Mesa thespians come out from behind the curtains

Emy Takada

Ryan Mirvis, Bobby Byrum, Allison Hammond and Daniel Seib rehearse for the upcoming "Student 1 Acts."

Steve Trader

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Hard work and dedication equaled into a nearly flawless production for the Mesa College Theatre Company as they successfully presented their first theatrical performance of the year, “Beyond Therapy.”

Looking to draw the San Diego community into the world of live theatre, these thespians-in-training bring plenty of energy and charisma to the stage. Although not quite professional actors, they deliver to us interpretations of a wide variety of genres four times per school year.

“In this program, it teaches you to be human and to embrace truth and to understand one another,” said Hanna Townsend, who played Prudence, the lead character of the play. “It’s phenomenal. It’s one of those things where you put the time and effort into it, the reward you get back is tenfold.”

In the socially provocative play “Beyond Therapy,” audiences are given a comedic look at psychiatry, dating and human nature.

The main character, Prudence, a beautiful and confused young woman, decides to look for love in the personal ads section of the newspaper after a nasty break-up with her macho psychiatrist boyfriend, Stuart.

In responding to an ad she meets Bruce, a bisexual man looking for a woman to replace his lover, Bob. Bruce and Bob are both aided by the advice of dimwitted psychiatrist Charlotte, who provides much of the comic relief throughout the play. As the plot progresses, Prudence, Bruce and Bob become tangled in a web of relationships, discovery and understanding.

The theatre students at Mesa can take nearly all of the credit for putting together each of the shows that they produce. Aside from starring in the plays, they design the costumes, design and build the scenery, focus the lighting, and publicize their own shows. Hard work and enthusiasm is the thread that binds these productions together.

“There’s execution, there’s commitment,” said Juan Castro, who’s been the head of the theatre program for 18 years and director of the play. “People are doing the buzz words; industry, mental focus, maturity. It’s come with your adult for three hours. And that orientation is very powerful here. They’re kids after that three hours, but for three hours they’re putting out and trying to become something excellent.”

“Beyond Therapy” is only the second comedy that Castro has directed in his 18 years, partly because comedy is such a difficult concept to manufacture.

“I can’t stand directing comedy plays, the fact that it was comedy was the worst part about the show,” said Castro. “I can’t control the laughter, I can’t determine the laughter, I can’t say here’s where the laughter should be. Thank god my students were so good; they were able to pull it off.”

On the first night of the show, the cast received a standing ovation for their performance.

“The best moment was opening night at the end when the cast came together to bow and we got a standing ovation,” said Townsend. “We looked at each other with nervous laughter, like ‘wow, we were actually able to pull it off.’ It was great to get that audience’s reaction.”

The theatre department at Mesa offers an excellent opportunity for student actors to come together and mold their artistic and creative abilities, allowing them to generate a positive experience.

“We never once came together to give each other negative energy,” said Townsend. “As soon as you walk in the door it’s professional. You need to do your job and keep a positive environment, you need to connect with one another because whatever’s happening outside is outside and not in the theatre. The audience doesn’t care about where you came from or who died or why you’re sick, they’re there to see the show.”

On the weekend of Nov. 16-18, the Mesa theatre students are presenting the “Student 1 Acts,” a collection of various one-act plays in which the students handle not only the acting and technical aspects of the production, but they also direct themselves. Two more student productions will be presented again next semester.

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