A VERY BASEMENT HISTORY
Basement Arts, formerly the Student Laboratory Theatre, was originally founded in 1923 through the University of Michigan's Department of Theatre & Drama with a bill of one-act plays. This developed into 12 productions a year directed, designed, and acted entirely by students. It continued in this fashion until John Russell Brown became chair of the Department of Theatre & Drama in 1985. When Erik Fredricksen became chair in 1988, the Student Laboratory Theatre resumed operation under the name Basement Arts, called as such because of the organization's performance space in the basement of the Arena Theatre (today known as North Quadrangle). From 2007 to the present day, Basement Arts productions are housed in the Walgreen Drama Center’s Newman Studio on North Campus. While Basement Arts is housed and subsidized by the Department of Theatre & Drama and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, Basement Arts now exists to provide opportunities for students of all majors and degree programs.
Called “Ann Arbor’s best kept secret” by the Ann Arbor News, Basement Arts produces 10 to 12 shows during the weekends of the Fall and Winter semesters. Basement Arts has been a training ground for hundreds of aspiring actors, writers, directors, and designers. Our alumni include Darren Criss (Glee), Yuri Sardarov (Chicago Fire), Zachary Booth (Damages, Keep the Lights On), Joey Richter (Team Starkid), Lucy Liu (Charlie’s Angels), Matt Letscher (Mask of Zorro), Jessica Cauffiel (Legally Blonde), Miriam Shor (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), and Tony Nominee Celia Keenan-Bolger (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Peter and the Starcatcher, The Glass Menagerie).
In addition to being showcased all over the University of Michigan campus, Basement Arts productions have also transferred to New York City where they have received productions, workshops, and readings. Additionally, Basement Arts productions have found success on YouTube, such as The Very Potter Musical, which launched the career of Darren Criss and the theatre company Team Starkid, that still carries the University of Michigan and Basement Arts banners today through their continuous creation and development of new musicals.
Interested in joining the Basement Arts team? Visit our Get Involved page to learn more.