Mattie Brickman ’05 has enjoyed explaining the phenomenon of Princeton Reunions to her friends in California. “They go back every year?” people often ask. “What do they do every year?”
But for Brickman, a playwright and screenwriter, there’s more to reunions than fun and revelry. Revisiting your alma mater fits a more general storyline of “going back to an evocative place that formed you,” she says. That was a driving force in the development of her new play, Reunions, Reunions, Reunions, which debuts Feb. 5 and will run through Feb. 21 at the Studio Stage Theater in Los Angeles.
Set at a fictional college, the play features four main characters, including Courtland, who is coming back for her first reunion. She visits her boyfriend’s father, a professor obsessed with turning points in history, to pick up a gift that becomes, in Brickman’s telling, something of a Pandora’s box.
While the themes are introspective, the play also aims to recreate a festive, reunion-like atmosphere from the moment when audience members begin to take their seats. There’s a Greek chorus of rabblerousing classmates and a drummer on stage, wearing a sheep mask (the mascot of the fictional college).
Brickman, a Woodrow Wilson School major at Princeton, works in television as the show runner’s assistant on the CBS drama Code Black. After spending 11 or 12 hours at work, she checks in with director Hunter Adams and the cast at rehearsals for Reunions, Reunions, Reunions. The long days remind her of Princeton, she says, where she would go to class, do coursework, and rehearse with a campus dance group late in the evening.
While Brickman works in TV and has produced a web series, the Yale Drama School graduate aims to choose the medium that best serves each story that she writes. And for Reunions, Reunions, Reunions,theater was a great fit for what she was trying to create: “an all-encompassing, 360-degree experience — with no pause button.”
The show also has a link to Princeton’s former theater program director Tim Vasen, who died in December. Brickman was a student in a class that Vasen taught at Yale, and in the class, she directed a scene from an early draft of the play. Vasen’s enthusiastic response, she says, was one of the reasons that she kept coming back to the project over the course of more than six years. “He’s definitely been part of this process in spirit,” Brickman says.