When she had her first glimmer of the idea during her sophomore year, theatre arts senior Sabrina Orro didn’t know she’d create an eight-episode mini-series about the life of a theatre student. Her web series “#TheatreMajor” encompasses the tales of theatre majors at Cal Poly, a non-performing arts college. Orro and her team put Learn by Doing to the test.
The web series explores the expectations and relationships of college theatre students. Romances, friendships and drama are a part of almost every student’s life, but “#TheatreMajor” highlights the added demands that theatre students may face. In the series, students work on a main-stage production based on two popular theatre shows: “Wicked” and “The Crucible.” The series tells the students’ personal stories alongside the bigger plot line of rehearsing for the big show.
“It is a lighthearted story,” theatre arts senior and “#TheatreMajor” director Emily Brehm said. “I hope that audiences who watch this enjoy it and we make them laugh.”
The characters in the show are based on stereotypes found in almost every theatre department, according to the team. A diva, a nutty professor and a tech-geek are just some of the personas “#TheatreMajor” incorporates. Orro said the team wanted to humanize these tropes through the show.
“I chose this topic because there [are] so many stories I’ve heard from other people, experienced myself, read about online, that are so unique to theatre majors but also relatable to non-theatre majors,” Orro said
Her dreams of acting post-graduation guided Orro’s journey in creating “#TheatreMajor.” Working during the past few months, Orro recruited a small team to help with production. Brehm and production manager and theater arts senior Antonio Mata began collaborating with Orro, developing each episode and providing feedback.
“I would send [the script] back and forth between them to get their feedback on each episode [to] see what they thought,” Orro said. “They helped me make each thing better as it kept going.”
Crew and casting calls went out at the end of Winter 2017 after the script was complete. Orro looked for actors and technicians to help with the fictional series. When she found her crew, Orro stepped into the role of Dani Gold, a character in the series.
Brehm and Mata worked together to ensure shooting days went smoothly. Because scenes were shot out of order, the actors were responsible for knowing where they were chronologically in the stories.
“It ties in the idea that in theatre you are going to have to adapt,” Mata said. “You are going to have to take a situation that comes up and say ‘OK, this isn’t exactly what we had planned, but how can we make it as close as possible?’”
Using professors and on-campus locations, the web series found support in the Cal Poly community. Theatre professor Philip Valle became the advisor for “#TheatreMajor” and other professors offered classrooms and space for scenes to be filmed.
With no financial help, the crew sought out resources that make their project more unique. Since “#TheatreMajor” is about college students and made by college students, the team’s production style is a match for the characters in the show.
The “#TheatreMajor” crew also has an extensive amount of experience in live theatre, so the web series mirrors what they’ve learned. However, Brehm explained that film is a different beast than theatre.
“Filming is a lot like putting together a puzzle, while theatre is more like creating ceramics,” Brehm said.
The team’s goal is to run the series on YouTube, ending production at the end of the school year.