Oh, “Shrek.” What more can be said about the loveable, toe tapping musical other than that I am sad to see it go. All students in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts received word on April 28 that the Tony Award-nominated show would no longer be produced at UCI during the 2020 fall quarter. Instead, the show will be staged in the fall of 2021. While the show itself might not be incredibly popular in a collegiate setting, the show — which has an ensemble of around 20 cast members — would have been a great way for students to get involved and earn the performance credits needed to graduate.
Obviously, the School of the Arts is doing their due diligence in supplying students with their needed graduation credits amidst this pandemic and are lifting certain performance hour requirements, so students can earn their degree on time. However, it does raise the question of whether or not the school should offer some alternative performance strategy, so students can still experience working with faculty and mentors and get the most out of their artistic experience in school. Currently, no alternative to “Shrek” has been made or announced to the student body.
The department has a long lineage of thinking “outside of the box” when creating works for students on and offstage. “The Penelopiad,” directed by Sara Rodriguez, was recently produced for the first time with an all-female cast, to not only highlight the strong, dynamic women of the department but also because bards were traditionally men. As Rodriguez puts it, “after a millennia of that, here are women who say, ‘OK, now we’re going to tell the story and we’re going to be all the men and the women in the play.’”
The department is also conducting a Zoom readthrough of a world-premiere play, “Marilyn, Mom and Me.” The production is an autobiographical look into the life of a middle-aged, gay man trying to better understand his actress mother by learning about her friendship with Marilyn Monroe. Though the play does not involve any students in the cast, the production is open to anyone in the department, free of charge. Students will be able to support a production their school is sponsoring and producing, and my hope is that it might encourage students to write or conduct their own readings of self-produced works online.
I am a huge advocate for collaboration on online platforms. Perhaps there is a way to connect with the media department and create some sort of virtual reading or staging of a show or even a film of some sort. I would also love to see some additional shows be produced in the spring, so students not cast in the spring musical can still have the opportunity to perform on a UCI production physically on campus. A doable idea can be a concert reading with a small cast as long as the mics and chairs are all six feet apart.
Whatever strides are made in reaction to the fall season being canceled, I feel like if we all put our minds together, we can find some sort of solution. As one of the eight members of the B.F.A. for Musical Theater, I feel like in small class cases, we can collaborate even more to try to find performance related compromises. My fellow B.F.A. classmate, Tori Stamm, sums up our artistic hopes perfectly, “I think it is best to look out for us students and cancel the fall season, even though it is heartbreaking. Participating in the arts online is very rough, but at the end of the day, I’m happy to be keeping passion alive.” Same girl, same.
Emily Abeles is an Opinion Intern for the 2020 spring quarter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.