On Feb. 27 “Tell Them Tomorrow” a new play by SUNY New Paltz student Kevin Mischo, premiered virtually through the theatre department at SUNY New Paltz. Directed by SUNY New Paltz student Dom Torrez, the play contained actors live-on stage, masked, distanced and broadcast via YouTube Live.
“Tell Them Tomorrow” is a complex yet youthful look into the mental inner-workings of one college student, “Lead.”
A die-hard night owl with an angsty wit, “Lead,” well-played by Chris Lunetta, walks late at night (or early in the morning) around their SUNY campus lit only by the emergency blue light system. As the story unfolds, “Lead” must confront the tumultuous past with their ex as they confront the many parts of themselves, personified.
Lead builds up these different personalities and versions of themselves to not only cope with their break-up, but also to piece themselves together as a fully developed self. They pose the question, how do you see yourself and how do you wish to be seen?
While the piece subtly comments on gender with each of the characters (mostly fragments of Lead but also their friend and their ex-partner) using they/them pronouns, the play is really a deep-dive into the nature of connection and isolation and their effects on the self — a message easily extended to anyone in our current climate.
“Even though I wrote this two years ago, the message of isolation is a good one to look at through the lens of the pandemic,” said playwright and graduating third-year studentKevin Mischo.
“We all go through events where we isolate ourselves. This play asks you to look at yourself going through anything (even the pandemic) and what your life is going to be like after,” Mischo said.
Mischo’s writing seemed geared towards the students it was acted by and presented to; youthful and raw enough to make the bildungsroman, ‘who am I’ essence, feel authentic and natural.
The second of two new plays kicking off the Spring 21’ season, “Tell Them Tomorrow” had the barebones feel of a workshop. With fresh new writing and adjustment to masks/distancing contained in the blocking, it was clearly an educational process for all involved.
“Working on a piece like this is really beneficial [right now] because it’s a low stakes environment for Kevin to work on the piece and a low stakes environment for the actors to get to be a part of the new play process for the first time,” said director and third-year student Dom Torrez.
“We’re prepping for the art that we want to bring back to the stage when the pandemic is over,” they said.
Despite the challenges of COVID procedures in terms of blocking the play (all characters being six feet apart, props santitazed between a change of hands, etc.), Torrez’ direction was bold, purposeful and aided in the understanding of some of the more difficult plot-points.
Although the play was performed in an avant-garde fashion, with all actors in a simple black t-shirt and jeans, students still had the creative opportunities to design factors such as costumes, hair/makeup and set. All of which were shown in a slide-show like format before the start of the play on the livestream.
The hair and makeup concepts, created by second-year student Parker Howland as well as the costume concepts created by Peter Winklemann were stellar and fitting to the characters. For the future, the department may benefit from showing these concepts at scene changes or somehow more frequently throughout the virtual production. This way audiences may be reminded of the concepts for the characters, having an easier time ingesting the image of the creative team.
What was consistently displayed during the performance was the impressive lighting design by Martin Benesh and sound design by Keirsten Lamora. Those factors combined with incredible camera work of Erin Lefebvre and Emerson Wachnik effortlessly translated the theatre experience into Youtube Live.
In regards to performance, the theatre department at SUNY New Paltz never disappoints.
While every actor’s performance was enjoyable and well-developed, Shannon Neenan (Lead II) provided a performance that was both honest and dynamic. This was fascinatingly contrasted with Chris Lunetta’s also outstanding yet more vulnerable and bitter performance of “Lead” from act one.
Also noteworthy was Drew Perillo’s performance of Ex, a character who lives both within and without the mind of Lead. Perillo brought a fully developed, fleshed out performance to both versions of the same character which was impressive and fascinating.
For more information about upcoming productions from the theatre department at SUNY New Paltz, visit www.newpaltz.edu/fpa/theatre/.