While the theatre industry is on pause due to the global pandemic, the Cal Poly Pomona Theatre and New Dance Department continues to provide students with hands-on experience in the field, paving ways for students to succeed in the professional world.
Implementing various resources, the department is encouraging students to build professional experience from home.
Though live auditions have been put on hold, students are adapting to new casting methods with “self-tapes,” a form of auditioning where students film themselves captivating their talents for a potential role.
“They’ll film themselves doing some acting and submit it to the casting director,” said Michael Kachingwe, a lecturer in the theatre department. “Actors have to adapt and make adjustments. Casting directors have been receiving auditions through tapes, as opposed to these students coming to their office.”
Kachingwe also credited the department for continuing productions and the casting process for allowing students to learn how to perform in front of the camera amid the pandemic, another useful skill students can take into the industry.
Upcoming online productions like “Men on Boats” and “Zorro x2” will serve as students’ virtual stage to be seen by the public.
Jenny Eichhorn, a second-year acting student, is playing Jenny Winters in “Zorro x2,” an upcoming virtual production launching Nov. 20. As a student actress, Eichhorn praised the department’s flexibility during the pandemic.
According to Eichhorn, actors were sent various filming equipment such as microphones, green screens, lighting equipment, props and costumes to produce “Zorro x2.” Having access to various resources and equipment that mimic the professional theatre scene, student actors are able to get a glimpse into how their careers may look after graduating.
Though the productions are being presented via Zoom, students are receiving the opportunity to learn more about the overall producing process and what is expected of a designer and actor on set, Eichhorn added.
For fourth-year acting student Julian Carrasco, the experience of rehearsing for “Zorro x2” was comparable to “making a movie,” positioning him for a smooth transition into the theatre industry.
“As Professor Bisesti has pointed out numerous times, this process for ‘Zorro’ is helping us all see what it’s like to be on set,” Carrasco said. “I think this is a major step for my future. Now that I have experience with shooting a scene for either a film or TV show, I feel that I can take on the world.”
Theatre department professors have made it a goal to not only teach students the different aspects of the field but also for them to continue working on their craft and learn by doing.
Sarah Krainin, assistant professor and head of design at the department, believes that one of the most important things for students’ portfolios is to keep making content.
“I don’t want to minimize what we are dealing with. It’s frustrating; but what we can do is still powerful,” Krainin said. “How we decided to proceed still supports all the learning and as long as we keep producing content there is still evidence of these students’ ability.”
Krainin shared the importance of students receiving the same professional level experience as the pre-COVID era. One way the department is attempting to do this is through tech week, a week where students prepare for a play or musical that consists of overviewing and adding the final touches to the production, design and technical aspects of theatre.
With students filming their own scenes and editors assembling the clips into a film, there are more adjustments that the team is having to make; thus, the tech week for all online productions is now lasting for three weeks instead of its usual one week.
Aside from the opportunities to participate in various performances, students are also gaining experiences at a professional level with courses like Design and Production. The course, taught by Krainin and lighting design professor Jesse Portillo, replicates a professional environment that allows students to fully display their design talents.
“We still want them to have evidence of theatrical costume design, so they go through the process of putting together a real theatre costume,” Krainin said. “Of course, the show doesn’t happen, but they get that experience of putting the design together and presenting it in a professional way.”
Even though the theatre industry is on pause, the CPP theatre department is far from it. With Zoom productions continuing, students are still in a position to add to their portfolios and make an impact in the industry.
The department is bringing its plays to life through Zoom with “Men on Boats” opening on Oct. 30 and “Zorro X2” opening on Nov. 20. To make reservations to view these online productions, visit https://www.cpp.edu/class/theatre-new-dance/production-season/index.shtml.
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