© 2023 KZYX
redwood forest background
Mendocino County Public Broadcasting
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Due to CalFire work at our primary transmission site, we will be experiencing periodic outages lasting approx. 30 minutes on various days of the week. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Local News

Mendocino College Performers Return to the Stage "Live in the Oaks"

photo by Stacey Sheldon
Mendocino College Performing Arts Students take to the stage in "Live in the Oaks"

August 31, 2021-- Good news! The performing arts are back. Over the weekend, Mendocino College students, alumni, and guest artists returned to the outdoor stage at the Ukiah campus to showcase dance, drama, and music before a live audience. 

The celebratory performance, called “Live in the Oaks,” was inspired and produced by Mendocino college dance director, Eryn Schon-Brunner. “It's been quiet, or 'dark,' at the college for the last 18 months,” she said. “We haven't done any live performances. And while we won't be inside the big theater, we decided that it was okay to bring people outdoors and celebrate the work that artists do, and let people know that we're still doing it. We're still working. Dancers are still dancing. Theater majors are still coming out and performing and acting. Singers are still singing. And that we can share it safely, from a distance, in person.”

Reid Edelman, professor and drama director at the college, remembers back to march of 2020, when COVID hit our community. “Everything just stopped dead in its tracks. So as you know, we were four days away from opening Midsummer Night's Dream the day of our tech rehearsal where we pulled the plug on that realized it wasn't going to happen.” All college drama, dance and music performances were canceled. And faculty and students had to pivot to online instruction. “All of us in all that not just theater and arts but all of the faculty in high school and elementary school and college faculty, we all had to pivot with no notice or no preparation. I didn't even know what zoom was when this happened. I mean people that go you can teach on zoom and I was like, well, what's zoom?”

The Performing Arts faculty not only adapted to provide continued online education, but also created new opportunities for students to hone various artistic skills. Stephen Decker, technical director at the college, developed a one year career in technical theater program, which trained students to work behind the scenes on stagecraft, sound, and lighting. Edelman created an online Repertory Company for artists. “In the fall of 2020, we started what we called the Online Repertory Theater, and those are still up on the website,” Edelman explained. “So we created performance pieces that were on video, and then we've shared them on the website. So we did keep doing work through the shutdown. And the Online Repertory Theater went on for two semesters, 2020 and 2021. Now we're back at the college with in person classes but still the majority of the classes are online.”


Mendocino College performing arts students also showed resilience during COVID. Two recent graduates, Rickie Emilie Farah and Schuyler Marcier continued with their online education during the lockdown. Both graduated with associate degrees in performing arts and went on to UC programs. 

Rickie earned her BA from UC San Diego and is excited to be back on stage: “This is my first in person show after a year and a half I want to say. And well, I just graduated from UC San Diego this summer. And I transferred there in the fall of 2019. But then, I've done the last year and a half online doing this in productions.”

Schuyler, who will soon finish his acting program at UC Santa Barbara, feels COVID’s impact on his art: “It's a huge impact. I guess I can't really tell yet and performance-wise what it's done. But I do feel like I need to start from scratch. I feel like I need to take a beginning acting class and get back into it. I did a few things over zoom, but it wasn't the same. It's just yeah, it's like you take a year and a half off anything and it really is gonna set you back.”

Rickie noticed too, that zoom affected her acting. “I just kind of don't know what to do with my hands. Because, you know, in front of the computer, it's your face that people are seeing. And, you know, even when I was working with Reid last week on my monologues, I wasn't really moving, and I was just kind of staying still. And it's nice because I feel like before it was harder for me to stay grounded and you know, you just kind of like lean on one leg, but it's so it's nice but then to have achieved that grounded state. But then I also now want to go back and play with movement.” 


Art mirrors life, and these humble confessions from young talented artists remind us that we are all, actors and audience alike, a little rusty and unpracticed right now. “Live in the Oaks” was the first step in slowly, safely finding our way back to being together. Set under a grove of oaks with the music teacher Janice Tim ready at the piano, and a masked, socially distanced audience filled with friends and family, the performers of Live in the Oaks took to the stage for over an hour, delighting with dance, drama and song and transporting everyone out of plague and pestilence to a place of collective joy. 


Eryn Schon-Brunner reminds us why live performance matters: “We are people who connect with each other and live performance gives connection,” she says. “It allows for empathy to come through and allows for emotions to be seen, felt in a very visceral way that you can't find on a screen.”


Local News