Houston, TX

San Jacinto South Campus Theatre tackles challenges and partners Enter Stages Theatre

Marisol Gallagher

HOUSTON, TX - San Jacinto College South Campus Theatre Program established long-lasting industry partnerships with Enter Stages Theatre, Houston's sixth-largest nonprofit performing arts center, and they produced two major shows throughout the spring 2021 semester with "adaptation" as the theme.

Stages didn't only permit students to rehearse and perform in its arena theater but also introduces them to novel technology. The first production was a play titled "Wilderness" by Seth Bockley and Anne Hamburger, which features adolescents at the brink of chaos.

The play director, adjunct theatre, and film faculty member Laura Grayson explained that the technology made it possible to create rain on stage and their students experienced things that they wouldn’t have at San Jacinto's spaces. She also claimed that they had so many changes from the very beginning. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, they couldn’t have a live audience and they weren’t sure how they were going to continue.

Throughout rehearsals, the cast got tested weekly for COVID-19 to ensure their own safety. Student Vana Salois, the cast's COVID-19 code enforcer, said that they hadn’t done anything like that before, so Salois took notes from the community and researched what Broadway and other theaters were doing to stay in compliance. They also scaled down their operations for their smaller team and they even held auditions virtually to keep the restrictions up to code.

Theater and film professor Frank Vela, who has connections with Stages that led to the cooperation, wanted the production to still feel like a play and not a film as he didn’t want heavy editing but wanted it to look nice. Vela and his students also hosted three San Jac Talks with the director, cast, crew, and counselors at San Jac in which they talked about difficult topics in "Wilderness" such as transitioning, being a good ally, establishing healthy boundaries, and managing anxiety and depression.

Moreover, San Jac's students produced an independent project, fully creating, designing, operating, and performing a show to end the semester. Their second production, "Things I Know to Be True" by Andrew Bovell, focuses on life's unexpectedness and the significance of a family. The play director student Drew Ford originally saw this play performed during a UIL One Act Play competition and he fell in love with the piece, because of the characters and dynamics between them that were so authentic.

In addition to the San Jac's team, Students at the University of Houston Laur Hale and Claudia Pariselli joined and assisted with set design. Vela said that it was invaluable to have their set design experience and it gave him free time to focus on the technical aspects of the production.

The partnership enables those San Jac's students to obtain five-week internships with Stages and they worked on two shows such as the HITS project with Miller Outdoor Theater and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.

For the fall semester, Vela planned to produce Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s "The Hound of the Baskervilles". According to him, the pandemic has taught them to take a breath and slow down so they really want to take their time and produce something great. Typically, in theatre, they have six weeks to produce a show and he wants to really dig in on this one.

Please look forward to The Hound of the Baskervilles and a guest production of Murray Horwitz’s Ain’t Misbehavin’ which features Phillip Hall Singers in fall 2021. Learn more about the San Jacinto College South Campus Theatre Program at https://sanjac.edu/theatre-south.

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