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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Catalyst Theatre will premiere ‘This Is How It Happened’ online

The one-act show discusses relevant topics of race and police brutality

Catalyst: A Theatre Think Tank will be premiering the one-act show “This Is How It Happened” written by playwright and actor Anthony D’Juan. The free show will be streaming on Catalyst’s website, where anyone can register to watch on Oct. 15 and Oct. 16 at 5 p.m. “This Is How It Happened” was recently accepted into Catalyst’s catalog of plays for its chilling reflection of reality. The show focuses on the aftermath of a White police officer killing a Black man.  

Director Lyndsay Burch brings the words of this script to our screens for a short and never before seen showing. Professional actors Peter Story, Rob Karma Robinson and Danielle Moné Truitt portray their characters at home, practicing social distancing, but nevertheless are able to bring their characters to life by using new technology. 

“People involved in theater are just naturally creative,” said Tiffany Nwogu, the assistant director. “If you give them a stick, they’ll work with it. I don’t think this medium is any different. I think that this medium is just laying the groundwork for more possibilities to see what’s possible or what works and what doesn’t. So everything is a work in progress. But what comes out of it is putting everyone’s creative mind together. And that creates the finished product, the art form.”

With the recent Black Lives Matter protests and the unjust killings of Black men continuing, a play like this has the potential to hit society close to home. For actress Danielle Moné Truitt, who plays Alyce, this play spoke to her personally. 

“I have put together my own productions and things that speak to the misuse of police force,” Truitt said. “I protest a lot and use my voice to bring awareness to what is happening. And so this play definitely speaks to that. We get to uncover and talk about a lot of different issues and mindsets that people in this country have in regards to these situations. Anything that can help people think differently about the world that we’re in and about our laws and what is really right morally, I’m always very excited to be a part of.” 

Truitt’s character, Alyce, works for the police department. Alyce’s job is to devise a story for the public that will make a police officer seem innocent after killing a Black man. The story is one that the American public is all too familiar with. Truitt’s task was putting herself into the head of a morally questionable character where she could never see herself.

“That was very hard for me when I first read the play and when I first did a reading of the play, because I’m the complete polar opposite; I would never do that,” Truitt said. “I’ve had the opportunity to really spend time with that character and think about what could really be going on in her mind. Maybe, she’s just doing this job because it’s a job and maybe when she gets in the car, she cries or she drinks a lot to numb herself.”

While presenting D’Juan’s impactful story online isn’t preferable, everyone has worked together to make this situation have the best possible outcome. 

“Being an actor, or being involved in theater, you have so much energy in life that you want to bring [it] into whatever you’re working on,” Nwogu said. “And that type of energy just bleeds through the screen. With a story like this, we try even harder to make it come across.”

The first-time showing of “This Is How It Happened” comes with high hopes for playwright Anthony D’ Juan, whose friends hold the utmost respect and belief in his work. 

“I’m looking forward to Anthony getting his work out into the world,” Truitt said. “He is my dear friend, and he’s so talented, and he’s written so many things that are just really phenomenal. I’m just so happy that UC Davis is taking it upon themselves to shed light on his work and give it a good production, give it a good cast, and promote it.” 

“This Is How It Happened” will be filmed using technology called Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). Using OBS, actors are able to have a green screen and microphones in their home, and the finished product will make it look like they are in the same room together, talking to each other and producing a live-action show that mimics what we usually see on stage. Except this time, it’s right through our computers. Catalyst has embraced this new technology that has saved public plays as an art form and will continue to use it throughout the year as they produce performances and provide everyone the art form that the pandemic has made them crave. 

“It’s a very, very challenging way of working,” said Mindy Cooper, a theater and dance department professor and co-founder of Catalyst. “It takes a bit of some of the organics out of it. But for the audience, it’s pretty exciting in this day and age where a lot of us are just hungry for a play that looks like a play and feels like a play. So OBS has helped us greatly to embrace feeling like we’re back in the theater.”

This new technology has most certainly changed the way theater is produced and enjoyed. Accepting this new medium as an art form comes with a loss of many aspects that live theater thrives on; it lacks the heart of the audience and the connection that is created by the actors and those sitting ten feet away from them. But it also has its benefits—especially with as serious a story as the one D’Juan has written. 

“We can’t afford to not tell important stories right now,” Cooper said. “If we were to say, ‘Nobody needs to produce theater right now, let’s not do this; let’s just wait,’ then a year or a year and a half goes by and really important stories that need to be told today have missed their potent mark.”

This new medium allows for the continuation of storytelling, but also keeps students and actors sane, as Cooper recalls on the past seven months of pure online teaching and the necessity to stare at a screen and be productive for hours on end. 

“Right now a lot of us need the arts in our lives, whether you know it or not,” Cooper said. “I like to say, imagine the last seven months of your life without movies on Netflix, without your favorite Miles Davis song that makes you cry, a good cry. Without your favorite novel, without all of the arts. Imagine these last seven months without the ability to find yourself transported by an artist or a medium of some sort. We have the ability right now to continue to tell stories.” 

“This Is How It Happened” was accepted into the Catalyst festival back in July. With a first-time showing and the availability of it to reach across the nation, it has the potential to reach a wider audience that it normally would have not received had the play been on stage. Cooper hopes that with this first showing D’Juan gets to workshop this play around the nation at different stages. 

“You know, I read a lot of plays every year, whether it is for the festival or my own work,” said Cooper. “I’m attracted to ones that suck me in and jump off the page and I can see them, I can feel them, I can hear them immediately. This play did that for me. And I can’t wait to see how this director has envisioned it coming to life.” 

Perhaps when envisioning his play come to life, D’Juan never imagined it would be in an online setting, but instead on a stage before a crowd that filed in as the sun set. But the play itself still holds the message that he wanted it to carry when he wrote it, and the actors still portray the characters as they would in a live, in-person performance. The audience will have time to ask questions afterwards and provide insight on what they saw. 

“Art is a great way to promote activism and to get people to change their mindset about what they see in the world and how they might experience it,” Truitt said. “I think that’s one of the beautiful things about artistic expression: It causes people’s hearts to change.”

For those who miss the live viewing experience, registration to see the play is open now.

Correction: The original version of this article misspelled Danielle Moné Truitt, Rob Karma Robinson and Lyndsay Burch’s names. The article has been updated to correct the errors.

Written By: Itzelth Gamboa — arts@theaggie.org


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