June 23, 2024

The Collinsworth School of Performing Arts will share its second production of the semester, “Joyful Noise,” with the California Baptist University community on Nov. 18–19 and Dec. 1–3.

This 1700s-period piece, based on real events and people, follows the life of composer George Frederick Handel as he attempts to present his opera, “The Messiah,” amid opposition from the church. The story also follows Susannah Cibber, a woman caught in an abusive marriage who finds Handel and becomes involved in the opera.

“The play has a story of redemption that glorifies our need for a Savior in a broken world, and that is something we think a CBU audience would resonate with,” said Zachary Bortot, associate professor of theatre and director of the production.

Bortot is a new faculty member at CBU this year and this is his first experience as a director at CBU. For this production, he is working alongside a cast and crew of eight student actors, three student stage managers and several behind-the-scenes technicians.

As director, Bortot prepped for the production by doing a deep dive into research on the script, which helps him coach the actors in learning their roles.

“My goal as a director is I try to provide this big vision that everyone can jump on board with,” Bortot said. “What I do tell the actors is that by the time we open, hopefully they become the experts on their specific character.”

This production, which had a 10-week prep period, has presented new challenges for the actors as it has required extensive research to understand their characters.

Shane Moser, senior theatre major, is acting as Handel in the production. Prepping for the lead in this show has looked different from other shows because it has required deep research into who Handel was. Since Handel lived during the 1700s, there are also limited resources about him, presenting another challenge.

“It’s very different [from] a normal role because he was a person,” Moser said. “Everyone in the show is a person, not just a character that was made up. We’ve had to be very specific on how we’ve gone about this.”

Camille Grochowski | CBU Banner Seth Suiguitan, sophomore theatre major, stands at the podium and gives a short sermon as Bishop Henry Egerton during a rehearsal of Joyful Noise.

Since the production features German, Irish and British characters, the actors have also worked with a dialect coach to master accents, which has been challenging but rewarding for the students, including Moser, who had to learn a German accent.

“When you are trying to mimic these sounds that are not natural to you, it’s difficult to do that and focus on the acting itself,” Bortot said.

Jennifer Palacios-Cardenas, senior theatre performance major, will be acting as Kitty Clive, who is an antagonistic figure in the production. She uses several methods to get into character, from running lines in a corset and hoop skirt to finding ways to relate to her character.

“I have learned that even if a character is completely the opposite of myself, there are still elements of myself that are in the character, so really it’s still a piece of me I am putting on that stage,” Palacios-Cardenas said. “This character is very feisty and she’s mean and she’s loud, and that’s the opposite of what I am, but I can be that way sometimes and I think I’ve had to learn she’s not the opposite of me.”

Eden Sides, senior theatre major, will play Susannah Cibber in the show. Sides is looking forward to putting on a show that is entertaining and has comedic moments while also highlighting darker, more serious themes such as the mistreatment Cibber undergoes at the hands of her husband. Sides views this show as an opportunity for art to provide an avenue for conversations about these difficult topics.

“Some parts of Susannah’s story are uncomfortable or can even be triggering for some people, but it still needs to be talked about,” Sides said. “This still happens. Her story is someone’s story today, so it’s still relevant.”

“Joyful Noise” will touch on the story of Christ and emphasize that redemption is always possible, propelling the CBU community into the Christmas spirit.

“It is this story about redemption and overcoming both our personal demons and the demons of the world that would seek to destroy us and persisting in order to find human thriving on the other side of those trials and tribulations,” Bortot said.

Tickets are available for purchase either online or at the Theatre Box Office.

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