An actress and a composer hatched a plan within the confines of a storage closet for offstage actors during UCLA’s production of “The Trojan Women.”
Backstage of yet another show selected for the pair by the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, Lauren Henning and Mina Bloom decided they were no longer content to perform music written and chosen by someone else. They had composed their own music and they needed their own stage.
In the off-stage storage closet Bloom, a third-year theater student, and Henning, a second-year acting student, formulated the idea for a new theater company dedicated to showcasing musicals written and composed by UCLA students. Bloom said her mother suggested they name the group Dually Noted for its melding of music and lyrics.
“While we were suffering under the wrath of Theater, Film and Television directors and Theater, Film and Television choices for plays, we were talking about our own things,” Bloom said.
After four weeks of rehearsal, Dually Noted will hold its first performance Saturday at the Improv Space in Westwood. The group aims to showcase the individual scripts, lyrics, and compositions of UCLA students, as opposed to covers of Broadway musicals.
The cabaret-style show will feature three 10-minute musicals, two composed by entirely by Bloom and one composed by Bloom and Maggie Jorgenson, a second-year acting student. In addition, the group will perform five additional musical numbers also written by Bloom.
To bring her stories and songs to life, Bloom reached out to freshmen in the Theater, Film and Television department. Bloom wanted to utilize freshman talent she said often goes unrecognized during the first year in the School of Theater, Film and Television.
Henning said she thought freshmen auditioned because they were attracted to the idea of being a part of an original cast, bringing new characters to the stage for the first time.
“(Those auditioning realized) they were a part of something a lot bigger than just singing another Sondheim,” Henning said.
During the production process, Dually Noted applied originality, Henning said, not only to the music and lyrics, but also to new onstage identities, introducing characters of different sexualities.
The founders kept sexual identification in mind when casting “Kate is Doing Just Fine,” one of the 10-minute musicals which tells the complex love story of bisexual Kate and “gold-star lesbian” Aya, who has never slept with a man, Jorgenson said.
True to the script, none of the show’s cast members identify as heterosexual.
“We thought that was important – not having people who don’t necessarily identify (with a certain sexuality) telling someone else’s story,” Henning said.
Sam Sherry, a first-year theater student and director of “Kate is Doing Just Fine,” hopes that Kate’s and Aya’s stories will appeal to audience members who identify similarly. Sherry said one of the group’s current and future goals is to include more characters representing women, sexualities and other identities not commonly showcased onstage.
“(We want to) give voices to people who don’t have voices in musical theater,” Sherry said.
Between the student-composed music, scripts and fresh onstage faces, Bloom said she feels Dually Noted will add a new dimension of contemporary reality and student creativity to UCLA theater that some older theater groups on campus don’t have, limited by others’ scripts.
Bloom, who has served as a pianist for HOOLIGAN Theatre Company and Act III Theatre Ensemble, as well as a composer for Shakespeare Company at UCLA, said both her positive and negative experiences performing in other shows have influenced her leadership strategies for Dually Noted.
Due to their support of each other’s work and collective drive to get the group off the ground, Bloom said Dually Noted has managed to avoid the power-struggle dynamic she has witnessed in other theater groups.
Bloom, Henning, Jorgenson and Sherry all agreed the content of the shows and the efficiency of the group as a whole has always been their first priority.
Though Bloom described the company’s upcoming pilot performance as a “Mina-fest,” because it will mainly showcase her work, she plans to recruit other student playwrights and composers to contribute to Dually Noted’s future productions.
Bloom said she is confident that the group will continue to attract Theater, Film and Television students with Broadway aspirations. After all, Bloom said, the Tony Award-winning “In the Heights” began with a college student with big dreams.
“(Being an original cast member) is such a great thing for an actor,” Henning said. “They get to put their imprint on this role first. I think, for any performer, that’s a dream.”