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February 4, 2014 > Ohlone Theatre and Dance Guild delighting audiences once again

Ohlone Theatre and Dance Guild delighting audiences once again

By Jessica Nol Flohr

The performing arts of theatre and dance have a rich history dating back thousands of years. Early records of stage dramas indicate that western theatre originated in Greece in the 6th century BCE. Although hundreds of plays were performed in ancient times, only a handful of manuscripts have survived from theatreÕs earliest days. Many of these were tragedies, though comedy and satyr plays were also common. Satyr plays followed tragedies to liven up the audience; they have been compared to more modern burlesque comedy shows.

Later, as the Roman Empire spread across Europe and into England, theatre traveled westward as well. For several centuries between ancient times and the Middle Ages, theatre was mostly absent from Western Europe. Biblical dramas reenacted by religious clergy and traveling performers during the Easter season slowly brought theatre back in style. Religious and morality plays dominated theatre until the 15th century CE. It was at this time that dramatic societies began to form. These groups, similar to modern theatre guilds, were known as Chambers of Rhetoric.

The period of theatrical history most familiar to playgoers today is that of Shakespearean drama. The banning of religious plays by Queen Elizabeth I of England led to a flourishing of secular theatre. Professional actors and theatre guilds began to be formed at this time. The tradition of theatrical societies has continued to this day for the purpose of preserving the performing arts.

It is in the spirit of this great tradition that the Ohlone Theatre and Dance Guild is being revived after an eight-year hiatus. The Guild began forty years ago as a club at Ohlone College. A group of passionate theatre students banded together with guidance from Ohlone College performing arts professors to promote attendance at local theatre presentations, produce theatre presentations, and support students interested in the performing arts.

For many years, the Guild was thriving and active in the Tri-City community. Aspiring actors flocked to the Performing Arts Department at the college, in hopes of one day making it big. The Fremont-based Guild was one step in the journey to Hollywood. Each year, the Guild held an awards banquet and a summer theatre festival. Sadly, over time the demographics changed, economics changed, and students had other interests they wanted to pursue. The Guild closed up shop.

Recently, students began to show a renewed interest in the theatre. Students Leslie Macedo, Jessica Cruz, and others joined Technical Design professor Fred Alim in bringing the Guild back to life. ÒA lot of past students have gone on to do professional work. The group is a good springboard for aspiring actors and producers,Ó says Alim. Guild members hope to get the group back up and running, become recognized as a producing entity, and gain support for the theatrical arts.

The Guild is organized as a club at Ohlone. Members meet weekly to discuss current projects and future plans. First on the agenda is the GuildÕs premiere production, Òrogerandtom,Ó an off-Broadway play written by Julien Schwab. Alim says, ÒWe have a brand new director, Ryan Weible, and we wanted to do something unheard of around here. ItÕs fun and exciting; a project with panache, but doable.Ó The play is described as Òone hour of mind-bending, head-scratching, meta-meta-quasi-romanti-tragi-dramedy.Ó ÒrogerandtomÓ is a play within a play. Roger and Tom are brothers with a strained relationship. Tom is a playwright. The two have a sister, Penny, who is in the process of separating from her husband, Richard. Roger unexpectedly finds himself the subject of (and unwitting party to) TomÕs most recent play.

The Guild plans to follow this opening act with a sketch comedy night in March. This will be a night with student-writers presenting their original material. In addition to supporting the arts, the Guild is also a service organization. After the tragic events of 9/11, the Guild raised $11,000 to benefit the victims and their families. They also raised $7,000 for those affected by the tsunami. At each of their performances, the Guild accepts donations of non-perishable food items for St. JohnÕs Pantry in Fremont. Other charitable causes have included breast cancer awareness and Soles4Souls, an organization that provides shoes for the underprivileged in the United States and in developing nations.

Come support a great tradition and help revive the Ohlone Theatre and Dance Guild!

Thursday, Feb 6 Ð Saturday, Feb 8
8 p.m.
NUMMI Studio Theatre
Smith Center at Ohlone College
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont
(510) 659-6031
Tickets: $11
Parking: $2

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