The theatre and dance department’s Fall 2016 production is “Cosi,” directed by theatre and dance department professor Al Schnupp. This series will follow the creation and production of “Cosi” and explore what making a student production is all about.
The cast of “Cosi” rehearses together five days a week for three hours each day. All of this time spent together develops strong friendships within the cast, something that can be very helpful when performing a large-scale production. The more the actors get up close and personal in their real life, the more believable their connections will be onstage.
“Cosi’s” cast has been working on the production for three weeks. The ensemble of 12 and two stage managers are a mixture of new performers and veterans of the craft. Every show has a different cast, yet it seems each member has managed to find the same sense of belonging.
“Cosi” is theatre freshman Samantha Boyarsky’s debut performance with the Cal Poly Theatre Arts Department. She will be portraying the character of Maude, a quiet patient at the mental institution the play is set in.
“Everyone has been super nice and supportive of one another,” Boyarsky said. “As these weeks have gone on we have become close.”
Theatre senior Antonio Mata, who will play the silent and shy patient Henry, said meeting people he didn’t know and seeing old friends is what makes his nights at rehearsals so fun. The friendships that he has developed carry off-stage as well.
“During the breaks, Sarah [and I], we’ll just randomly start dancing with each other. Or we’ll have a look and it will be really funny,” Mata said.
What is it that allows for this group of people, some complete strangers, to form a bond like this in a matter of weeks? Theatre junior Sarah Dickerson, who will portray Ruth, a patient with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), said it was the vulnerability.
“You immediately have to open up and be yourself,” Dickerson said. “I think that’s what allows people to feel OK being vulnerable, they’re showing me their true core, so I’m comfortable to do the same thing and I will not be judged; as in someone thinks I’m weird or strange. Because we are all kind of weird and strange in our own way.”
In acting, vulnerability is important because when actors open up to each other, they are able to play with their characters more. They are able to delve deeper into the psyche of their character and develop a realistic representation of a person other than themselves.
In “Cosi,” it is important that the actors present the characters as they are, mentally unstable but often well-meaning. Without full expression from the actors, the full potential of each character’s range of emotion and expression cannot be reached.
Helping the cast in their character journey is Director Al Schnupp. Schnupp has been giving the cast ways to express themselves through various exercises.
These include having the actors answer questions as their character. These sorts of exercises encourage Schnupp’s cast to express themselves in a raw and organic way.
And when things don’t go perfectly, as they rarely do in theatre, Schnupp allows for the actors to laugh about it, but reigns them back in and gets the scene back on track.
“Al is an interesting guy. Working with him, you never know what is going to happen,” said theatre sophomore Riley Clark, who will portray Lucy, the girlfriend of main character Lewis.
There are several weeks of rehearsals before the opening night of “Cosi.” The show will open Nov. 10 in Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre.