Backstage look into the path of CPP’s theatre students

By Kailee Santiago and Daisy Verdin, Feb. 06, 2024

From the lights to production, designing, teaching and acting, there’s a chance for Cal Poly Pomona students to discover their own role.

Theatre students shared behind the scenes glimpses of the struggles and rewarding discoveries of the journey to a career in the industry.

Students take part in various aspects of theater, but along the way, find a special interest that is destined for their line of work.

Theatre student Justin Ni has been an actor since high school and has an emphasis in acting. He performed in his first ever musical play in high school, “The Little Mermaid” as the role of the pilot, chef Louis and in the ensemble.

He expressed how acting allows a space for self-discovery as an artist and to dig deeper into the feelings a character may hold.

“This requires us to find what makes us insecure and the feeling of it, it can feel really ‘naked’ as an artist because you need the ability to showcase all ranges of emotion, feeling and movement to be able to tell someone’s story,” Ni said.

Ni steered the course and is currently working on a short film called “Red Braised Pork” working as the director, writer and director of photography and cinematography.

Andrea Lopez, general theatre student, is a first generation Latinx student who presents as a masculine lesbian. She expressed how there is a lack of representation of Latinos and LGTBQ+ in the industry which is what drives her to continue rewriting that narrative.

Cal Poly Pomona students performing in the play “Mojada.” | Berenice Lopez

“Representation is an essential tool for restoring the love we want in our society, for each other essentially,” Andrea Lopez said.

She hopes to empower, educate and reintroduce Contemporary Chicano and Mexican art into the world of theater.

Andrea Lopez prevailed over many hardships throughout her journey to essentially make sense of who she wanted to be. Born in the United States but living in Mexico until seventh grade, Andrea Lopez struggled with being hyperactive and energetic at school as it led to her being suspended from classes and ultimately struggling with her grades. Her life changed forever when she moved back to the United States and was introduced to drama class.

“It was like I was going through life in black and white and suddenly I saw the world in color,” Andrea Lopez stated.

“The Odd Couple (female version)” by Neil Simon is Andrea Lopez’s favorite production, playing the role Sylvie. Andrea Lopez deems being on stage is rewarding because it lets her articulate her feelings and emotions in an artistic way. She adores everything from collaboration to the community.

“The collaboration and community of this art form is everything, it’s literally healing,” Andrea Lopez said. “To feel like you belong somewhere and like your life experiences serves for something and you can make something that is genuinely good.”

Theatre students performing in the play, “As You Like It.” | Berenice Lopez

Bernice Lopez is a theatre student with an emphasis in scenic design and is passionate about creating, designing sets and putting on productions. She first joined CPP as a landscape architecture student but quickly found herself feeling impassive and decided to drop the major and head into theater.

“The department has become a second home in the way I go there to work on projects, to meet friends, to cry, to do homework for other classes excluding theatre and even sleep, said Berenice Lopez. “It’s so encouraging and comforting.”

One of Berenice Lopez’s biggest struggles is trusting herself and the process from creating the designs to building the scenes. She finds it difficult to vocalize her ideas afraid of others will shut them down due to regulations or budget cuts. She hopes to someday overcome that struggle but for now she will continue to keep pushing herself past her limits.

Currently, Bernice Lopez is working on designing the show for the main stage theater on campus that will take place next semester. She hopes to earn her Master of Fine Arts in production design and to be able to speak to others on the experience of being a woman in the industry.

“I would love to teach a class or give a talk about pursuing a career in the arts or being a woman in the industry,” said Berenice Lopez. “It would be extremely rewarding to pass on knowledge to other generations.”

The films “Babylon” directed by Damien Chazelle and “ T he Truman Show” were some of the films that inspired Bernice Lopez to pursue a career in this direction. Her future endeavors go beyond the art of theater. She wants to go to the film and television industry as a set designer, decorator or production designer.

The journey may look different for everybody, but these students for their biggest act yet, paving a way into this industry by trusting the journey and immersing themselves into their work.

Feature image courtesy of Berenice Lopez 

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