CSUMB has big role in Salinas production

Christopher Marcos and friends proved yet again that students in the Teledramatic Arts and Technology program at CSU Monterey Bay can excel on both sides of the stage.

Marcos and former TAT students Erica Racz and Malinda DeRouen starred in the Western Stage’s recent production of the cult classic “Little Shop of Horrors.” The theater is located on the campus of Hartnell College in Salinas.

Current students Melissa Woodrow and Tomas Reyes were also involved with the production, working behind the scenes.

But TAT majors weren't the only CSUMB students involved in the production. Sydney Duncheon, a Global Studies major who has been involved in local theater for quite some time, also had a prominent role.

“Little Shop” tells the story of Seymour – played by Marcos – an awkward and shy floral shop clerk who discovers a strange plant after a solar eclipse and uses it to turn his waning fortunes around. Naming the plant Audrey II after a co-worker on whom he has a crush, he nurtures the plant with the only thing it will eat – his own blood.

When the plant’s appetite grows to the point of needing human flesh to survive, Seymour must make a stark choice: Does he give in to the plant’s carnivorous desires or stand up to the insatiable extraterrestrial and save the world.

And how does a giant, man-eating plant with a penchant for belting out Motown-inspired tunes come to life? Puppets, four of them, each representing a stage of the plant’s life.

In addition to playing Seymour, Marcos had the added challenge of operating the smallest puppet himself. It required him to juggle two roles at the same time – no small trick. The other puppets were operated by people in non-acting roles.

Racz and DeRouen had supporting roles in the production. As Chiffon and Ronnette, they functioned as participants in the action and a Greek Chorus outside it. Young, hip and smart, they were the only characters in the show who really knew what was going on.

All five TAT alums and current students involved in the production used skills they learned at CSUMB. And the current students acquired additional skills that will help them when they return to campus in the fall.

Marcos (Class of ’10), who starred in Pacific Repertory Theatre’s 2010 production of “All Shook Up,” where he played the lead role of an Elvis Presley-like character, said the sense of community and teamwork within a cast is something he learned at the university.

DeRouen (‘05) has been acting with the Salinas company since 2002. That year, TWS’s Tom Humphrey came to CSUMB to direct A Winter’s Tale and suggested she audition for the company. She has grown to become a lead actor in some of its productions.

Racz attended CSUMB from 1998 to 2000, and then ended up majoring in musical theater at the University of Northern Colorado. While at CSUMB, she was cast in the first theatrical productions staged at the university.

“Although I learned a great deal doing student films, through various TAT classes I learned that my heart belonged on the stage,” she said. “If it hadn’t been for CSUMB, I would not have discovered my true passion.”

Woodrow, who will graduate in December, has worked at TWS since 2007 in a variety of positions. This summer, she’s “the media marketing, PR and social networking go-to gal,” she said.

“And, along with Tomas and our great company, I will do scenic, prop and light design for three shows in our new repertory program, 2x4BASH.”

Reyes is also in his senior year. He works on sound design and engineering at TWS and does some acting.

“Since I’m majoring in film at CSUMB, I can use the skills I’m learning at TWS in post-editing and field sound,” Reyes said.

“With my capstone coming up in the fall, the Western Stage experience is helping make sure my skill set is prepared for the next semester.”

Woodrow perhaps spoke for all of them when she said, “ My involvement with TWS has enhanced my learning at CSUMB. I’ve learned that collaboration and communication is key!

“There is no other way to make a successful production run. All design/directorial elements grow from listening, hearing and seeing how others work.

“I’m grateful for what I have learned and continue to learn at TWS. It’s made me think outside the box and explore the material from all angles,” Woodrow said.

To learn more about the Teledramatic Arts and Technology Department at CSUMB, click here.

Photos by Richard Green for The Western Stage Top photo: CSUMB alum Christopher Marcos as Seymour grapples with Audrey II, a bloodthirsty plant

Bottom photo: Left to right, Erica Racz, Malinda DeRouen and Reina Vazquez along with Marcos