“Great Scott! And Other Above-Average People” will feature three plays in one show.
Six UCLA students of the LCC Theatre Company directed three one-act plays for the student-run, Asian-American theater company’s first production this fall. Each scene was overseen by two directors, said Kady Le, a fourth-year film and television student and one of the directors.
“Great Scott! And Other Above-Average People” will play at the Jan Popper Theater on Friday and Saturday. The show includes student improv along with three one-act plays – “Oh My God” directed by Drew Tran and Cecilia “CC” Bartels, “Custody” directed by Elijah Lang and Vivi Le, and “Seoul Occupant” directed by Kady Le and Arielle Bagood.
Oh My God
“Oh My God” imagines what the world would be like if God avoided his day-to-day responsibilities.
Tran, a fourth-year psychobiology student, and Bartels, a third-year geography student, have been working on the show since week one of fall quarter. The one-act play depicts God trying to convince his assistant Lydia that he deserves a day off. Tran and Bartels said they created “Oh My God” to produce a comedy show on monotheistic beliefs.
Bartels said “Oh My God” was originally written for film rather than live production.
“We had to completely reimagine what (the production) looks like, and I think we did a really good job of making it appropriate for a live theater audience to see and experience,” Bartels said.
The script originally called for some scenes to be presented through a television projector, Tran said. He and Bartels adapted the idea by acting the scenes out on stage. However, the story retained its themes of awareness of self-care and of the struggles faced by others.
Bartels said she thinks not enough stories have been written about God because people are afraid of offending others, so she and Tran created the play as a lighthearted, humorous take on the controversial topic.
“It’s just a really funny take on what God could be, what God could act like, and I think what UCLA students could get out of this is just a funny interpretation, our funny interpretation of what God’s daily life is like.”
The directors of “Custody” transform a custody quarrel into a fairy tale.
Directed by Lang, a fourth-year psychology student, and Vivi Le, a third-year theater student, the play features a custody fight over a child between a witch and a fairy. Le said they used a fairy tale motif to better explore a real-life issue by incorporating basic elements of a fairy tale, such as a moral lesson to be learned throughout the production.
“(‘Custody’) addresses what evils are released on the world when parents don’t have their lives together,” Le said. “It shows how it affects a child.”
The play includes a scene showing a siren kidnapping the child while the fairy and witch argue, Le said. The scene is supposed to use supernatural themes to signify the real-life occurrence of a child suffering when their parents are distracted by fighting.
Le said working on “Custody” marks the first time she’s directed a piece of theater not written by a professional playwright.
“It’s just been a really cool, much more organic process than a traditional kind of theater production,” Le said.
Kady Le and Bagood, a fourth-year Asian American studies student, incorporated their own experiences as Asian-Americans into their play “Seoul Occupant.”
The students’ one-act play features a family dealing with a housing crisis and familial quarrels while living in Koreatown, Los Angeles.
In the play, protagonists Lyndon and Grace try to encourage Sun-Ja, their elderly mother and Korean-American immigrant, to leave their Koreatown home due to a housing crisis. However, Sun-Ja resists because she wants to remain in Koreatown, where she can enjoy the comfort of her familiar community.
Bagood said she provided research articles and documentaries to her cast about Korean-American immigrants, so they would better understand the emotions of what it feels like to be an immigrant.
“At its core, it’s a family story, but there is sort of a political backdrop to it … especially about the Asian-American experience, its history, its relevance to heavier topics such as a housing crisis, gentrification,” Bagood said. “Every single part resonates so deeply with me.”
Le and Bagood invited the cast over to their apartment for dinner and a homemade East Asian hot pot dinner during the production process. The cast, which is composed of Asian-Americans and Asian international students, was able to connect with their cultural ties through the communal meal, Le said.
“Being able to share that experience with all of us really helped us tap into the identity aspect of what the story is about.” Le said.
Le said her favorite moment in the play is a monologue by Lyndon in which he confronts his mother about how he was ashamed to grow up as a Korean-American from an underprivileged family in Koreatown. When someone grows up Asian-American, they often face the internal struggle of trying to balance their cultural and American identities, Le said.
“I hope our show really relates to Asian-American UCLA students who feel like they have been marginalized and also anyone that feels like they have been on the cusp at one point,” Le said.
Although “Seoul Occupant” portrays a very specific Korean-American experience, it also features universal themes that go beyond the specificities of the onstage family, Le said.
“There are things like family conflict and identity, and I think students should be able to watch this play and feel like they can relate to people from different walks of life,” Le said.