Whatever It Takes
That’s the Mission of the L.A City College Theater Academy.The season begin on Mar. 11 with students directed one acts with five beautiful and astonishing scripts. Two more shows are coming up for the semester with free of charge.
By Juan Mendoza
“Even during such hard and difficult times you’re still more than capable to do what you want to do, and fire up and help people. There’s so much to share nowadays and some people tend to missed that. So, no matter what the situation is find a way to help someone.” Joey Marcel Aquino, Student Producer and Director.
“Not being able to be in the classrooms or on stage together is frustrating and difficult.” Anishika Jontae, Student actor from the Theater Academy.
The theater academy at L.A. City College is on the mission of doing theater productions and reinventing themselves by using the tools and resources at their disposal. “The Acts are produced with the idea on zoom broadcast and a couple of them is more like resembling like a film.” Said, Tony Maggio, Chair and Producing Director of the Theater Arts Department.
Last year the theater opened with one act on stage, and by the next day the college was shut down. “A lot of things are being discussed but nothing concrete, nothing is set for the fall so it’s difficult to plan what’s going to be done in the fall.” Said, Maggio.
This year the theater department is working in collaboration with the cinema department in some projects. They are going to be shooting on campus following the COVID-19 safety protocols guidelines like safety distance, temperature of the casting that the Screen Actors Guild established for shooting in Los Angeles.
The second show will be on Apr. 22., and is call “Self Defense”, based on a true story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. In the film Monster (2003) Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos actually won an Academy Award for playing this character on this person and who is based on. The play will be live on zoom.
The third production is call “Breaking Bread.” The title breaking bread it’s kind of like the piece that ties them all together. It started out as people eating a meal together so each of the films has that time that there’s a meal that is being consumed. “We’re going to be shooting these in April and then editing in May and then we’ll show the finished product at the beginning of June.” Said, Tony Maggio.
The production will have maybe four or five short films that will make up breaking bread. Is going to go up on zoom as well and the dates for that are Jun. 4 and 5, 2021. This is going to be a collaboration between the L.A City College Theatre Department and Cinema Department. The project is going to be written, directed, and edited by and lead by the cinema students and the actors in the project will be the theater Academy students.
Both departments are collaborating for the last three years in a row. “We recognize that we’re in Los Angeles and Hollywood and most actors that come to study theater are interested in working with the camera, they want to be in movies and in television, so I’ve always asked myself why will we have cinema department and theater Department join, collaborate and work together.” Said, Maggio, and added: “So now this is the 6th semester that we have had a collaboration with cinema department.”
“A Game” one of the premieres shows at the opening season played on zoom, on Mar. 11, 2021. Inspired on a true story “MK-Ultra Experiments. ” A top-secret CIA project in which the agency conducted hundreds of clandestine experiments with people to assess the potential use of LSD and other drugs for mind control, information gathering and psychological torture.
“They would put these patients in asleep rooms with LSD and other enhancing drugs to put them within 26-to-48-hour sleep session and during those hours a prerecorded message was repeated saying your “mother hates you,” or “you’re never going to come back to your family.” Sometimes when they were conscious that would go through electroshock therapy. Said, Joey Marcel Aquino, producer, and director of the play “A Game.”
“The Project MK-Ultra lasted from 1953 until 1973, details of the illicit program didn’t become public until 1975, during a congressional investigation into widespread illegal CIA activities within the United States and around the world. There was a lot of experiments done and it was really brought to the attention until 2018.” Said, Aquino.
“People whose families were victims of these experiments during that time never really got full compensation, some of them probably got $20,000 and I don’t think that would be enough because they destroyed the life of these people.” Joey Aquino, said.
The process to accomplish this project was difficult and interesting. Mr. Aquino had to email his landlord and ask for permission to close the hallway of his residency for filming. The set designer made a bunch of giant walls and put them in the hallway turned into a tiny little room about twice the size of porta potties. One of the actors provided a camera and one of his friends who was cinematographer made it to come in and help out to record the entire show.
The cast had a week to rehearse everything. For Joey, the most difficult part was to shoot about 100 shots in four to six hours per day. They did 325 shots in three days. “It was a lot, but I think the actors just had the most fun doing that.” Aquino, said.
For Aquino, is a smart decision to filmed the entire show rather than have it live performance on zoom. “I think zoom is used as a communication service rather than a performance service.” Aquino, said. And he added: “Multiple things can go wrong while the show is happening, issues like actors disconnecting from the internet. I think it’s best if we filmed, simply because a full project can easily have it ready to go the day of the show.”
“My project was done via film so; it was a bit easier to manage than the ones done live. I enjoyed the process and I think that we did accomplish our goal in reaching our audience.” Said, Anishika Jontae, a student actor from the theater academy.
“And we are in the process of getting ready for our second production of the semester which seems like it will not only be interesting but the director’s vision seems like a very refreshing method to tell the story we will be telling.” Anishika said.
Maria Catarina Rodrigues a student costume designer, her assignment is not being easy with the pandemic circumstances. She is not able to get close to actors and take correct measurements. Many times she has to order two or three different sizes of clothing for just to be on the safe side.
“It was super difficult in my last project. You have to buy everything in the right size for the actors but you cannot physically interact with them, you cannot touch them, you cannot see how it would be fit on their bodies and especially for women when you ask them about their measurement they always said, just a little bit smaller, and that’s difficult.” Maria Catarina said.
“It’s the pandemic that make us more creative.” Maria said, and added: “ Now we are asking students actors to go into their own closet to see if they can use their own clothes. Sometimes we make an appointment, and we go through their closets with them, and they keep showing off their own clothes, this is a new approach and safe for us.” Now, Maria does not have to order everything online.
The L.A. City College theater department offer full conservatory style training, full time and it is been very successful at turning people into professionals having name actors and designers graduated from the program.
The L.A. City College theater Academy is the most recognized College in the Kennedy Center American College Theater festival. “We were there at the very first one and we were there at the very last live event and we were also at the very first zoom with them.” Maggio, said. “I’m very proud and very happy at the fact that L.A. City College rated so highly, the second-best community college in California and the sixth nationwide in academic influences and I like to think that a lot of that has to do with the theater department.” He added.