There will be no stage. Actors won’t even be sharing the same set. The audience will be watching from their living rooms. But when the MiraCosta College Theatre Department presents The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane from October 28 through November 8, it will be a production like no other.
According to Director Tracy Williams, “We decided when we were placed under the stay-at-home order that, even though we were going to be physically distanced, we would remain active and we were going to continue to move forward no matter what.”
Moving forward no matter what meant using Zoom as it has never been used before and being as authentic as possible with no live-stream video performances. Virtual backgrounds and green screens are out. Instead, students filmed their scenes individually at home using backdrops, set pieces, props and costumes prepared by Theatre Department students, faculty and professional staff. Theatre Department technician Bryon Andersen removed borders from the recorded Zoom boxes before ‘connecting’ the actors, crafting a particular scene to make it appear as though several people are on stage at a time. Whenever a scene in the story grew too large, the crew used shadow puppets to illustrate the action.
With pandemic protocols restricting joint rehearsals, props, costumes, and scenery were distributed to the five actors, who live from Temecula to San Diego. With each of the main characters interacting with the Edward Tulane china rabbit, scenic artist Zach Elliott was tasked with crafting five identical dolls.
“It’s not like we all got on Zoom and just pushed record,” said Williams, who would spend up to five hours on the road driving production material to student actors unable to pick up their costumes, microphones, lighting, and more from the Oceanside Campus Theatre loading dock. “It’s been crazy, but it’s been so worth it.”
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is set in the 1930s and tells the story of a china rabbit given to a young girl named Abilene, who treats him as a true member of the family until he falls into the sea and onto the ocean floor while Abilene and her family are vacationing aboard the Queen Mary. Freed from the seabed by a fierce storm, Edward is first pulled up by a passing fisherman using a net, the first of several stops with different owners over the next several years of various adventures. Eventually, Edward is reunited with Abilene, who is now married and has a daughter of her own.
“When I first read the book last spring, I couldn’t see how this was going to work or how it was going to look at the end,” said film major Beverly Balderrama, who plays the role of the traveler. “It seemed hard to visualize how this was going to work on Zoom. But it’s taking what has been a meeting platform and using it in another way to bring art into our lives.” “This will be a very unique performance,” she added.
The children’s story with adult themes is being offered without cost. “We feel that we have been so incredibly blessed by our community, we wanted to give something back, we wanted to pay it forward by providing this gift in return,” Williams said.
“We want children to see that theatre is possible in their own home,” she added. “It’s our time as the MiraCosta College community to shine,” Williams said. “It also speaks to the heart of who we are as a theatre program and how we think of our students and our community.”
About MiraCosta College
The MiraCosta Community College District has served the coastal North San Diego County area for over 80 years. More than 21,000 credit students per semester in over 70 disciplines enroll in associate degrees, university transfer and workforce readiness certificate programs. The college also serves a wide spectrum of educational needs in the region ranging from programs for adult education, basic skills, and ESL to a California Community College pilot program offering the nation’s first baccalaureate degree in biomanufacturing. MiraCosta College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).