Lights, camera, virtual action: CPP theatre lecturer directs virtual play

Since childhood, performing arts has held a significant place in the life of Cal Poly Pomona Adjunct Theatre Lecturer Michael Kachingwe. Kachingwe has tread steadily through this path from performing to directing and teaching, leading him through multiple successful shows including his most recent work directing “A Refugee in Detroit” last month for his alma mater, the University of Iowa.

The University of Iowa invited Kachingwe to speak about ongoing social injustice issues following recent national protests. Three directors, including Kachingwe, collaborated with three student-directors to produce a series of 10-minute short plays named “6 by 6,” that aims to promote social justice by highlighting diverse voices.

“A Refugee in Detroit,” one of the 10-minute short plays in the production written by Keith Josef Atkins tells the story of a refugee and new business owner receiving a mysterious package, raising paranoia and suspicion regarding its contents.

Although Kachingwe has directed countless plays, this production was different, he said. Unlike the others, the play was directed virtually with the crew working remotely until the end when the actors gathered with face masks to be filmed on stage.

“I hope to never do it again,” Kachingwe said jokingly. “We have to adapt to what our circumstances are and what’s going on in our society and environment, so hopefully things will become easier. But in terms of the field that we’re in, we need human connection. We need human interaction that is not limited to Zooming.”

Kachingwe’s talent for directing comes from his personal experience on stage. Born in Zimbabwe and moving to the U.S. at the age seven with his father who worked in the music industry, performance was constantly a part of his life.

“My dad was a recording artist and we traveled around the country in the 1970s doing music and so forth,” said Kachingwe. “Music is a big part of my background.” Kachingwe’s son and daughter are now working in the music industry as well, he added.

The director and lecturer spent a substantial amount of time both on stage and on set too. With a master’s degree in acting, Kachingwe performed and directed throughout his college career, later spending some time in the world of film and television with a recurring role in the soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful” as well as co-starring in the web series “Just Jackie.”

Theatre, however, always had his heart. Kachingwe has directed at popular theaters in the Midwest and Northeast such as the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and the Lincoln Center in New York.

Kachingwe landed the opportunity to direct companion plays “Lone Star” and “Laundry and Bourbon” at CPP in 2007, marking the first of now 13 years of his career with the university. Kachingwe now teaches courses like Introduction to Acting and Introduction to Theatre, which will be offered in the 2021 spring semester.

“I was invited by the theatre chair at the time, Bill Morse,” said Kachingwe. “From there, I started teaching acting classes and directing in the season a bit more. I stayed ever since.”

To watch his recent virtual productions, visit https://youtu.be/RDuG78es4u8.

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