Cal Poly students studying sound design are gearing up for the 15th annual, and “always mysterious,” RSVP show this week in the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center.

“Chiaroscuro” the show’s title, means dark-light in Italian and adds to the mystery that has surrounded the annual event. The reference is to the bold lighting contrasts from Italy’s Renaissance painters and reflects what students and professor are revealing about the show.

Music professor Antonio Barata has been the man behind the curtain of RSVP all 15 years of the show. The play is like a musical, but different, Barata wrote in an e-mail.

“There is a definite theatrical leaning with a serious tone, but also comedic elements,” Barata wrote.

This year’s show is set in the late 1700s and is a dramatic look at the similarities between problems of then and now in the country, Barata wrote.

The annual performance is the final product of a class offered through the music department, where students and professors become collaborators by working together to create a show.

Liberal arts engineering studies senior Kyle Banfield said the show has developed a reputation for being abstract and unique over the years. This year will be politically provocative because it examines similarities between problems of today and those during the time of America’s founding fathers, Banfield said.

Students work to combine dramatic and musical elements for the performance.

The students are in charge of the show from start to finish. Barata said this is part of what makes the production special.

Everyone has multiple jobs to make the performance a reality with only 10 weeks to pull off a completely original show, Banfield said. The class Barata teaches brings together students from all colleges to work on the project.

No matter their major, all the students work on producing scripts, composing original scores, building props and marketing. Mechanical engineering senior Eric Wallace said he helped compose two arias and some of the background music for the show. He said the fun thing about the class for him is getting to be creative in ways he’s not able to in engineering.

“It’s been fun, and it’s a good way to be creative personally,” Wallace said.

Wallace isn’t alone in working outside the norm for his major. Banfield has spent time working set design, marketing and managing costumes for the show.

The mystery of RSVP XV: “Chiaroscuro” will be unveiled Tuesday and Thursday at 8 p.m. in the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $11 for all seats and are available at the box office from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m during the week and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

RSVP has gained popularity over the years and tends to be a sell-out, Banfield said.

Wallace suggested people get tickets as soon as possible.

“It’s going to be a great show and very different from previous years,” Wallace said.

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