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March 8, 2004

Theater arts student helped bring UCSC dance/theater production to renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival

By Scott Rappaport

Over the past three years, Bahia Simons-Morton has gained quite a bit of production experience studying theater arts at UCSC.

Bahia Simons-Morton helped coordinate the logistics necessary to make the trip to Scotland happen.

Profiles of other outstanding UCSC students are available online.

She has served as stage manager for several full-length student plays, directed two productions, and worked with Shakespeare Santa Cruz as assistant stage manager for the acclaimed company’s annual holiday presentation.

But Simons-Morton’s adventure during the summer of 2002--helping to bring a UCSC experimental dance/theater production to Scotland’s renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival--has proven to be her most unforgettable experience as a theater arts undergraduate.

It started with a performance class she attended, taught by graduate student Shakina Nayfack. Studying a variety of movement theories, the class generated ideas and material that eventually evolved into Ragesties, a show that reflected the emotional repercussions of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

After Ragesties was staged at UCSC on two consecutive weekends, the class set its sights on the Edinburgh Festival and embarked on a fundraising campaign. Along with Nayfack, Simons-Morton helped coordinate all of the logistics necessary to make the trip happen. This included arranging for a performance space at the Scotland festival, and finding a two-story flat within walking distance of the theater for all 10 participants.

Before they went overseas, Simons-Morton helped Nayfack technically rework the show, because they knew the festival would not provide the resources normally available to students at UCSC in terms of lighting and sets. She also participated in numerous rehearsals as the work was transformed into a revised production called Bodies in Crisis in preparation for the change in venue.

“It was an essential, real-life, theater experience,” Simons-Morton observed. “We performed every night for a month during the festival. I had never worked on a show that ran that long—it was a constantly changing piece of theater.”

“It was also an invaluable experience working outside of the UCSC environment and figuring out how their theater worked,” Simons-Morton added. “I really learned about being the one in charge. There was no safety net—we didn’t have faculty to fall back on if something went wrong.”

As both production and stage manager for the endeavor, Simons-Morton supervised all technical aspects of the show, called light and sound cues, scheduled and facilitated rehearsals, ran production meetings, assisted the director, and coordinated promotion and publicity. But she also found time to take advantage of one of the main perks of being a festival participant—the opportunity to see a multitude of other productions for free.

“There was a huge variety of performances—from one-man self-written pieces, to shows in a big-top circus tent, to amazing Brazilian theater,” Simons-Morton said. “I was able to meet a lot of actors and see a lot of experimental theater that I had never experienced before.”

Now a senior, Simons-Morton will help run UCSC’s 2004 Chautauqua Festival this year in her new position as co-production manager of the annual student theater extravaganza. Featuring 12 shows in two different performing spaces, the festival takes place over two consecutive weekends in the spring.

“As a theater arts major at UCSC, you have a lot of freedom in how well-rounded you want your education to be,” Simons-Morton noted. “You’re able to take classes in all aspects of theater, including acting, directing, lighting, sound… you don’t have to choose between the artistic and technical side.”

“In many other schools, students don’t really become involved in productions until graduate school; they just take theory classes,” she added. “But at UCSC, you can participate in shows from the very beginning. Theory means a lot more when you can apply it.”

Profiles of other outstanding UCSC students are available online.

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