Photo courtesy of Cal Poly Pomona Department of Theatre and New Dance

By Deena Wicker, Dec. 13, 2022

From Dec. 2 through Dec. 11, Cal Poly Pomona’s Department of Theatre and New Dance released their newest drama production “Spark. 

Written by Caridad Svich and directed by Katie Anvil Rich, “Spark” dove into the dynamic of Evelyn, Lexie and Ali – three sisters from the South who struggled to navigate their personal and familial values in the aftermath of war. 

“I feel like a lot of us went through that in bits and pieces and everyone can relate to the idea of having to kind of either go back to a place or go to a new place and relearn how things work especially all of us in school,” said theatre student Jennifer Eichhorn, who portrayed Lexie in the play. 

The first scene began with Evelyn, Hector and Ali – the oldest, her doting love interest and the youngest— preparing a homely dinner for their sister Lexie’s homecoming from the army. Despite their peaceful intentions, the tension surrounding the sisters’ relationship constantly overcome the sisters’ desire for cohesiveness. 

Evelyn and Lexie fight just minutes after Lexie returns, resulting in Lexie storming away from the scene. Later, what begins as a casual conversation between Evelyn and Ali turns into a heated exchange over Evelyn’s promises to their deceased mother, pushing Ali to run away and pursue boxing to prove herself to her older sister.  

After a few days, Ali returns home with minor injuries and cash for the house. This brings Evelyn and Lexie together through relief, but their tranquility is interrupted by another argument and Lexie takes off into the woods. 

Photo courtesy of Cal Poly Pomona Department of Theatre and New Dance
Photo courtesy of Cal Poly Pomona Department of Theatre and New Dance

Drunk and jaded, Lexie is greeted by a mysterious, older veteran named Vaughn. Although wary to do so, Lexie eventually bonds with him over their experiences in the military, lamenting over loss and being misunderstood. She grows fond over their moment, until Vaughn sings a song that was exclusively sung by her mother. When she confronts him, he disappears. The audience is left to infer that Vaughn is the girls’ absent father, while Lexie returns to her sisters who have been waiting for her to come home. 

Through yelling matches and heart-to-hearts, it became clear that their rift grew from the loss of their parents and a dissonance between expectations and personal desires. By the end of the production, the girls resolve to push through their differences. 

Preparations for the show began this October, where the cast members found themselves to be cast as roles contrary to who they are in real life. From casting to curtain call, each performer put in a tremendous amount of effort to bring their characters to life.  

Theatre student Hailey Maya Mitchell, the youngest of the four cast members, took to an inverse version of practical aesthetics, a method of acting in which the actor finds parts of themselves in the character they are playing. 

“It was hard working out playing a 31-year-old character especially when I’m 19 — playing age is something you can never do, so you have to find the spirit,” said Mitchell. “I had to search for Evelyn in everything I do. It makes it really easy when your cast members are so great, when they know what they’re doing and they’re doing their job.” 

While it was difficult to learn how to sell themselves as a completely different person, the cast noted similarities in their characters that helped them understand what kind of attitudes their roles were looking for.  

As an only child, journalism student Sanjana Rajagopal described feeling she had the least experience with sibling relationships. However, she was able to grasp Ali’s relationship with Evelyn through her own experiences with her mother.  

“Something I was just really excited to bring to life was this sister dynamic, because Evelynn is the older sister and there is a relatively large age gap between the other sisters,” said Rajagopal. “She has this motherly presence to her and that dynamic, at least to me, really hit close to home. I really relate myself to Ali and my mom to Evelyn.” 

CPP’s “Spark” offered a story that focuses on redefinition in an unfamiliar place – a common sentiment that the world faces now.  

The cast delivered a touching performance that emphasized the importance of unity, understanding and love through uncertainty.  

“I think something we can all be proud of is the story we’re telling,” said Eichhorn, referring to the dynamics of a broken family. “The specific story in regard to what it means to come home or when home isn’t really what you want it to be, and you have to find a way to make it, is something I think is really special.” 

Feature image courtesy of Cal Poly Pomona Department of Theatre and New Dance

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