Theatre arts department: A year in review

Rockin’ 'n’ rollin’ can be an understatement when describing just how busy Santa Monica College’s theatre arts department has been this year. With 14 faculty members and a goal of seven productions per year, it has been a fast-tracked year for the department. The year began with the Oscar Wilde Tragedy “Salome,” directed by department chair Perviz Sawoski, as well as the popular musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” directed by Janie Jones.

Earlier in February, the department shone at the American College Theatre Festival with last year's production of "Heart Mountain." The original piece was written by former SMC faculty member Bruce Smith, with the concept by Sawoski. The prestigious annual festival was held at the Regional Kennedy Center in Los Angeles, where SMC competed among other selected programs in the region.

The summer included a children’s version of the Shakespeare classic, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” directed by Adrienne Harrop.

The fall semester debuted at SMC's Main Stage with a Shakespearean favorite “Twelfth Night,” also directed by Jones. Shortly after, the Veterans Day holiday brought two intimate pieces to the stage as a tribute, “A Piece of My Heart,” directed by SMC professor Terrin Adair-Lynch and “The Old Ladies Shows Her Medals,” directed by professor Pat Train Gage.

Before the Thanksgiving break, the studio stage also delighted us with a musical theater workshop as a final presentation for the students that showcased a variety of musical numbers.

Throughout the busy schedule, the department also had something else to celebrate this year with the creation and approval of a new technical theatre program. The new program entails 19 units that can go toward an AA or AS degree in technical theater through the Career Technical Education program. The program also allows students to receive a Certificate of Achievement.

With so many options and exciting endeavors for the theater arts department, Sawoski cannot help but be happy. With all the highs, the only thing Sawoski said she sees as a low is the amount of time in a year.

“There’s never enough time to do everything we want, everything is in crunch time,” she said.

Sawoski said she is preparing for her highly-anticipated production of Stuart Ross’s holiday musical “Plaid Tidings.” She is in the middle of “Hell Week,” a term coined by many theatrical productions as a short time period before a production opens where everything comes together in a rapid pace, as described at Theater Mania online.

“We have such a great staff and students,” she said. “Each member of our faculty is a master in their field and unique in a sense, and our technical designers and technicians are so important to our productions. All of our staff is crucial to our department’s continued success.”

Other theater professors weighed in on their satisfaction with their department’s achievements this year.

"Just when I feel I’ve seen it all, I am always inspired by each new class of students," said Vanessa Mizzone, theater arts professor. "I always leave each class learning something knew and it challenges me to find new and interesting ways to reach students."

Professor Adrianne Harrop also shared her pride in the department.

“I think the quality of our shows, and particularly that of the tech staff, have been exceptional this year, as always," she said. "We have an exceptional staff and so many students of true quality."

Sawoski said an exciting development is at works that the school can look forward to from the program next spring.

A unique concept for a huge musical with the current working title of “Venice Beach,” will incorporate the collaboration of 10 departments from the school, including theater, dance, history, and more, Sawoski said. The musical is being written by an outside playwright but will be uniquely tailored through the contributions from the various SMC programs.

“The diversity of the shows and the students never ceases to amaze me,” Mizzone said. “Each year I look forward to the new and fresh faces in the program as well as the old faces that return.”

The department also has high ambitions for the forthcoming years.

“We want to create a new musical theater program that is one of a kind on the Westside,” Sawoski said. “We want it to be a top of the line musical theatre training program that allows students to achieve an AA or AS degree in musical theatre.”

With promises of two exciting plays for production 2014 offers "Yellow" by Del Shores and the musical "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler.

Nothing short of excitements and surprises, theater at SMC continue to deliver and exceed expectations, and will do so for years to come.