explore musical passion in theater company’s independent show
DAILY BRUIN CONTRIBUTOR
normal progression of theater production usually culminates in a
performance magically manifested on stage. However, students who take
initiative in their creative efforts have more to worry about than
memorizing their lines.
Four friends and students of the UCLA School of Theater, Film
and Television, along with some community help, have independently
formed a production of "Songs for a New World" by the Tony
Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown. Produced professionally
under the Unacceptable Theatre Company, the production is showing March
4-5 at 8 p.m. and March 6 at noon at UCLA's NPI Auditorium at 720
The Unacceptable Theatre Company was founded in October by the
cast of "No Doi," the first show under the group; the company is a
loose conglomeration of a group of friends and their passion for
Now, five members of the company have enthusiastically
embraced their passion for Brown's musical work. The production
consists of a four-member cast of fourth-year theater students Jesse
Carrion, Shaina Lemmerman, Lana McKissack and Paul Peglar, and musical
director Carson Schutze.
With the sometimes constricting confines of the theater
department's scheduling and politics, these students are making their
own opportunities happen.
"We would be held back by the theater department," said
Carrion, who also directed the project. "In order to have the creative
freedom and control of a project, we needed to gain full control."
As students progress through four years of theater in school,
the chances of doing a project of personal interest are unlikely. Also,
there is no opportunity the theater department offers that allows
students to create independently.
Until now, there has not been a production of Brown's music at
UCLA, which are either extremely large or very intimate, from "Parade"
on Broadway to a small two-person show. So the students decided to do
an independent project in a small-scale production of the acclaimed
"Knowing that we are limited to what the theater department
sets up for us, we want to express ourselves in our own right, as
passionate, driven and creative people," Peglar said.
This production is a forward movement for the group, as the
four cast members explore their anxieties and connect their personal
experiences. Brown's music is beautiful and challenging, melodically
and figuratively, and the students greatly related to the themes
broached in the music.
Each character is representative of a theme, and the songs are strung
together as a collection of life's moments.
"It's about one moment," Peglar said. "All the songs of the
show center on this person in this particular moment when they need to
make a decision. Because they are very conversational songs, it speaks
on a very human level. It really cuts down to the nit and grit of it."
Beneath the conversational and humanizing lyrics, the rhythmic music
encompasses an earthy attitude with musical theater style.
"Brown is so great because of this rock, folk, pop musical
sense that he has," Schutze said. "The music is melodic and
interpretive, and is appealing to people who aren't into musical
Besides the positive nature of a collaboration of friends and
worshippers of Brown, the group has run into some logistical problems.
Less than three days away from the opening date, the production lost
its stage at the Northwest Auditorium. But in the spirit of the show,
the group rallied to find a solution.
"Brown's songs all have a journey in which we discover a resolution or
lack of resolution," McKissack said.
Like the music itself, these students have followed a strong
yet challenging path in their creation. By joining together in their
love for the music and performing, their efforts have prevailed and the
show has found a stage. But with the sudden change in location and
staging, the presentation has lost some frills.
"Now it's really going to come down to just us as people
singing these songs, telling these stories," Carrion said. "Very
literally, the show must go on."
Fortunately this is the type of show where this is possible:
The piano, voices and lyrics are all that are necessary. By working
with peers, tackling difficult music, and overcoming the unforeseen
hurdles, the students have independently embraced their passions with
strength and conviction.
"The success is that much greater knowing that the five of us had the
power to accomplish this show," Peglar said.
For more information, visit www.unacceptabletheatre.com.
songs for a new world