Palomar theatre students, led by theatre professor Michael Mufson, have been working on a last-minute show to replace the onstage production the department just cast, called “It Can’t Happen Here”.
Directly after casting, California issued a mandatory stay at home order, and the show, along with so many other public events throughout San Diego, was canceled. Now hailed as “pioneers of cyber theatre” these students have been challenged with creating a replacement show online.
According to Mufson, the production is inspired by the great jazz singer Nina Simone who said, “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” He and the cast began their task by asking themselves an important question, “what does our community need right now, that only theatre can offer?”
Mufson said, “We all agreed that people want to be connected, uplifted and entertained in a way that will also add perspective to the uncertainties we are all experiencing.”
The cast came up with two ideas for two 20 minute shows, “Haunted in Quarantine,” and “This Tiny House”. The first show is a thought-provoking and entertaining piece, which follows a support group for those who are being haunted. Now, with the pandemic at hand, group members are faced with their hauntings and the quarantine. The support group moves online to Zoom meetings, and the plot thickens from there.
The second show, “This Tiny House,” is inspired by the community. Mufson asked the local community to send the department stories on what they are going through during lockdown, receiving over 40 responses. These real-life accounts will be the roots of inspiration that drive the show performances, which will be a collection of short monologues about quarantine the students will create.
“We want to represent the community and show them they are not alone in the things they are going through,” said freshman and first-year theatre student, Judith Pulido. “It’s been eye-opening to see what others are going through, and we hope they can hear their voice in what we create.”
The students have had to work hard and fast to put together a totally different show in a short period of time, but the students expressed a positive catharsis that came with the creation of the project.
“The work doesn’t seem too difficult when you are spending time with people you like and working on something you really believe in,” said Jovyn Anderson, a freshman and first-year theatre student. “Rehearsals each night help us step out of the place we are in and we almost forget that we are stuck in our house. It feels therapeutic.”
“We hope the audience sees themselves in the characters we have created,” said Sami McCain, a Palomar sophomore and acting/musical theater major. “But, by creating them and embodying them, it also helps us sort through our own feelings, even if it is subconsciously.”
Through the performing arts, Mufson hopes his students realize the power they have to connect people during a time when human connection is more important than ever.
“At their core, theatre and all performing arts are about human connection,” Mufson said, “the living interaction of discovery between people in shared time and space.”
“Haunted in Quarantine” and “This Tiny House” will play May 15 and 16 at 7 pm, then “Haunted in Quarantine” will play again at midnight on both nights. For more information on how to access the show on Zoom go to www.palomarperforms.com or email Michael Mufson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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