Going It Alone With ‘Gabby’

Most drama productions put on at UC Irvine are either directed by faculty members or graduate students. In some cases, a handful of undergraduates are invited to direct plays called workshops. In almost all cases, however, UCI funds the entire play: the lighting, rights to the script, costumes and even stage costs. That is, all cases except one.

In early June, second-year drama major, Danielle Bardellini, will be presenting a revolutionary play entitled, “Dear Gabby: Confessions of an Overachiever,” without any funding or help from UCI. Not only is Bardellini directing this play as a sophomore, which is remarkable in itself, she is also funding the play completely through fundraisers.

“At one point I had nothing. No lighting designer, no cast, no money, nothing. All I really did have is this incredible script that connected with me. But to me, that’s all I really needed to make my show happen,” Bardellini said.

Bardellini and her cast began fundraising for the show as early as February.

“It is a lot of money. You have to buy the rights to the show, pay for staging, pay for costumes – the works,” Bardellini explained. “The total cost gets close to four digits, and we are trying to cover that with baked goods.”

The funding of the play is not the only aspect of the production that is groundbreaking. While most plays at UCI cast graduate students or upperclassmen, the cast of ‘Dear Gabby’ is completely comprised of underclassmen (with the exception of one student). In fact, more than half of the cast members, including the lead played by Anagha Dixit, are either freshmen or have never acted in a college performance.

“Some of my cast may be lacking in experience, but certainly not talent. I have people like Ana, who have this extraordinary talent … they just need some refining. That is where I come in,” Bardellini said.

“We all have our flaws in acting, but we work together as a team to work it out until we have our flaws ironed out,” said second-year Erin Goldman.

“Dear Gabby: Confessions of an Overachiever” is about eight young teenagers who each face their own individual challenges and problems. The play was written by the Santa Monica Playhouse, where Bardellini worked as a child actor. Despite having been performed by only one playhouse, the Santa Monica Playhouse has been performed all over the world including places like Osaka, Japan, where it was televised.

“ ‘Dear Gabby’ connects to so many people because the issues in the play are the same issues any person in any place in the world could be facing. These issues stop at no boundary, no race, no culture,” Bardellini said.

Second-year Sarah Weiss, a member of the cast, feels the play’s success is related to its relatable nature.

“Most drama productions are very theatrical. While ‘Dear Gabby’ is theatrical in a sense, the issues presented in [the play] are contemporary and modern. These are real issues that most of us in college have faced, or are still facing. That’s why I connected with this play so much, and why I am confident my audience will too,” Weiss said.

‘Dear Gabby’ does not shy away from any problem. The teenagers in the play are not only forced to deal with problems such as overachieving, but also with issues including sex, addiction, relationship troubles and betrayal.

“Dear Gabby: Confessions of an Overachiever” will be showing in the Little Theater in Humanities Hall from June 4-6.