“The Stranger” started out as just a homework assignment for theatre arts major Henry Meza, but in less than two hours, it became a play that is now a six-episode video series.
“It came to me immediately, almost in pictures, like a movie,” Meza said, a fifth-year student at Long Beach State. “So, I was writing everything at once right then and there. I submitted it to my professor, and she encouraged me to submit it to the threshold.”
The play revolves around the main character, Ed. At the start, he is planning to commit suicide and an entity, the Stranger, offers Ed salvation. He takes it and the story is about whether he is given salvation or not.
“We often carry a lot of weight on our shoulders and we carry a lot of guilt with us and shame and insecurities,” said Meza. “I know, as someone who struggles with mental health, I often like to run away or escape these issues. So, I want to give the message that you are capable of facing these issues, this guilt, these insecurities that you have. You have the power to stare them down and reclaim yourself and reclaim your soul.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the cast and crew had to transition to a remote recording of the series. Unlike traditional theater, they combined film with theater to create a mini-series that will first air through Zoom and later through Youtube.
“In film you have your set and you have the actual setting in real life. In theatre you’d have to make one,” Meza said. “In this production it’s almost combined, where we can’t really go out to the set so we’d have to make one, but we are filming it.
The production was directed by fourth-year theater performance major, Victoria Camey. For Camey, remotely directing the series has had its ups and downs. From doing rehearsals to table readings on Zoom, the director felt disconnected with the crew.
“I feel disconnected at times. Not so much anymore, but at the beginning of the process when I was adjusting to directing over a screen, I felt really disconnected,” Camey said. “There’s that whole thing where you feel like you’re talking but no one is responding, and that’s because everyone’s on mute. So, it’s just weird. It’s something to definitely get adjusted to.”
Emmanuel Madera, a fifth-year acting major, played the main character Ed and filmed his scenes from home with the help of his cellphone, a ring light and black backdrop. Sometimes, he had to use household objects, such as pillows or coffee tables just to get a good angle.
“As Ed it’s been an awesome experience getting to know this character,” Madera said. “He’s very human, he’s a very flawed character. He resembles a lot of the tragic hero stories in Greek mythology because you kind of root for him, but at the same time you’re kind of wishing that you could make better choices than he is making during the current time.”
The Stranger play is set to air on Zoom every Friday beginning Sept. 25 through Oct. 23 at 12:00 p.m.