May 10, 2004
25th anniversary of Chautauqua student theater
By Scott Rappaport
In 1979, the UCSC Chautauqua Festival made its debut at the Barn Theater,
just inside the main entrance of the fledgling 14-year-old campus.
Photo: Jim MacKenzie
Modeled after a tradition of theater festivals that began at Lake
Chautauqua, New York, more than a century ago, the annual campus event
has now helped teach students how to produce, direct, write, and star
in dramatic productions for two and a half decades.
The UCSC Theater Arts Department will celebrate a significant milestone
this year when it presents the 25th annual Chautauqua Festival, beginning
on Thursday, May 13, and running for two weeks at the campus Theater
Arts Center. All performances are free and open to the public.
To me, its the truest training ground for the future of
theater that we can provide, noted Gregory Fritsch, a lecturer
in theater arts who has overseen numerous presentations of Chautauqua
since his first foray as festival director back in 1989. It presents
a practical and successful model of mentoring fellow artists and provides
a comprehensive training arena for all aspects of theater--design, directing,
Perhaps the greatest asset of Chautauqua is that it provides a showcase
for new dramatic writing. The festival offers students a remarkable
chance to have their own original plays developed and produced under
the direction of other students.
It provides our students with opportunities that exist in very
few undergraduate programs in the country, and serves as an incentive
for students hungry to get their work out in front of an audience,
observed award-winning playwright and UCSC theater arts professor James
Bierman noted that four students who have had work produced in the
Chautauqua Festival have gone on to win the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship
of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, making UCSC
the most successful producer of dramatic writers of any university program
in the country in the academys eyes, he added.
The original Chautauqua Festival worked from eight scripts that were
created by students in Biermans 1979 theater arts playwriting
The first evening began with a real tour-de-force production
of a two-minute piece that featured an actor in a hazardous materials
suit who cut down a potted geranium with a chainsaw, Bierman recalled.
That was the shortest piece on the program. The longest was a
one-hour-and-twenty-minute drama by a gifted student named Philip Heim,
who went on to direct in New York City.
During the 1980s, the festival evolved and expanded in various experimental
directions, adding short dance pieces and student films, and increasing
the number of dramatic productions. One year, the festival closed with
a 13-hour marathon that began on Sunday at noon and ended at 2 a.m.
It was amazing how many students endured the whole thing in one
sitting, said Bierman.
Today, nearly 150 students devote themselves each year to running the
festival, spending vast quantities of time covering all aspects of theater
production. Bierman said that in recent years, the festival has become
more disciplined than it was in the past, noting that the quality of
the productions has increased measurably despite limited financial resources.
This years festival will feature 12 original scripts, ranging
from a stage adaptation of George Orwells 1984 to a production
combining African folklore and modern puppetry.
The schedule includes:
PROGRAM A: SECOND STAGE
Let's Say 'OK'- A Zombie Play
Written by Chris Webster
Directed by Troy Delaney
What happens when a future Shogun, a cross-dressing girl, and a
horrifying zombie join the Roman army? Skateboarding happens
some ninjas. Find out what else happens in this hilarious and tantalizing
tale of love, family, friendship, and decomposing flesh.
The Magnificent Adventures of Mothman and Chrysalis
Written by Steven Sautter
Directed by Gwendolyn Dreyer
The story of a superhero and his trusty sidekick, which goes awry with
the sudden realization that it is not 1966 and criminals no longer play
by the rules. So what does it take to be a hero?
The Trial of Anansi
Written by Camilla Henneman
Directed by Andrew Susskind
A combination of African folklore and modern puppetry.
PROGRAM B: SECOND STAGE
Beyond This Water
Written by Laurel Fantauzzo
Directed by Athena Osborn
Seventeen-year-old Sidney Malone-Rizal examines her parents' history
on the cusp of their brutal divorce. Her father, Eddie Rizal, is a former
activist against the Marcos regime in the Philippines; her mother, Patricia
Malone, is an English-American lawyer from New York City.
Written by Martha Michaels
Directed by Blake Morris
What happens when you put a sitcom in the theater? Wacky inanity! Box
Set is theater with all the comforts of television.
Written by Dane Diamond Errisson
Directed by Blake Anderson
The lives of eight characters are intertwined in unexpected ways. Are
they good, bad, or just human?
PROGRAM C: EXPERIMENTAL THEATER
Written by Sara Angell-Isom
Directed by Emily Plumb
In a time of seduction, betrayal, and oppression; in a world where law
is fashion and fashion is law--one woman rages against a world that
oppresses her. Change is here
Are you ready for it?
The Fallen Caryatid
Written by Cyndy Glucksman
Directed by Larissa Golerkansky
An aspiring art professor explores her past through the transformation
of four caryatids (stone columns in the shape of women) into human beings.
A tribute to the sculptor Auguste Rodin.
Written by Chris Lezama
Directed by Lauren Pasternack
PROGRAM D: EXPERIMENTAL THEATER
Adapted by Timothy Jordan
Directed by Timothy Jordan
A new adaptation of George Orwell's timeless commentary on a possible
Written by Brett van Aalsburg
Directed by Carissa Lynch
Written by Daniel Mirk
Directed by Wei Shan Piak
A brilliant scientist living in a basement builds a robot girlfriend.
The 2004 Chautauqua Festival runs from Thursday through Sunday, May
13 to 16; and May 20 to 23, at the UCSC Theater Arts Center. Showtimes
are Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.,
and Sundays at 2 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call
Return to Front Page