Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Witches, Magic and...Virtual Reality?

SCR’s Junior Players are crafting a magical world on stage in their production of The Witches by Roald Dahl and adapted by David Wood. The Junior Players, chosen by audition after at least two years with SCR’s Theatre Conservatory, are guided by Mercy Vasquez.Teem Players and Summer Players productions happen in the spring and summer.

Vasquez, who teaches the Junior Players during the school year, directs their annual production, knows very well the importance of training. She's studied at UCLA; in London at King’s College; the American Academy of Dramatic Arts; and in the Acting Intensive Program, part of SCR’s Theatre Conservatory. Her performance credits include productions at SCR, Garden Grove Playhouse and Heritage Square Theater.

Throughout the rehearsal process, Vasquez works to bring a rich experience to her students. With plenty of support in makeup, costumes, scenery and more, the Junior Players gain hands-on experience working on a full-scale production. This year, she is adding another element to the mix: virtual reality—sort of.

SCR Hair and Makeup Technician Gillian Woodson does a makeup demo for the Junior Players with students (R to L) Caitlyn Roum and Sasa Klein.
“I thought it would be interesting to have the essence of the children the witches transform to remain visible on stage,” says Vasquez. “The idea came to me to have the mice [former children] depicted as virtual reality mice. The cast had to work together to move in sync to create these characters. It involves a marriage between movement, cooperation and vulnerability.”

Vasquez worked with the four student actors to simulate the effect of virtual reality as they follow and mimic the movements of the others. As two of the actors are upstage portraying the mice their characters have become, the actors downstage are their former human selves. Through their lines and movement, the actors take cues from each other to create these synchronized characters.

Work like this reinforces the sense of ensemble, which is a big lesson to learn as students participate in the Junior Players.

“There are no stars,” says Vasquez. “Everyone is crucial to telling the story. They are learning to be generous actors in this process by waiting their turn and making the most of their time on stage.”

With that, there may be an even more important lesson for the players. Learning how to have fun and play—a discovery Vasquez wasn’t quite expecting from her young students.

“Bringing small handheld puppets to life was another interesting challenge because the actors weren’t used to playing this way,” she says. “In this world of gaming, actual toys have taken a backseat to the virtual world. I really had to teach them how to play! They had to work hard at keeping the puppet characters alive.”

The Junior Players present the magic of what they’ve rehearsed March 12-20, 2016 in the Nicholas Studio.

Learn more and purchase tickets.

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