Bye-bye Zoom: The Rep theatre is back in action

The OCC Rep theatre student actors Chris Weichlen and Habiba Zakaria perform in the play "Corpse Bride."


The Repertory at Orange Coast College premieres its collective production, “Tales from the Script,” on Friday on the Theatre Department’s YouTube channel. After spending a year apart and conducting plays and shorts on Zoom, this is the first The Rep is conducting class in person since the start of the pandemic.

“It’s wonderful,” OCC’s Theatre Department Professor and co-chair of The Rep Cynthia Corley said. “Theatre is all about a group of people getting together in a room to share an experience.”  

For Halloween, The Rep knew they wanted to do original work. “We talked about it in class – what kind of stories [everyone] was interested in and what we wanted to write for “Tales from the Script” and we ended up with five original scary stories,” Corley said. 

Much like every other student, once the pandemic started, The Rep took their plays to Zoom. From there, the students would edit the recordings and post them to the Theatre Department’s YouTube channel.

While conducting these performances via Zoom wasn’t ideal, Corley saw a silver lining. 

“Anytime you break out of a habit, things can be learned. I think everybody has learned some perspective,” Corley said. “And the fact that you can do Theatre and film it and put it online for people who maybe can’t get to the Theatre, makes it possible for a wider audience to see plays.”

However, there are benefits from working together in person and in the same space that The Rep missed out on during their time over Zoom. “[Students] were not getting the full performance, experience and training,” Corley said. 

Started in 1985 by Theatre professors Bill Perkiss and Alex Golson, The Rep continues to be a unique class offered at OCC. Students are eligible to take this class up to four times and with each semester more experienced students teach new students.

“There was this chain: how we hang the lights, how we work the costume. [This chain] of what we do,” Corley said. “When COVID hit, it also was a year when a lot of students were graduating, and the chain broke.”

From acting, writing, directing and designing, students take control from start to finish in The Rep.

“The students all direct themselves. We help in the system, but students write a lot of the material, they direct in it, they design it, they do everything,” Corley said. 

This allows students to get the training and understand everything that goes into making plays. It is a learning process for many students and The Rep allows space for that to happen. “The most exciting thing for me is the student-generated material because that gives a hands-on experience and they have the opportunity to work with Sean Wellengard,” OCC Theatre Department Chair and The Rep co-chair Tom Bruno said.

Now that The Rep is back working together in person, Corley and Bruno are making tentative plans for the future. “Unless COVID does something really scary, we’re planning on doing live shows in the spring,” Corley said. 

The first production The Rep does in the spring is what the group calls “Plays Made in a Day” under the leadership of The Rep alum and playwriting advisor Sean Wellengard. 

The class meets on a Friday night where students express their interest in writing a script or directing the play. The genre of the play is chosen via drawing from a hat and then a script is written overnight. 

“We come back at 8 a.m. Saturday morning and rehearse the shows and costume them, and do the sets and the props and the lights,” Corley said. “The show goes up Saturday night – plays made in a day.”

Right now, The Rep is excited to be back together in person and learning from the ground up. “Tales from the Script” was filmed in front of a student audience and will premiere Friday at 7 p.m.

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