The upcoming spring schedule from the California Repertory Company and University Art Theater will include plays of cultural exploration, a modern telling of a Sophocles story and a humorous imagining of the rapture.
CalRep will kick off the semester with “Dreamers: Aqui y Alla,” directed by Andrea Caban and Julie Granata-Hunicutt, which touches on issues of Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals. It’s an original story put on by the CSULB Studio Theater and devised by the University Art Theater ensemble.
The production was made in collaboration with the California-Mexico Studies Center to tell true stories of Deferred Action recipients grappling with their fear of the current political administration, their journey of crossing the border to Mexico to visit their families and the heartache of returning back to the United States.
“There was a lot of anxiety and fear and we tried to absorb as much as that story into the play as possible,” Caban said. “We want to make good use of their stories and tie it into what happens every day in the news.”
The play is part of the Devising Democracy series, which aims to produce original work that addresses issues facing students and Californians in our time.
Four cast members in the play travelled to Mexico with Deferred Action recipients to see firsthand the fear they go through while crossing the border and seeing their family, then used that experience in the devisement of the production.
The second play to hit the stage will be “We are proud to present…” by Jackie Sibblies Drury, and will be directed by Chris Anthony, the CalRep managing editor. The story of an African genocide and its unlikely heroes is a self-reflective piece that flips the mirror on the audience and invites them to examine their own strengths and weaknesses.
An old Sophocles tale will be modernized in “Antigone X,” the third production of the season by Paula Cizmar, directed by Jeff Janisheski. Much like the original play, the message of defying power in the name of higher decency will be woven in with modern issues of police brutality, refugee camps and terrorists.
“We’re living in an Antigone world,” Janisheski said. “A world of resistance and whistleblowers and of people speaking up and rejecting oppression and racism and misogyny. It’s just saying we need to speak up. Antigone will only become more and more relevant in the age were in right now.”
“Antigone X” will be told in multiple forms of media, connecting videos, songs and live acting in front of audiences.
The spring theater season will come to a close with “End days,” by Deborah Zoe Laufer. The quirky comedy follows a 16-year-old goth and features an Elvis-impersonating neighbor, a paranoid mother and an impending apocalypse.
While the play is meant to connect to the audience’s struggles and current issues, overall it’s a message of hope to people on how to keep trucking on — even when it feels like the world is ending.
“I think for everyone the purpose of theater is to tell human stories and to remind us of the power of those stories,” Janisheski said. “I hope that all of our plays provoke those kinds of reactions where they’re moving and they help people pay attention to those stories, some of which they might not know anything about.”