Looking Ahead, Our Eyes Wide Open Presented By College of the Sequoias

Oct 28, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Lorie Lewis Ham, Movies, Tales of Diversity, Theatre

by Lorie Lewis Ham

As the arts community continues to look for creative ways to share their talents in a Covid world, many theatre companies are turning more and more to streaming shows. This includes the performing arts department at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia which will be posting a show called Looking Ahead, Our Eyes Wide Open, on November 1. We chatted with Chris Mangels, Professor of Theatre and Cinema at College of the Sequoias, to learn more.

KRL: Please tell us about Looking Ahead, Our Eyes Wide Open.

Chris: The project is a devised video production called Looking Ahead, Our Eyes Wide Open. It is comprised of three separate but inter-connected short films, each of which has its own title and focus.

KRL: What is the goal of this show, and what exactly will you be doing?

Chris: We developed this production as a social justice project with the intention of providing ‘a voice for the voiceless’ in our community. Devised work is developed without a formal script by all participants, usually in response to some kind of prompt. In our case, the prompt I assigned the group was, “If the future could be any way you wanted it, what would it be like and how would you get there?”

Zoom rehearsal for “Looking Ahead, Our Eyes Wide Open”

Basically, I encouraged them to “build a better world,” and then tried to get out of their way so they could do just that. The 25-person cohort eventually split into three groups so that each could tackle a unique aspect of the project. One group developed a short film to answer the question, “Who am I and who are we?” The second group developed a film to answer the question, “What am I worth and what are we worth?” The last developed a project to address the question of ‘How can our rage be channeled in productive ways to serve our local, national, and even global community?”

What I love most about each film is how they are interconnected through interviews with every member of the 25-person company while still bearing the unique creative stamp of each of the three groups of artists. I think audiences will enjoy recognizing some commonalities while going on completely unique journeys through each group’s narrative.

KRL: Is it being written by the individual performers?

Chris: It was developed by a 25-person cohort consisting of College of the Sequoias students, administrators, faculty, staff, and alumni.

KRL: Can you share a little more about who all is involved and how?

Chris: Some of the group was only involved in the conceptualization phase because of work and university conflicts, but all of the following individuals have been instrumental to the development of our piece:
Zee Alvarado, Kourtnie Boeve, Joey Cotta, Lillyanna Crawford, Osiris Deleon, Diane Fidalgo, Tim Foster, Trinaty Fletcher, Tidy Gill, Roxas Herrera, William Huffaker, Brenna Jared, Jordan Lark, Logan Jones, Jennifer Lomeli Moran, Antony Lotenero, Christina Lynch, Misti Mata, Saula Nelson, Thomas Nance, JP Rapozo, Haley Spencer, Christian Suarez, Anna Sul, and Miranda Sul.

KRL: How did you go about casting the show/or deciding who would be involved? Was it all done virtually?

Chris: It was completely open to all interested parties, and I am very grateful for the diverse group that chose to participate. I very much wanted to provide a platform for people in our community who do not often feel like their unique perspectives are represented. Theatre has an incredible capacity to provide a ‘voice for the voiceless’, and I am thrilled by the unique perspectives that are being explored through these short films.

Because many of the participants had never met before we started rehearsals, we were very lucky to kick off the process in a weeklong online workshop through the Moment Work Institute. Moment Work is the approach to devising theatre developed by Tectonic Theatre Project, the company who produced The Laramie Project, Gross Indecency, and 33 Variations. The COS Administration helped us to secure funding for the workshop in the name of student equity, and it was a truly wonderful experience. Because everyone had to freely give of themselves in the workshop, it served to quickly build our ensemble and get everyone speaking each other’s creative language.

Once we began rehearsals proper, we met nightly through Zoom, and the participants utilized cloud-sharing services to contribute to each of the three scripts.

KRL: What have the rehearsals been like were they all virtual?

Chris: Everything has been done virtually, though the participants have occasionally ventured into the community to film their individual contributions.

KRL: Will this be a performance where everyone films their parts together or separately?

Chris: Everything has been filmed solo but – through the magic of editing (and Zoom) – there are several scenes where actors interact with one another.

KRL: What has the filming process been like? What special challenges have you faced?

Chris: It has been challenging because of the inherent issues in connecting online as well as the various methods of capturing sequences digitally. Honestly, though, I love some of the ‘handmade’ aesthetics of certain elements because it reflects the great challenges everyone is facing in 2020. There are huge divides – digital, social, and economic – that each of the participants must navigate, and I appreciate how each video gives us a glimpse into an individual perspective and/or experience. We are coming to the end of our editing phase right now, and I have to say, despite the varied experience levels, I am so impressed by how well these artists are tying everything together to make each film more than the sum of its parts.

KRL: When and how will the show be available for viewing?

Chris: We will be streaming it through the COS Performing Arts YouTube Channel.

KRL: Will people have to purchase tickets to watch it?

Chris: Nope! Our project was developed by our community to be shared with our community. All three short films will stream online starting November 1.

KRL: How long will it be available?

Chris: As of right now, we want to share it with the community for as long as they are interested in checking it out.

KRL: Anything else that you would like to share?

Chris: It is exciting to work on a project that is so completely the product of the participants and not something that originated with my own personal vision. I have been honored by the participation, commitment, and goodwill of these collaborators and I am so grateful for something this positive to come out of 2020.

KRL: Are there plans to do more shows like this?

Chris: We are very interested in continuing to develop devised work through the COS Theatre Arts program. Eventually, it will probably return to the live stage, but who knows where our students’ vision may lead?

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors–many of whom you will have seen on local stages. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play, and also on Podbean. A new episode went up this week!

Check out more theatre articles & other local entertainment articles (including many more online/streaming shows) in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and a contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.