Tag Archives: theater

(left to right) Cody Stabelfeldt, Alison Collins, and Keoni Zane entertain the audiences in a musical number from “Little Shop of Horrors.” Photo by Danielle Maingot/ Foghorn

College Players’ “Little Shop of Horrors” is a Little Shop of Hilarious

Can you imagine comedy, horror, and rock’n’roll packaged into one musical? Last weekend USF’s College Players brought that unusual variety to life in their 150th annual spring musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” directed by Kelsey Magaña.  The Musical was adapted into a film in 1986, starring Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene, and has since become a cult classic.

The sassy Trio played by Kiana Budzinski, Haley Heidemann, and Marysa Robinson (left to right) were an audience favorite as they narrated the musical.

The sassy Trio played by Kiana Budzinski, Haley Heidemann, and Marysa Robinson (left to right) were an audience favorite as they narrated the musical. (Photo by Danielle Maingot)

In choosing the musical, the College Players’ executive board gathers every year and decides what show they want to do, according to Keala Freitas, senior and voice of the plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.” “As for our 150th season, we wanted to do a big show that everyone knows. So we chose “Little Shop” because it was a movie and then a musical movie.”

The musical revolves around the young botanical genius Seymour Krelborn, played by freshman Cody Stabelfeldt, freshman, who made his College Players debut as Dr. Frank N’ Furter in last semester’s presentation of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”  Seymour struggles for money working in a flower shop on the dilapidated Skid Row, until one day he comes across a peculiar plant, in which he names Audrey II after his love interest played by the charming Alison Collins, freshman.  Audrey II influences Seymour to go through an odd series of events, eventually catapulting him into stardom…and crime.

“I’m a freshman so getting this role was the most amazing thing ever,” said Collins. “It’s extremely humbling.”

Despite the unusual storyline, “Little Shop” had no problem entertaining the audience. Sounds of laughter were maintained throughout the entirety of the show as a result of the witty dialogue, outlandish dance numbers, and delightful awkwardness emitting from the cast members.

“I thought it was absolutely hilarious.  I wasn’t expecting it to be that funny,” Elle Rittler, freshman, said.

Amanda Rhoades, senior and member of College Players, saw the play twice. “It was very well delivered. It was effin’ hysterical to be honest. It was well-acted but contingent upon the audience.” Rhoades explained the audience was more responsive the second night she attended.

In addition to humor, the players won us over with their beautiful voices.  Stabelfeldt’s voice added an indie rock edge to the goofy Seymour, while Collin’s lovely pitch echoed throughout the theater like a true Broadway star. The soulful voices of Haley Heidemann, sophomore, Marysa Robinson, freshman, and Kiana Budzinski freshman, were perfect for their roles as The Trio—a group of sassy young women narrating the musical.

“I’m totally impressed.  Their voices were great, and The Trio’s dresses were beautiful,” Eiselle Ty, freshman said.

Each and every one of the players starring in the show brought their A-game, making every student in the audience wish they could be a part of the College Players. To no surprise, the show ended with a standing ovation, proving that USF should be incredibly proud to be home to such amazing talent.

Orestes 2.0 the Ancient Greek Rock

Alexander Crook/Foghorn Cast members of the Performing Arts and Social Justice production of ‘Orestes’ rehearse for a weekend of shows March 4 - March 8 in Studio Theater on Lone Mountain.

What do piles of rubble, a wheel chair, snare drums and rollaway beds have in common? They are all on the set of Orestes (Or-est-eez) 2.0, the Performing Arts Department spring production. Originally a play by Euripides, adapted by Charles Mee in 1992 about the aftermath of the Trojan War, and this production brings it into the context of the modern day war in Afghanistan. The story focuses on a military mental institution for American soldiers affected with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how society neglects to recognize this illness as legitimate. Director Jessica Heidt said, “Americans have been living in the shadow of a war for years.  We’ve been told it’s over, yet the body count continues to rise and additional masses of troops are on the verge of being deployed. Chuck Mee’s Orestes 2.0 looks at this modern crisis, and dissects the idea of duty to examine where the root of the matter lies. [It] is, an in your face work that holds everyone accountable.”

Unlike the original written in 408 B.C.E., this 2010 version performed in a Studio Theater at Lone Mountain from March 4th to the 8th is freshened up by pop culture. The text, setting and costumes have all been altered to fit the modern world. Maro Guevara describes the fusion: “It’s a classical play with rock-music interludes that takes place in Saddam’s Palace and alternates between contemporary and classical dialogue.” Tickets for to Orestes 2.0 are open to the public: $5 with a USF ID and $10 without one.

“The script is a collage of text from the original play, fashion magazines, soap operas, serial killers’ notes and autopsy reports” said Jenny Reed, who plays Electra. But be warned, this play makes no apoligies for the dialogue. Mee intentionally wrote it to be jarring and authentic. “He puts plays together and leaves a lot of jagged edges” stated Reed. Like so many social commentaries, this piece gives the audience as well as the actors the materials to decide for themselves; the cost of war. In between running scenes, Heidt asked her actors to explain what they thought the play was about.

An opportunity will be given to the public audience after every performance to talk about the issues brought up throughout the play. Members for the panel are not yet decided but will be a mix of professors and actors. “Hopefully, the play will provoke people to get pissed off,” Reed said.

Kate Tobie, a patient, agrees that her role in the play has opened her eyes to the difficulties soldiers face post war and commented, “Now the next step is to do something about it.”

Heidt thinks, one way, she can do something is bringing awarness through the processes of making Orestes 2.0 accessible and entertaining to a generation of concert goers. What were originally wrote as two monologues are now songs. Will McCandles worked with each actor’s musical ability, as well as stylistic preferences, to compose the melodies behind the monologues. For self titled Captain Xack (Xach Baumann), this will only be the second time he has ever performed in front of a crowd. “I played a talent show once in Japan,” he said and replied, “but I don’t think that experience makes me at all prepared.” Baumann has no plans to make a habit out of playing for audiences, but is excited to surprise the audience with his melodies. “Technically I’ll be playing a paid gig, but the audience doesn’t know that.” His punk influenced song part, although entertaining, serves an important purpose in the progression of events. “Take Action” urges Menelaus and ultimately the crowd to do something;  with lyrics like, “People always think you can take things back,” but often times we can’t. This scene was choosen for song because it is a universal message that everyone in the room needs to hear with an elaborate, entertaining, delivery. “The songs are influenced by pop culture because we want the audience to really listen, and they’ll listen better to something they recognize” said Reed.

Kate Tobie does not consider her self a singer, either, but is just as nervous as her fellow actor. “Before this I was pretty tone deaf. It’s not about how well you sing, but what you can learn from the song” she said. On the chorus of her mellow rock song, all cast members chime in, to lend Tobie vocal support,because the lyrics describes the scene of the play, in one line “The Captain said ‘Welcome home. It’s a nightmare really’.”

Although the story of Orestes is not new, the Performing Arts Department is experimenting with pop culture, with a purpose,  which is a weighty discussion. Just because they sing some songs and install text from soap operas,  does not mean the performers will not provoke the audience with intellectual thought.  On the contrary, the structure of Orestes 2.0 encourages the audience think about how the issues brought up factor into everyday life.

Students Get High on Reefer Madness

Kate Greenspan/Foghorn Did she inhale? West Seegmiller and Deidre Doyle star in USF’s poduction of the popular musical Reefer Madness.

Kate Greenspan/Foghorn Did she inhale? West Seegmiller and Deidre Doyle star in USF’s poduction of the popular musical Reefer Madness.

USF’s fall play, Reefer Madness, drew packed audiences to its seven performances this November. The College Players, USF’s on campus performing arts association, sponsored the production, a satirical musical about marijuana use in the early 1930’s. The melodrama follows the relationship of teenage sweethearts Jimmy and Mary, whose relationship is compromised when Jimmy is seduced by a drug-dealing clan of society’s “undesirables.” The story unfolds under the direction of the Lecturer, who narrates the story.

The production was directed by Joey Price and starred exclusively USF students. Senior James Godbolt gave an exceptional performance as the Lecturer, as well as playing several other minor roles and appearing in nearly every scene. Lauren Bellenie, a freshman performing for the first time at USF, portrayed Sally, a marijuana-addicted harlot. Her witty performance, as well as her singing ability, both amused and impressed the audience. Deidre Doyle gave a riveting performance as Mae, the victim of drug-induced domestic violence, who suffers from an emotional breakdown in the second act of the performance.

The cast as a whole performed well together, creating an entertaining and comical show. Reefer Madness combined dance, song, and drama in a provocative spin on reality that kept the audience laughing and intrigued. The set design, which included a two-story structure, was bare but effective and costumes were creative and easily identifiable. The biggest flaw of the performance was the problems with microphones, several of which cut out frequently or produced distorted sound. By the end of the show, microphone problems did not take away from the show’s entertainment value or the cast’s talent.

“Learned Ladies” a Lighter Choice for Fall Play

Reo Jones (left) and Lauren Lasorda (right) play a mother-daughter duo in the Performing Arts and Social Justice production of Learned Ladies.  Photo courtesy of Clive Chafer

Reo Jones (left) and Lauren Lasorda (right) play a mother-daughter duo in the Performing Arts and Social Justice production of Learned Ladies. Photo courtesy of Clive Chafer

Every year the Performing Arts and Social Justice Department produces two plays: one in the fall and one in the spring. However, this year the department chose to deviate from the slew of heavy and dark dramas of recent years by performing a comedy written by Molière.

I got to sit down with Isaac Samuelson, a senior playing the role of the pushover husband Chrysale in this performance of “Learned Ladies.” He commented on the trend of deep performances, saying, “It’s not bad, but it’s just been consistently dark.” He, like the department, thought it was time to shake things up. After all, he said, “The primary goal is always entertainment. If you don’t keep your audience entertained then you lose them, and the secondary social justice aspect of the performance is lost.”

Although “Learned Ladies” is a classic play set in 17th century France, the comedy of it still shines through today. Even if you find the speech in older works challenging to understand, you can still understand the jokes because the language has been modernized. Along with the words, the plot is a common and easily recognizable one: a con man tries to steal money from a wealthy family by marrying the daughter. Trissotin, the con artist, is pretending to be a great poet, but in reality rips off lines of Shakespeare and passes them off as his own. As if that weren’t enough, Henriette, the daughter, is in love with another man whom her mother disapproves of. She fills the role of the overbearing mother, but she also believes that wealth is irrelevant, but education is imperative to live a meaningful life. For this reason she has all of the women in her household, including the servants and maids, educated in classic literature.

Molière’s goal throughout the piece is to show how education can be a great thing for women, but to forget about tradition altogether is a mistake. Samuelson also comments that the women in this play are defying the conventions of society, just as he hopes to do through the social justice aspect of the program. “They challenge the status quo yet don’t throw all of their traditions away. I think this is the essence of our performing arts program: to change what you see as wrong in the world and keep what is right,” he said.

The group of actors involved in the play come from a variety of academic backgrounds, not just from the Performing Arts and Social Justice department. Students participate in all aspects of the performance from acting, to technical jobs, to stage management, to lighting, sound and costumes. Samuelson said, “It’s great because people get real experience with real professionals. It is definitely something they can add to their resumes.” Everyone who participates does it because they want to. They are not paid, nor is it a mandatory experience outlined by the Performing Arts and Social Justice department.

If you are looking for some cheap fun, attending a performance of “Learned Ladies” should be on your list. The play is full of surface as well as intellectual humor played our very own USF students.

The show opens at 8 p.m. on Oct. 15 in the Lone Mountain Studio Theater and runs until Oct. 19. The tickets are $5 for USF students and $10 for general admission.

Whether you are looking for entertainment, wanting to be enlightened on social issues, or just curious, a pleasant surprise awaits you in “Learned Ladies.”

USF’s New Work Festival Highlights Student Creativity


Students perform Jenny Reed's dance piece "She" at the New Work Festival on Lone Mountain. The piece was originally for a hip-hop theater class. (Melissa Stihl|Foghorn)

Chances are, Sid Vicious and Geoffrey Chaucer would not see “Wicked” in quite the same light. Be it song, dance, or spoken word, art carries a different significance for everyone. For the first time ever, the College Players New Work Festival gives students the chance to perform and craft art on their own terms. From raging monologues to frolicsome improv, the New Work Festival reminds everyone that artistic expression flows from every aspect of life.

The New Work Festival actually spanned two nights, April 23 and 24, but the performances from the first night returned as the third act for the second night. That way, those who could only come Friday did not miss a moment of the fun and drama.

Lone Mountain’s Studio Theatre is the perfect location for an artistic mélange. Its black box interior encourages minimal props and utilizing the imaginative powers of lighting, music, and performance.
Though the festival opens with Awkward Silence’s Kate Elston and Maro Guevara as “Cabaret”-esque snarky emcees, one can easily imagine the extensive preparation.

“It began last year with a thought–that there was not enough original work on campus,” says Jessica Baldwin, College Players’ business manager and a stagehand in the festival.
But months of crafting all come down to a single moment as the lights dim and the show begins. Its first piece is a film by Kevin Kunze, followed by a short story by yours truly and followed by a poetic monologue by Ashley Smiley.

The most amazing aspect of the festival is its sheer breadth. In just the first act, we have songs, films and monologues. All tell stories, from fantasy and dragons to the bitingly real pain of one-sided romance.
Deidre Doyle, the festival’s producer, says that her biggest challenge was just that: “Organizing not just one kind of art form, but dance, music, spoken word. It’s all different kinds of artists who are used to working in different ways.”

Each performance easily bows to the next. When going from grieving husbands to lovesick youths might be just a tad awkward, the improv team Awkward Silence dives in for a game.

The improv is a boon of the show. At a four-hour show, even an art lover’s bottom can grow stiff. Awkward Silence provides amusing interludes that require a skill all their own.

For media studies major and Awkward Silence team member Peter Thoene, improv is both art and entertainment. “It takes a different kind of artist to get up there and make things up on the spot,” he says.
Regardless of schematics, Awkward Silence is a definite hit. “I love how they’re breaking the acts up,” says freshman Natalie Nelson. “I want to be up there!”

Nelson feels it. Artists feed on creative energy, and a showcase like the New Work Festival ripples with it.
“There’s a lot of creativity on this campus that I think needs an outlet,” says Isaac Samuelson, a junior and College Players veteran.

The New Work Festival contains pieces by all kinds of students, even those whom most know for endeavors other than art, such as ASUSF President Alex Platt. She presents an intriguing documentary of Italy’s discrimination against the Roma.

“I was so nervous! It’s a little long, so I wasn’t sure how people would handle it,” she says.
But according to Samuelson, “That’s exactly what we’re looking for.” As the festival demonstrates, anyone can have something artistic to say.

Another stirring work is “She,” a dance piece by College Player Jenny Reed. Originally creating the piece for her hip-hop class, “’She’ deals with feminism, my relationship to men and my sexuality,” she says, as well as “my reaction to how females are portrayed in pop culture.”

Personal emotions ring deep in the festival. Though many of the acts are humorous, others leave the performers with tear-stained cheeks. But perhaps the opportunity for such expression is its own kind of catharsis.

Three acts long, and capped off with a final round by Awkward Silence, the first New Works Festival is a definite success. For the audience, it is an entertaining showcase. For the artists, it is another occasion to grow.

“When you give a student the chance to shine,” says Jessica Baldwin, “it’s amazing what they create. All they want is that opportunity.”

“Laramie Project” Remains Relevant After Decade

Some performances are so poignant and moving it’s nearly impossible to approach them with a critical and analytical eye. USF’s Performing Arts and Social Justice-sponsored production of “The Laramie Project” April 17 and 18 in Lone Mountain’s Studio Theater was one of those productions.
In the late 1990s the members of the Tectonic Theater Project and playwright/director Moises Kaufman embarked on a trip to Laramie, Wyo. where a young gay man named Matthew Shepard had been robbed and murdered in Oct. 1998. He spent the evening at a bar in town and left with two men who took him out of town, stole his shoes and money, beat him up, tied him to a fence and left him to die. He was found 18 hours later by a jogger who called the police. He was taken to a local hospital, but they couldn’t adequately treat him so he was taken to Fort Collins, Colo. where he died several days later. The accused, Russell Arthur Henderson and Aaron James McKinney, used the “gay panic defense” in court, claiming advances from Shepard drove them temporarily insane. Both are in prison for life.

In Laramie, the members of the theater group interviewed people all over town including clergy, townspeople, the bartender from the night Shepard was killed, the boy who found Shepard, friends of McKinney and Henderson, and the detective. These extended interviews were pieced together with diary entries from those involved with the play, court documents and media and eventually became the script for “The Laramie Project.”
The space was minimalist. Near the back of the room there was a rolling rack with clothes hanging on it, several stools, a chest, a blackboard with a photo of the sky posted on it and a coat rack covered with clothes. Travis Busse sat on a chair and played the guitar. As the ensemble cast came out, some took the stage, while others sat in reserved seats in the audience on either side.

For this show each performer played several roles, lapsing in and out of different accents and personas. They took clothes from the rolling rack and coat rack to change their costumes for their different characters. The acting was convincing and sometimes heart wrenching. Sam Finger’s portrayal of the town limo driver channeled the essence of New York City, developing a lovable and believable character. Justin Jairam’s interpretation of the bartender sculpted a vision of a young joker coping with loss and blame surrounding Shepard’s death.The play’s director Maro Guevara organized a stunning production. He worked diligently to cut segments of the play so it would run its allotted length without sacrificing the meaning. He orchestrated a thoughtful piece and utilized the skills of his actors.

While the story of Matthew Shepard is almost 11 years old, the play is upsettingly relevant today. Living in San Francisco, many retain a naïve vision of a progressive United States. Throughout the country there are communities where homosexuality is considered completely unacceptable. There are gay people who spend their lives closeted because they live each day fearing violence. We still live in a time when the religious right can fuel their money into a campaign to prevent gay marriage that markets gay people as perverts and detrimental to the American family. While improvements have been made to protect people from hate crimes, they still occur on a regular basis. It’s imperative that we never forget the story of Matthew Shepard.