A lot of things can be conceived on a basement mattress during a party. Just ask Boston University alumnus Tom Rotolo.
On a mattress one night in the fall of 1990, Rotolo, then a College of Communication sophomore, and Delaina Dixon, then a COM junior, conceived their “brainchild” for a new television show. Now, 19 years later, that brainchild has grown up to be the longest running student-run soap opera in the country, Bay State.
“People laugh at me when I talk about it,” said Rotolo, who went on to become a production manager for the NBC soap opera Passions. “But it’s cool that it’s still there as an activity and that it’s something people work on, because I know how much I got out of it.”
Bay State takes place at the fictional Beacon Hill College and follows students through traditionally absurd story lines. A particularly memorable plot involves a nerd who gets a date with the hot girl, a surprise mafia prostitute, Rotolo said.
Dixon got the idea for Bay State after interning for the show General Hospital, she said.
“I feel like this is my baby and I’m sending it off to college,” Dixon, now a staff entertainment writer for OK! Magazine, said. “What was important was that when I left, this was something that could be continued by other students. Students are still creating these kooky story lines and learning how to create television. It makes me feel like a proud mom.”
COM seniors Josh Brown and Amanda Brown – of no relation — are the latest in a long line of Bay State executive producers, and they are working to improve the quality of the show, they said.
While quality is a priority for those involved in Bay State, allowing freshmen to get the same learning experience as he did is equally important, Josh said.
“The show is a really strong learning system for when new freshmen come in,” he said. “Upperclassmen are always teaching them how the show works, so they know how to take it over when people graduate and when new people come in.”
Josh, who watched all 109 episodes of Bay State while working his way up to executive producer, said he noticed a drop in quality during Bay State’s rebellious adolescent years.
“The show’s been on for so long that it goes up and peaks and then it dips down in quality,” Amanda said. “When Josh and I started freshman year, it was definitely at a low point in terms of quality, and as long as we’ve been on it, we’ve had producers that have had the goal to up the quality. We’re trying to stay on that track of making it better every year.”
In improving the quality, Amanda said she thinks Beacon Hill College will see many more freshmen come through its halls.
“It’s very organized and is something that will definitely stick around.” Amanda said. “Bay State stands on its own as this organization that never dies.”