Comedia Meets Improv in Collaboration with UC Riverside - Diversifying the Classics
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Comedia Meets Improv in Collaboration with UC Riverside

Laura Muñoz

Liana Mesaiku and UCR undergrads

As part of our ongoing Classics in the Classroom initiative, the group collaborated with Liana Mesaikou, this year’s Gluck Fellow from the Department of Theatre, Film, and Digital Production at the University of California, Riverside. The department has a long-standing relationship with the Gluck Fellows Program of the Arts, which provides funding for graduate students to develop theatrical performances and workshops aimed at integrating arts and culture into theater education for partner -schools in Riverside County. The program targets elementary, middle, and high school students, and reaches between 600-800 students with each program. In the fall of 2018, Mesaikou developed a workshop entitled “Improvology” about improv and theater, which then fed into the development of her show for fall 2019.

With the help of Diversifying the Classics, Mesaikou chose to develop a performance/workshop entitled “Time Travelers,” based on Lope de Vega’s The Widow of Valencia, which she found particularly striking for its focus on female agency and power. The performance, which has its foundation in improv games such as the time machine, features a group of undergraduate actors who have traveled through time to the Golden Age and must put on a play to get back to the present. One of the female actors plays Lope de Vega as a guide/narrator, while the other actors present key scenes in translation and in the original Spanish. The interactive workshop portion of the curriculum asks students to consider the power of labels in contrast to personal agency, and also involves practicing some of the theater games presented in the performance with smaller groups led by the actors. 

We are very excited to continue our outreach with community partners, and it has been especially gratifying to collaborate on a project which will reach such a wide audience in Southern California. “Time Travelers” will have a final preview in late August, and will be touring under the direction of Ann Hughes through several Riverside County schools in fall 2019.

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