In Fall 2020, the Drama Program produced the comedy Mere Mortals completely virtually. It was rehearsed on Zoom, recorded, then made available to audiences who viewed the play by clicking a link. This is how theatres around the world have pivoted during the pandemic, since they are not able to produce theatre in its traditional way: rehearsing, building, and performing in front of a live audience. When we began working on the 2021 New Play Festival, we assumed we would be producing it virtually, then were delighted to be able to “perform” the shows together, to be streamed later. A chance to be in the same room with the actors? Bliss!
We reached out to our colleagues in the Radio, Television, and Film Program for guidance in making this happen, and what you will see streamed is a true collaboration between the two programs. We are grateful for the expertise of the RTVF faculty and students who helped us make this production a reality. This is the first of what we hope will be many collaborations between the two programs.
If you’ve seen our previous Festivals of New Plays, you may observe that the plays this year have thematic similarities, in that they address issues of Social Justice. After George Floyd was pinned down for 9 minutes and 29 seconds by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, his heartbreaking and cruel death sparked protests and uprisings which reverberated around the world. The Black Lives Matter Movement, founded in 2013, was fiercely reignited, and it forced people to recognize their own complicity in racist behaviors. Awareness of the inequities in treatment of people of color, particularly Black people, became inescapable. In the summer of 2020, Professors Rodda and Stone met to craft a statement to the campus community regarding the Drama Program’s stance on the inequity and violence perpetrated against members of the BIPOC community. During this conversation, they made the decision that the 2021 New Play Festival would address these challenging issues. The students in Dr. Rodda’s Fall 2020 Playwriting class were encouraged to explore these uncomfortable topics, and many of the plays that were developed in that class are featured in this year’s festival.
On April 20, we spent a long day in City College’s Television Studio, recording the shows. We stopped our work around 2:30 in the afternoon to listen to the jury’s decision in the Chauvin case. The verdict of “Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.” galvanized the actors as they recognized that the hard work that had been taking place globally since Floyd’s death almost a year ago was finally being acknowledged. While we all are relieved and gratified that the verdict came down the way it did, we recognize that this work is not done. We still have a long way to go.
We are thankful for the brilliant playwrights, the enthusiastic and very flexible actors, the dedicated crew members, the faculty leaders, and particularly our Dean, Jeanie Tyler, who supported us in our quest to bring this show to life in this way.
The Dramatic Arts Program at San Diego City College stands in solidarity with the people of San Diego, especially the Black community, during this heartbreaking and challenging time. We are saddened and outraged by the inequality and violence perpetrated toward people of color in our city and around the world.
Black Lives Matter.
Theatre is an art that is unapologetically centered on the human story, and cannot ignore human injustice and suffering. It is a space of shared imagination, where we can relive and rethink our past while we envision new possibilities for the future.
At City College Dramatic Arts, we are committed not only to telling these stories, but also to standing with those who fight against injustice, inequality, and hatred in all of its forms.
We are listening. We believe in you. And we stand with you.