Queensborough Community College has been selected to open the main stage performances at the Region II Festival 49 of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) at Montclair State University in New Jersey, from January 3-7, 2017. The other seven invited productions are from West Chester University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Stockton University, Arcadia University, West Liberty University and The Community College of Baltimore County. The eight invited productions were selected from 66 eligible productions from the region.
Queensborough was chosen for the coveted main stage opening slot to perform anOTHER, a collaborative piece, written and directed by J. Julian Christopher (aka C. Julian Jiménez), Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts, together with the student-led QCC Theatre Ensemble. The play is an exploration of what it means to be “other” in America; a celebration of difference and the idea that not everything is how it appears. In anticipation of the KCACTF the cast and crew are re-staging the show, originally stage-set for the 94-seat Queensborough black box theatre, to prepare for the much larger, nearly 1,000-seat main stage of the festival.
“The high quality of work by our excellent faculty, students and administrators has led to this outstanding accomplishment,” said Georgia McGill, Professor and Chairperson, Speech Communication and Theatre Arts. “Our student actors, along with the dedicated support of their faculty mentors, have a strong record of being nominated for their superlative performances at prestigious regional and national festivals, and many of our alumni have successful careers in the theatrical field.”
“We are thrilled to be given this opportunity,” said Christopher. “Throughout this exciting experience, we read, talked about ideas, experimented with various physical movements and challenged each other. I drew from the interaction of our student ensemble before I wrote the script.”
He continued, “During the rehearsal process, we looked to different Hindu deities and Kirtan meditation to serve as a jumping off point. I chose Indian mythology in part because it is filled with theatricality and interpretive storytelling.”
The cast and crew, who use their last names for their characters, combine creativity with fluidity to tell their personal stories. Movement and performance pieces are central to the narrative while monologues are sometimes made into dialogues. Six languages are spoken in the show: Chinese, Spanish, French, Portuguese and sign language, with English as the common denominator. Chanting and call and response songs are sung while the cast tumbles, climbs ropes and leaps. Used scripts are recycled for props such as falling snow, and there is no curtain call.
“I want to lift the veil on theatre,” said Christopher, who is also an accomplished playwright. “Students on sound and light boards, as well as the stage manager, are on stage for the duration of the play. Everyone comes together as a community in order to be aware that we are all in a play so that it is less emotional and more a call to action. This is an ensemble effort in the truest sense of the word.”
Recently, Queensborough was named one of only eight community colleges out of 189 accredited theatre programs nationwide to receive certification for the Associate in Science Degree by the National Association of Schools of Theatre, the sole accrediting body approved by the Department of Education (DOE). Queensborough’s theatre program is the only institution in all of CUNY, including its four-year colleges and graduate programs, to be accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre. Queensborough is the only public college in the metropolitan area to have an accredited theatre program.
A number of people were asked to lend their expertise for anOTHER, including Nirmal Chandraratna, a New York City-based Kirtan artist, who creates the call and response music; and Xuewen Fang, a traditional Chinese opera singer and actress for more than 20 years. For the performance of anOTHER, Fang has learned all of her stage cues in English.
Christopher, who has taught at Queensborough since 2009, emphasized that anOTHER would not be possible without the “close partnership and collaboration” with Heather Huggins, Assistant Director and Professor in the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts. He also expressed his deep appreciation for all the designers, staff and Georgia McGill, Professor and Chairperson, Speech Communication and Theatre Arts and Liisa Yonker, (Director of Theatre) who have cultivated a program that allows work like this to thrive.
Other Queensborough productions Christopher has directed are: Milk Milk Lemonade; Marisol; Spring Awakenings; Nothing is the End of the World, Except the End of the World; Something Funny Happened on the way to the Forum and To Kill a Mockingbird.