presented in front of an audience with no rehearsal,” says Broccoli. They will continue their tradition of intensity in June with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, a bold script that fits perfectly into this season’s “Truth to Power” theme.
“The play is all about how those in power feel they can change everything – from historyto truth itself,” he explains. Though he was originally worried that the play would be too dated for modern audiences, the show’s characters – especially Henry VIII and his band of con artists – make the play fit perfectly into contemporary issues.
On finding their own voice in our extremely close and prolific RI theater scene, Broccoli says that he cherishes the opportunity to look at the work other companies are doing. “I think it’s wonderful to have such a small community with so many theaters in it,” he says. “It helps us, because we can look around and figure out what we can add.”
With Wolf Hall, Epic will demonstrate their aim to join the ongoing conversation and discuss politics in a unique way. “We’re really leaning into ideas of power, but we don’t just want to preach liberalism to an audience full of theater-going liberals,” he says. “Instead, we want to ask hard questions about how resistance actually works, how those without power make their voices heard, and how individuals can make an impact.”
After Wolf Hall, Epic will shift right into the summer season with two premieres – Constellations and Homos, or Everyone in America. Both of these plays focus on love and relationships, a seemingly lighter topic, but of course include an Epic sort of twist. Looking at the whole season, the shows reflect Epic’s tendency to aim high with powerful works. However, Broccoli thinks the company is always able to make it work: “We find that by stripping these shows down to their basic elements, we let the story speak the loudest.”