Review: “overcome, a devised play”

What do you get when you bring a group of theatre arts students together to produce a show and all you have to begin with is a title? You get a ‘devised play’ called overcome. It’s the Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts Program’s Spring production and it streams on You Tube through May 2.

The show’s cast was tasked with developing a script based on events in their lives where they faced obstacles to overcome or when they found themselves overcome by an obstacle. With guidance and direction from Reed Martin, the end result is a 90-minute production consisting of a series of vignettes based on those experiences. The cast members are, in essence, playing themselves and telling their stories through monologues, sketches, poems, music, and dance.

As one could expect from stories that are about life’s often difficult circumstances, some subject matter could be “triggering content”, with such issues as eating disorders, self-harm and suicide addressed, as well as the local fires and COVID.

The show does have its lighter moments as well, and all the stories are accompanied by some really beautiful graphics work. This may be the most visually-inventive locally-produced streaming production I’ve seen in the past year.

There are about two dozen scenes in total with most being performed “live”. All the dance work is understandably pre-recorded. The show manages to avoid most of the pitfalls that are common with live-streaming with occasional volume level issues the only noticeable blips in an otherwise smooth run.

At its heart, this show provides its audience with an opportunity to really get a sense of how the current generation is dealing with life in these unprecedented times. There is a passion and strength evident amongst this project’s participants in every segment.  They take pride in overcoming the hardships in their lives and display a hearty optimism that things will get better.

And yet, the most impactful moments for me came from a somewhat darker place. In the first, a student relates how, after experiencing a school lockdown when an individual with a gun was seen on campus, that the COVID lockdown has actually made them feel safer.  

The second should have been a joyous moment, where a student expresses how after having spent too much of their young life feeling ostracized for being different, they had finally found a place that was accepting and where they felt welcome and safe – the theatre. Given the news of the past week, it was an alternately poignant and infuriating moment that tasted of bitter irony.

SRJC announced in early April that there would be no Fall productions this year, so overcome is your last opportunity to see these students at work. The show features Emma LeFever, Grace Mosier, Spencer J. Scruggs, Sky Hernandez-Simard, Alexx Killian, Christopher Shayota, Rachel Calos, Samuel J. Gleason, Kira Catanzaro, Gwendolyn Phair, Chinel Kremesec, Peri Zoe Yildirim-Stanley, and Norman Eisley.

They and their work are worthy of your support.

‘overcome, a student devised play’ streams through May 2.  Fri & Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 2 pm. Tickets by donation. theatrearts.santarosa.edu

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