Darkness falls as the group begins their rehearsal for the upcoming play at the UC Santa Cruz outdoor theater. Improvisational jokes flow in and out, and the best ones are added to the script by the stage manager. At one point, an actress falls into an emotional monologue about gay rights. This glimpse of seriousness in the light-hearted, comedic production reminds the audience about the serious issues at the core of the show.
“Quarterly Exhort” is a free show written, directed and produced entirely by UCSC students that will debut at Kresge Town Hall this Friday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.
Director Flynn Crosby explained that the initial aim of the project was both to inform and entertain. In addition to exploring issues surrounding gay rights, the show also examines the current budget crisis, the wars in the Middle East, and health care, issues that are pertinent to the modern viewer.
While the show was primarily written by Crosby and stage manager Brandon Bennett, Crosby explained that much of the material developed, grew and changed during rehearsals. Crosby will gauge the audience reaction to see if the show will go on in the future.
“It’s a collaborative show where everyone has been involved with the script,” Crosby said. “A lot of creative ideas and jokes come from improvisation.”
The show is segmented into different parts with a different actor leading each vignette, just like a news show. News anchors Deepika Singamsetty and Michael Fantauzzo lead the show while other actors explain sports, weather, news, theater and celebrity gossip.
“It’s a lot like a news show, but all in a funny, silly, ‘everybody should be laughing,’ sort of way,” Crosby said.
In addition to its pliable script, some other elements of the production have also been fairly mutable throughout the pre-premiere process. Last year, a show like this one would most likely have been produced through BarnStorm, a campus production company run by two UCSC graduate students that hosted 55 performances at The Barn during the 2008-2009 season — from plays to comedy nights and poetry slams.
Recent budget cuts, though, knocked BarnStorm and The Barn itself out of contention to host and produce this show. When asked why BarnStorm is not operating during fall quarter, theater department chair David Cuthbert said it was mostly due to the budget crisis.
“It costs well over $10,000 just for the TAs for BarnStorm to run,” Cuthbert said. “We hope that we will return [for] as many quarters as we possibly can, but with the budget we’re having to make cuts all around.”
While BarnStorm will be back in action winter quarter, for now Crosby has had to organize the show without its assistance, or the assistance of the UCSC theater department. This has made everything from finding adequate rehearsal space to marketing the show significantly more difficult, according to Crosby.
“The only real advantage to doing this outside of the theater program is being able to talk about the theater program openly,” Crosby said.
While putting the show together has proven difficult in some ways, Bennett said that it will still deliver essential messages to students about extremely important things happening both inside and outside of Santa Cruz.
“Here we live in a time when all of our open minds are heading in the same direction in a very close community,” he said. “We don’t always see what else is going on, and sometimes we get stuck. It’s important to know difference.”