Lydia Snow//THE CHIMES
Biola’s first in-person theatre production since the COVID-19 pandemic, “Dear 2020: A Process” already made a splash. Diving head-first into pandemic problems, the performance utilized tactful theatrical storytelling to reveal individual personal experiences behind 2020’s larger societal trends.
AN UNCONVENTIONAL APPROACH
“Dear 2020: A Process” is not a straightforward narrative, but rather a succession of dynamic, interconnected first-person monologues. The show falls under a genre known as “devised theatre.” During progression of rehearsals, which covered the first half of Biola’s Fall 2021 semester, a cast of 11 Biola theatre students wrote their own lines—in creative conjunction with adjunct professor of theatre Rory Slater.
During rehearsals students experimented with ideas and opened up about pandemic experiences, leading them to pinpoint specific emotions worth expressing onstage.
Rather than approximating human issues through dramatic fiction, “Dear 2020: A Process” profiled real people who experienced real problems. Cast members draw from elements of poetry, persuasive speaking, memoir and even pantomime to detail a series of personal pandemic events—each of which heads toward its own catharsis.
Traumatic experiences require moving on and breaking free, thus, beyond simply expressing emotions, each cast member searched for a meaning behind them. These meanings were specific and topical in nature. In fact, as many students of color told their own firsthand stories, an atmosphere of genuine diversity was present.
In a standout performance, sophomore Theatre major Joshua Bonat described his experiences with unspoken societal pressures he faced in the wake of George Floyd’s death as a black man. Bonat related his struggles to form a bridge of reconciliation between his firsthand experiences with systemic racism and his long-standing belief in the God-ordained nature of law enforcement authorities.
In a similar vein, freshman Theater major Michelle Zhou opened up about 2020’s rise in anti-Asian hate crimes that left her fearing for her life as a Chinese emigrant.
Also prevalent in the show were firsthand descriptions of responses to pain. Students were open about their desperate attempts to cope with 2020’s catastrophes.
Sharing their unmet mental needs, some performers admit to various ineffective obsessions which include overcommitment to schedules, and even immersion in fictional worlds. One particularly poignant monologue deals with continuous failure to “push down the memories” of past trauma.
The show also included themes of lost opportunities—some as simple as the absence of hugs from friends or a proper high school graduation, and some as complex as squandering the present by worrying about the future.
BROKEN AND MENDED
For some students, the events of 2020 overturned personal definitions of happiness and stability. Many performers confronted these fractured expectations, deconstructing the illusion of living an ideal life.
These reactions to the unexpected are not all mournful in nature, though. A flamboyant comedic performance from sophomore theatre major Trevor Jones wittily detailed the many unexpected specifics, such as high gas prices and awkward social interactions, which come from transitioning from online schooling to in-person campus life.
As the show is a celebration of feeling, and of candidly sharing those feelings with others, it contains a true yin and yang of emotional themes. Some students shed light on the pain of relational separation, processing their tragic romantic breakups.
Micah Johnson, a senior theatre major, celebrated unity, recounting his efforts to reunite family members through the assembly of a cooperative video project.
COME AND SEE IT
“Dear 2020: A Process” is a short-and-sweet exercise in theatrical conciseness, packing in enough heart, wit and searing truth to melt even the most skeptical of hearts. Each audience member is guaranteed to walk away with newly-evoked emotional observations.
The show is around an hour in runtime, plus a 30-minute Q&A with Slater and Biola’s counseling faculty. Attendees may contribute their own questions to the Q&A using a QR code provided in the show program. The last showing is on Oct. 31 at 2:30 pm.