Theatre production company returns to its CSULB home after new renovations

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The University Theatre is home to new renovations, including energy-efficient lights and aesthetically appealing performance settings.

Denny Cristales/Signal Tribune

After performing at the Edison Theatre, the Long Beach National Guard Armory and the Royal Theatre aboard the Queen Mary, California Repertory Company (Cal Rep) returned to the newly renovated University Theatre at Cal State Long Beach.

With those renovations complete, Cal Rep, the graduate production arm of CSULB’s Department of Theatre Arts, can now use the University Theatre as its mainstay.

“We are very excited to see the space transformed into a new state-of-the-art facility,” said Stephanie Losleben, master electrician for Cal Rep. “We are hopeful for continued improvements, and with our first production having just opened, it is proving to be much easier to work in.”

The renovations
The University Theatre had been still utilizing lighting equipment from its 1980s renovation, Losleben said, and infrastructure was beginning to fail. The priority was then to have these current renovations prioritize energy efficiency and an improved performance aesthetic.

Improvements include new LED lighting fixtures, an upgraded audio console, a new stage floor, a steel-deck structured orchestra pit and the replacement of curtains.

“The students are afforded current technology to work with that they will find upon entering the work force,” Losleben said. “Having Cal Rep back on campus has been wonderful so far. With all of our resources within reach on campus, it makes it much easier to expand our scope of design and student involvement.”

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From left: Noelle Johnson and Amberly Chamberlain in Far Away, which was written by Caryl Churchill and directed for Cal Rep by Trevor Biship. The play explores a government-controlled dystopia. Cal Rep debuted the show last Friday, marking its return to CSULB’s University Theatre.

Courtesy Cal Rep

Opening night
Caryl Churchill’s Far Away is the theatre company’s first production in the refurbished space.

Directed by Trevor Biship for Cal Rep, the play is meant to be a timely and thought-provoking work set in a government-controlled dystopia, following a young woman, Joan, over many years as she becomes an adult and observes and participates in violence caused by political and national strife.

Biship said that the play questions Joan’s hope to change the world and also her ability to do so in a world of supposed unspeakable destruction.

It was the opening night of Far Away, its fictional undertones and real-world events blurring together, that made it a moving and bittersweet evening for Cal Rep, Biship said.

“Of course, we know of the global violence that occurred in the past week,” Biship said. “Indeed, the attacks on Paris occurred on the day we opened.”

Biship dedicated the production to a friend of his who teaches at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. It was gun violence on its campus that occurred days before Far Away’s first rehearsal, and now it is terrorism that struck during its debut night.

“Yes, the play’s mission was underscored by tragic events on the first and last days of rehearsal,” Biship said. “That gave the company an immediate sense of recognition and purpose. Caryl’s questions about how close or far violence is to our community became real and true.”

But it’s that fervor of recognition and purpose that will allow Cal Rep to continue its work in these next performances of its production.

It’s exciting for Cal Rep to be back, Biship said.

“We are excited to perform Caryl’s great and clearly relevant play and present it to our community,” he said. “Returning to the University Theatre is the icing on the cake.”

Far Away opened Nov. 13 and will close on Dec. 5. Performances run Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm. There will be no performances from Nov.25 to Nov. 28. The University Theatre is located on the CSULB Campus, accessible via West Campus Drive. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $20 for students, seniors and military with valid I.D. Convenient parking is available in Parking Lot 7 next to the theatre building for $5. For tickets and additional information, call (562) 985-5526 or visit calrep.org .

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