Theater truly runs in the family for theatre arts junior Emily Kluger. Emily produced the second showing of “Till Death, or Whatever, Do Us Part,” a romantic comedy play written by her father, Garry Michael Kluger. The show is about the relationships of two couples, married couple Wayne and Maggie and young lovers Adam and Jillian. “Till Death, or Whatever, Do Us Part” opened March 15, after a quarter of rehearsals and collaboration.
“I wanted to do a directing project in general because it is one of the things I want to focus on with my theatre degree here,” Emily said. “More specifically at Cal Poly, I feel like our motto of Learn by Doing is very much implemented in this department. But I think that sometimes student projects have not gone as well as they could have. So I wanted to show that student projects can be a feasible thing for everyone to do and can be easy and fun and enjoyable.”
The production of the play was not for a class or senior project, but instead came from Emily’s desire to continue gaining experience doing what she loves. Performed in the Theatre and Dance Department’s Black Box Theatre (Room 212), there was an added sense of intimacy within the small space.
A work of collaboration
Emily did not get involved in theater until high school. However, she grew up with a father who worked in the industry. Garry wore various hats as a playwright, producer, actor and director for a number of productions in his lifetime, but found his favorite job as a writer.
“I was an actor for a long time, but I love this even better because I can create the world that you sit in and watch for however long,” Kluger said.
Having such a close relationship with the playwright made producing the show easier for Emily. Being able to communicate with her father as the author of the show helped clear up issues of difficult lines or dialogue because she could call her father after rehearsals and talk through it with him.
“He has a very specific way of writing,” Emily said. “All his plays have a certain rhythm and tempo to it. Already having an idea of how that goes, I was able to come into the show and have a better idea of how to direct my actors.”
Through Skype calls during rehearsal, the cast of the show had an opportunity to hear how their character was intended to be played. Computer science sophomore Ethan Kusters, who portrays one of the four characters, Wayne, enjoyed the ability to develop his character and discover the intentions of the playwright, as well as ask Garry direct questions.
“To be able to have that internal dialogue, and then go ask the playwright ‘What was your intention here?’ was really cool and something that is so rare,” Kusters said.
All of the designers for the show were women, something that both Klugers felt was to the show’s advantage.
“There is a camaraderie,” Emily said. “When there is an all-girl group you’re like, ‘Yeah! Girl power! We got this!’ and there is something about being empowered by that.”
Another element of collaboration Emily found critical to the show’s success was how all of the people involved wanted to be there and were enthusiastic about their part in the production.
“That was something me and my stage manager came together and said, ‘Anybody who is not excited about being here will not be here,’” Emily said.
Because “Till Death, or Whatever, Do Us Part” was a completely student-run production, there were some issues to overcome, but with the group’s dedication and desire to see the show go well, each one of those issues was solved. Problems like lack of rehearsal space were solved by using the backs of classrooms. When theatre arts junior Cassidy Cagney, who plays Jillian, needed to go to the emergency room after a bad case of poison oak and threatened rehearsal times, the show’s stage manager, theatre arts junior Tricia Navigato, helped Cagney run lines while waiting to be seen.
“Till Death, or Whatever, Do Us Part” follows the story of two couples. The play features two sisters and their significant others, following them from their meeting and through the course of their relationships. It puts the good and bad moments of their romances in the spotlight in a lighthearted and comedic way, without ignoring the complexities of life with another person .
“Relationships with people always fascinate me, all kinds,” Garry said. “I’ve written gay, straight, three or four people, all sorts of them, but all the elements are the same. The genders and the people change, but relationships tend to be the same.”
Garry refers to elements like a couple meeting, the silly and serious fights, breaking up, making up and the discoveries you make about the person you are with.
“Those are the elements that tend to jump from relationship to relationship,” Garry said. “How they are handled is the fun part, because not everybody handles it the same way.”.
Throughout the play, Wayne and his wife Maggie go from young love to married life and starting a family. Life in a long-term, committed relationship is portrayed differently than the passion and excitement of Adam and Jillian’s courtship. When one couple’s fight ends calmly and the other is involved in a makeout session, it is made very clear that even though both pairings get into arguments, there is never one clear and easy way to solve them.
Emily chose this as a way to honor her father for instilling in her a passion for theater. It was also something that she felt was very relevant to college students.
“I think it is so fun to put these relationships on display,” Emily said. “Especially as we are coming of age and going into these mature relationships also, we are kind of seeing ‘Oh, this is us, we are not far off from this and this could be our future’.”
Putting on a stage production is no easy task, but with the help and support that Emily received, she said the show was a success.
“The collaborative effort just made it such a positive environment that really, frankly, blew my mind,” Cagney said. “We even had crazy late rehearsals until 11 [p.m.] or 1 a.m., and I wanted to be there. I was like ‘Yes! I get to go to rehearsal today and work on building something beautiful with my friends.’”