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VALLEY WEEKEND | THEATER NOTES

CSUN Students Get Into the Act With 2 Productions : Frustrated by a lack of opportunity to take their skills to the stage, two groups have generated their own works.

February 08, 1996|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When Igor Stravinski wrote his theater piece "A Soldier's Tale" in 1918, he couldn't find anyone in Paris to produce the work written for narrator, dancers and a seven-piece band. What did he do? He set up a tent on the outskirts of Paris and produced it himself.

That's what happens when the creative urge is too strong to be held back by circumstances.

Something similar is happening in the theater department of Cal State Northridge. Following the '94 earthquake, not only were the three campus theaters damaged, but other campus concerns limited the department's funding. That's in addition to today's volatile economic temper. Soon drama students were not being given the chance to exercise their rapidly bulging dramatic muscles. But the creative urge could not be held back.

Two examples of the do-it-yourself spirit are visible at Northridge.

One is an experimental production using auditory and visual imagery in a sensual rather than verbal manner. It's called "Eyemagic." The other is a new student group calling itself the Theatrics Repertory Company, which presents variety showcases in addition to full productions of plays.

Brian Begun, who co-directs "Eyemagic" with Andrew Webberley, explains that as technical theater students they became interested, in the wake of class projects, in seeing if they could apply their knowledge to craft a full production.

"We wanted," Begun says, "to be able to create art, using technology as our tool, and be able to utilize actors as a minor part of the show, simply just as filler."

At one point 30 technical students were working on the project, but the team has been narrowed to six or seven. The theme of the show is "first contact."

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Begun explains: "People go through several first contacts in their lives, whether it be sex, drugs, marriage, birth, whatever." The aim is to bring the audience, willing or not, into the sensual re-creation of several of these first meetings. In the birth section, Begun says, it's the audience being born and experiencing the auditory and visual impressions of the phenomenon. The project is entirely generated by students, without funding from the school's administration, CSUN's contribution being the use of the Studio Theatre. Begun says he and Webberley decided to initiate a "sponsorship program," which resulted in the donation of equipment from local theatrical suppliers. And they received a generous grant from the campus' Associated Students group.

Associated Students is also being asked to help fund the first full production by Theatrics Repertory Company. The student group will stage Jerry Sterner's Wall Street comedy-drama, "Other People's Money."

Students Jhennifer Eckert and Barbara Abelar formed the company to give acting students, both advanced and beginners, a chance to put into practice what they've learned in the classroom.

"The students wanted an opportunity to perform," Eckert says, "more opportunities to perform than the Theatre Arts Department can provide. Due to various reasons, the theater department is lacking . . . funding. We decided to form our own group and do our own material.

"What we're trying to do is get the students involved, realizing they can do their own things," she says. "The department is struggling anyway, and we're just trying to give the students some positive reinforcement."

After problems caused by the quake, Begun says, "the department's on an upward slope now. We've been working our butts off, and I hope 'Eyemagic' will be an example of what students can do."

DETAILS

* WHAT: "Eyemagic."

* WHERE: Studio Theatre, Cal State Northridge, Nordhoff Street and Etiwanda Avenue.

* WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 5 p.m. Sunday. Ends Sunday.

* HOW MUCH: Free.

* CALL: For reservations, (818) 885-3086.

* WHAT: "Other People's Money."

* WHERE: Studio Theatre, CSUN.

* WHEN: Feb. 16-18 and 21-24; 7 p.m. Feb. 21; all other performances 8 p.m.

* HOW MUCH: Donations at door.

* CALL: (818) 892-6055.

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