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On with the show! Theatre and music departments are back to in-person performances.

By Cole Allen and Taylor Jaseph, Mar. 1, 2022

For the first time in nearly two years, the theatre and music departments will perform their plays, musicals and dance concerts in front of a live audience in the main theatre and concert recital hall.

The Department of Theatre and New Dance will be performing three plays, a dance concert and a one-time-only concert reading. The music theatre class is back to the stage and performing the musical “Sweet Charity” for its annual production.

“I think they (the plays) resonate with current events and current situations in the world really well,” said Bernardo Solano, chair of the theatre department and professor.

The first play to take the limelight is “Let Me Down Easy,” written by Anna Deveare Smith and directed by theatre lecturer Michael T. Kachingwe. Centering around the United States healthcare system, “Let Me Down Easy” tracks various individuals with different illnesses and their encounters with the healthcare system. This play will be held in the main theatre from March 18-24.

Courtesy of Bernardo Solano

The second play is “Mr. Burns,” written by Anne Washburn and directed by Solano. Set in a post-apocalyptic world after a nuclear power plant catastrophe, the people amuse themselves by recreating “The Simpsons” episode “Cape Fear.” This show will be featured in the main theatre from April 21-27.

In between the second and third play is “Moving Together Again: A dance theatre concert.” Cal Poly Pomona professors and students are contributing choreography to the concert. The play is still being formulated, but there is already a promise of puppetry included. This concert will be scheduled from May 6-8.

The fourth play is “The Nether,” written by Jennifer Haley and directed by theatre lecturer Richard Pluim. Set in a near future world, people would rather live in a virtual reality realm called the Nether. The play turns dark quickly as it follows a detective investigating pedophilia occurring through the virtual realm. This staged reading will be held May 12 and 13.

There is also a special one-time event concert reading of a translated Spanish play called the “Lieutenant Nun.” In collaboration with the Department of English and Modern Languages for translation, this minimally rehearsed reading will happen at the end of April.

Susan Ali, professor in the Department of Music, is also producing and directing the musical theatre’s production of “Sweet Charity.”

This musical is written by Neil Simon and composed by Cy Coleman; “Sweet Charity” tells the story of a taxi dancer, Charity, who is a girl looking for love. The audience will be taken on a journey through Charity’s romantic trials and tribulations. The musical theatre class will be performing in the music recital hall from April 21-23.

With all these performances being in person, all audience members will be required to wear masks, but no social distancing will be enforced. The actors will rehearse in masks, but during their performances on stage, they will be unmasked.

Ali is excited for the move back to in-person performances for her students, so they are able to experience acting in front of a live audience.

“Their family and friends can come, and they get to perform for them,” Ali said. “They haven’t been able to, except online where you don’t know how you’re reaching people.”

After many semesters of virtual performances, the added stressors of recording from home —such as actors setting up their own backgrounds, instead of the crew in typical theatre performances—will be relieved from their shoulders. Many members in the department is excited to come back and show off their hard work in person.

“When we were doing virtual shows, it’s almost cold, you don’t see people,” said Alexis Secrist, stage manager for “Mr. Burns.” “When you’re making art and you’re telling these stories the actors feed off of each other, we all do. Over Zoom, you don’t get that, it’s different. When you’re doing a scene with somebody you feed off their energy, having them there, and that’s what makes the performance really good. So, coming back everyone was just so excited to be in the room with each other, especially with a live audience.”

Feature image courtesy of Bernardo Solano

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