It began as a small side project and grew to become an opportunity for students to dabble in the world of theatre.
Zero Untitled Productions is a group of individuals who focus on producing non-theatrical plays in non-traditional spaces. They are not involved with the university’s Theater Program. It began in 2003 with a group of Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) students who lived and breathed theater, said Michael Verderber, English lecturer and co-founder of Zero Untitled along with Gabriel Ruiz, and Paco Morales.
“We were practically obsessed and wanted to do more than what we were doing, which was already a busy schedule,” Verderber said.
“We are not a part of TAMUK Theater, but we help them as much as we can,” Verderber said.
The TAMUK Theater aims to teach theater majors, specifically, and produces larger productions, unlike Zero Untitled, whose productions are smaller and performed in non-traditional theatre methods.
“TAMUK theater is developing theater majors, and I am not,” Verderber said.
Zero welcomes any student on campus who is interested in being involved in an extra-curricular activity, even if it has nothing to do with his or her major.
“The TAMUK Theater Program and Zero are two different worlds,” said Joshua Cavazos, a junior majoring in Communications. “Zero Untitled is a tad more freedom, improv-based and TAMUK theater is a little more strict.”
While serious about what they do, Zero also wants students to “just have fun with it,” Verderber said.
Their goal is to provide a different experience for the students with something they can’t get anywhere else, according to Verderver and seconded by students who participate in Zero.
“I really like what the Theater Program has done and enjoy their shows, but working with Zero is just one of those unique experiences that you would not get from a traditional theater program,” Cavazos said.
Katherine Lynn Orozco, a senior double majoring in English and History, writes, acts and directs for Zero.
“Zero is more my style. The idea that a student can have their work produced is incredible,” she said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to write Nightmare of Oz [Zero’s dark tour which debuted this past Oct.]”
Part of the purpose of Zero is for students to have the opportunity to produce what they would want to see and be involved with, Verderber said.
Zero has produced 65 shows since it started, Verderber said.
Zero performs in strange but functional venues, such as coffee shops, bars, and art galleries, he said. Another space they normally use is a small meeting room, known as the Blue Room located in Sam Fore Hall. Often, that is their rehearsal space and main stage, he said.
“We rarely ever use an actual stage,” Verderber said.
Not only has Zero performed in Kingsville, but they have traveled to many different cities in Texas, outside of Texas and even out of the United States.
They have performed mime shows in Las Vegas and several Shakespearean monologues in Paddington Park in London, England.
Some of the Zero crew has trained at the Globe Theater in London, and one was also part of the cast of the Lion King on Broadway in New York City.
More than 228 students have been involved with Zero since it started and they are confident that they will intrigue more students to join.
Zero produces eight to 12 shows a year, not including comedy shows from the improv group, Premature Punch Line.
“Productions are happening literally all of the time,” Verderber said. “We are always working on something.”
When it comes to producing their dark tours, such as Nightmare of Oz in Sam Fore Hall, the tradition has evolved and brought in a larger number of students each year.
How is it possible to shut down a building on campus for an entire evening? They simply began by asking the chair of the language department if it was possible to take over Fore Hall for a production.
The administration agreed, as long as things were not damaged and everything was put back as is.
“The entire department is ridiculously supportive of what we do in Fore
Hall,” Verderber said.
New students are always welcome to join Zero and all they have to do is just show up, Verderber said.
“We’re interested in any student who wants to try something different,” said Verderber.
Students who are interested can start small and get comfortable enough later to give acting, directing, and writing a shot, he said.
“Zero provided me with the perfect outlet to test out something that I’ve never had the chance to do before,” said Cavazos, who joined Zero as part of the technical crew.
Cavazos is presently directing, writing, and acting with Zero.
“Our goals are to keep building a following for the audience,” said Verderber. “Since the dark tours have become a hit our audience, they are expecting something big and that‘s what we want to give them.”
Zero’s next production, From Passion to Page, involves Verderber’s English 3300 Playwriting course.
Students create short plays and watch them come to life as Zero provides the help in making that a possibility.
The first set of plays will be performed in the Blue Room in Sam Fore Hall today, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m.