February 7, 2005
Theater Arts Department establishes new student-run
By Scott Rappaport
The UCSC Theater Arts Department has established a new student-run
production company to help ease the transition for undergraduates
from academia to the professional theater world.
Graduate students Leah Gardner (artistic director) and Mike
McCann (managing director) are guiding UCSCs new student-run
theater company through its first year.
Photo: Scott Rappaport
Named Barnstorm because of its home base in the
Barn Theater at the foot of the campus, it has been created
as a model of a small professional theater companycompletely
organized and managed by students. Participants receive five
units of academic credit and must put in a minimum of 150 hours
each quarter working in one particular area such as an actor,
director, publicist, or set designer.
Barnstorm allows the students to run their own theater
company in the Barn, noted Danny Scheie, chair of the
Theater Arts Department. It gives the students a chance
to have a legitimate avant-garde theater and run it how they
wantthe dream of every artist on the Lower East Side,
but a financial impossibility for artists in the real world.
Now in its second quarter, Barnstorm is still a work-in-progress.
During its premier quarter last fall, the company presented
two productions of previously published works (Revenge of
the Space Pandas by David Mamet and Fat Men in Skirts
by Nicky Silver), plus three staged readings of original student
work, and a variety of short-run performances that included
improvisational comedy and live-action episodes of television
We teach students how to be professional practitioners,
observed Mike McCann, the companys managing director and
a UCSC graduate student in theater arts. We give students
an opportunity to see what life would be like in an actual company
where theres an artistic director, a marketing team, a
technical director, and various other positions."
McCann said the goal during this first year is to create the
framework of the company and have three productions running
in repertory by spring quarter.
Were thinking on a company level instead of just
looking at one specific show, he explained. For
example, the marketing people must learn to consistently look
ahead to promote future shows in repertory. And the set designers
need to build in such a way that a set can be easily removed
for the comedy group that will come in afterward.
Barnstorm hosts a number of workshops such as 24/7,
where students have just 24 hours to conceive, write, rehearse,
and perform a seven-minute playthe event begins at 9 p.m.
on a Saturday night and the plays are all performed by 9 p.m.
on Sunday. It also presents weekly Syndication/Vindication
nights, offering Santa Cruz-based soap operas such as 90210
in 95064 and All My Kresge Children. A revolving
team of writers create the episodes, and the directors change
every week. We were turning people away by the end of
last quarter, McCann noted.
Although some students have been able to take advantage of
the proximity of Shakespeare Santa Cruz (SSC)the professional
theater company housed at UCSCpositions available to students
have generally been limited by the very fact that SSC is a professional
company. Students also must currently compete for a limited
number of spots to present original productions through the
Theater Arts Department.
Barnstorm is filling a huge need, noted Leah Gardner,
Barnstorms artistic director and also a UCSC theater arts
graduate student. We have at least two or three events
every week. And I would say that probably 25 out of 30 days
in any month theres something going on in the Barnwhether
a performance or a rehearsal of a production. There are so many
students who want their voices to be heard and their art to
Gardner added that another goal of Barnstorm is to help build
bridges between theater arts and other departments in the UCSC
We would like to have art students use the lobby of the
Barn Theater as a gallery space, have film students show their
short films, and have music students write themes for the soap
operas or songs for a musical, Gardner said. We
ultimately want to make the Barn available for all students,
not just those in theater arts.
For more information about Barnstorm, call (831) 459-4001
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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