Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI)
Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI)

By Michael Parente, Public Relations Officers, Community College of Rhode Island

Faced with a semester unlike any other in the college’s history, the Community College of Rhode Island Players have had to summon every ounce of their artistic creativity to produce this season’s opening production.

Fool for Love – originally scheduled as the 2019-20 season finale prior to the COVID-19 pandemic – kicks off the Players’ 2020-21 theatrical season on Thursday, Oct. 15.

Due to the pandemic and the corresponding social-distancing guidelines, the entire 2020-21 season will be held virtually with the Players’ pre-recording each performance and streaming them to their paying customers via StreamYard, a streaming service that allows users to stream directly to Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and various platforms.

Written by American playwright and actor Sam Shepard and directed by Associate Professor Luke Sutherland, Fool for Love runs from Oct. 15–18, one of five productions scheduled for the upcoming academic year. The season continues in December with the Players’ adaptation of The Shadow Box, written by Michael Cristofer and directed by Adjunct Professor Kevin Olson.

The concept this season is much different than in years past when the Players performed in front of live audiences at the college’s theaters in Warwick and Lincoln. This year, the actors and actresses will perform a stylized version of a “live read” from the comfort of their homes; scenery and props will be minimal, and the performers will rely more on their voices and facial expressions to deliver the story in lieu of the physical action typically associated with live theater productions.

The stage manager for each production will serve as a liaison between the performers and audience by narrating action scenes that otherwise cannot be properly conveyed through dialogue. The audience watching on their laptops, computers, or mobile devices will only see the performers involved in that particular scene rather than the entire cast and crew in one grid.

“It’s definitely a non-traditional performance for us,” Sutherland said.

As a teaching tool, CCRI’s Theater Program helps students looking to enter the industry in a myriad of roles, from performers and crew members to lighting technicians and customer designers. This year’s adaptation will force the students to think outside of the box, Sutherland says, and emphasis different skill sets as the season progresses.

“They just have to think about is if they were working for television,” Sutherland said. “In television, you see a lot of tight shots on the face, so this is sort of a TV experience for them where they will have to adjust to using their voice more. You use your body in theater for non-verbal communication, but now their only real tool is their face. You’re still communicating the same way, except with a limited palate.”

Fool for Love, which premiered in 1983 and was a 1984 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, focuses on the story of Eddie and May, childhood friends and former lovers who reunite at an old motel in the Mojave Desert. Reality and fantasy intertwine with each character’s past, creating an explosive, emotional experience, which Sutherland says, features a major plot twist that will leave the audience stunned. The play was also adapted into a 1985 feature film starring Shepard himself alongside Kim Basinger and Randy Quaid. 

The Players’ rendition of Fool for Love features a four-person student ensemble starring Barrington’s Allison Wong as May, Daniel Garcia of Warwick as Eddie, Ryk McIntyre of Providence as the Old Man, and Johnston’s Jordan Cardona as Martin. Additionally, Colleen Farrell of Lincoln is the Stage Manager, and Kaisey Caputo of Johnston is the Sound Designer. 

Citing its responsibility to provide theatrical opportunities for all CCRI students and tell stories that represent the diversity of the campus populations, the Players have also added program policies for the 2020-21 season to include one or more plays written by a person of color in addition to assigning a BIPOC (black, indigenous or person of color) artist to direct one or more productions and host one or more BIPOC guest artists to present original works.

Among the productions for 2020-21, Adjunct Professor Kira Hawkridge will work with Providence-based actress and activist Daria-Lyric Montaquila, a performer at Hawkridge’s OUT LOUD Theatre and a board member of The Womxn Project; and CCRI alumnus Ronald Lewis on a soon-to-be-named devised theatre piece in February based on works by BIPOC poets. The 2020-21 season ends in April with the Players’ adaptation of the Dominique Morriseau’s classic Detroit ’67, a play whose “compelling characters struggle with racial tension and economic instability” during the 1967 riots in Detroit. Alexis Ingram, a Providence native and teaching artist for Trinity Rep and The Gamm, is the guest director.

“This is a new way to tell the story,” Sutherland said. “We control what we can control. We can still the story, and we will tell it well. This is a good learning lesson for all of them; in theater, there’s the show you want, and the show you get. You do the best with what you’ve got, and you always try to make it your own.”

CCRI is at the forefront of improving the ways community college students are prepared to advance their education and career prospects. Named America’s 2019 2-Year College of the Year by Education Dive, CCRI expects to have the highest three-year graduation rate of any community college in New England by 2021.