Arts & Life, Events, Fine & Performing Arts

Theatre Department Chair Jeff Janisheski talks upcoming season and ‘Ghost of Lote Bravo’

During the fall semester, California Repertory, the theatre company at Long Beach State, will host a variety of diverse productions. The first show that Cal Rep will be putting on this semester is “Ghosts of Lote Bravo,” which will be on campus from Sep. 20-30.

The Daily 49er had a conversation with Theatre Department Chair Jeff Janisheski about the details of “Ghosts of Lote Bravo,” what it means in our current society and why students should see it.

What kinds of shows can students expect this fall from the theatre?

Jeff J: This coming fall is the launch of our 30th anniversary here at Cal Rep and I think it will be a great season that will showcase the breadth of what we do. We are starting with

a brutal and beautiful play called “Ghost of Lote Bravo,” by Hilary Bettis, an up-and-coming Latinx writer. Next is a piece about Harvey Milk called “Dear Harvey,” written by one of our professors who teaches playwriting. That’s going to be opening up on National Coming Out Day. It will be performed in conjunction with the Harvey Milk Park in Long Beach. It’s a really important play about an American icon and someone who impacted American politics. But, also it’ll help us connect with our surrounding community. The third piece is going to be [a] really fun piece called “The Funfair” by Simon Stephens. It’s a rollercoaster of a play set in an amusement park about the breakdown of a relationship. The final piece will be “Drunken City” by Adam Bock. It’s a contemporary comedy about the terrors of love and relationships set in New York City. It’s a great season with lots of sociopolitical pieces in it, as well as some very fun, theatrical plays.

What exactly is “Ghosts of Lote Bravo” about?

JJ: It’s a beautiful love story between a mother searching for her daughter after she disappears. It’s a tragic story about what one will do for love and the sacrifices one will make. But, the play is a brutal one set in Juarez, Mexico, which is a border town near Texas. For those who aren’t familiar, Juarez’ unofficial name is the capital of murdered women. The play tackles many intense subjects including femicide, exploitation of women. It also subtly attacks and interrogates NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and its devastating impact on Mexico. It tackles tons of massive, epic political issues under the guise of a very poetic ghost story.

What can you tell us about the playwright behind “Ghosts of Lote Bravo?”

JJ: “Ghosts of Lote Bravo” is written by a very important up-and-coming Latinx playwright, Hilary Bettis. It’s very deeply personal for Hilary, who is Mexican but has a white family. She has always felt torn between her identities. It’s about honoring her family ghosts.

How long have the actors been rehearsing and preparing?

JJ: To work on any theatre project here at Long Beach State is a a very rigorous process. Actors commit to five weeks and four hours per day of rehearsal time. However, there’s also many hours that go into the show outside of rehearsal. This includes learning one’s lines and immersing yourself into the character. It’s full immersion for about five to six weeks, which helps actors delve deeply into their characters.

Why should students come see this play?

JJ: It’s set in Mexico, but not necessarily disconnected from the oppression and the problems that are happening right here in California. On one level, the play is very theatrically told with bold, incredible costumes. On another level, it’s very politically and socially urgent. It’s the type of play where students will be immersed in the world of “Ghosts of Lote Bravo.”

Does “Ghosts of Lote Bravo” relate to any current issues our society is facing?

JJ: Yes, absolutely. The play is set in Mexico and we live in a society where our current president says horrible things about the people coming from Mexico. Our president is deeply racist, anti-immigrant and his views toward Mexico are horrific. While Hilary didn’t write this play in response to Trump, it deeply resonates in our current time. The play is a moving story, but it’s also an educational one that will open people’s eyes to what is happening in cities like Juarez.

What impact do you think or hope this play will have on students?

JJ: My eyes have been opened by Hilary and I think anyone who comes to see this production will gain a sense of compassion. It will show that these people are trying to escape the worst circumstances that one could imagine like horrible working conditions, low wages and exploitation. This play will teach you compassion and open your eyes.

If you could give an elevator pitch as to why students should come see the shows what

would it be?

JJ: Come to Cal Rep because our productions are absolutely vibrant, exciting, thrilling and

theatrical. You will see some of the best theatre you can in Southern California done by

students. It’s student-driven work that’s urgent, vibrant and fun.

Where should students to go to purchase tickets for the play?

JJ: Anyone interested in attending this play can go to the Cal Rep website or come straight to the box office. The website also has information about any upcoming productions.

This story has been updated to fix an error in the spelling of Jeff Janisheski’s name and to clarify that Cal Rep is the theatre company rather than the graduate theatre company. 

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