Finding recovery through community


Xavier Johnson / The Advocate

Orangutan (left), played by Anne Yumi Kobori, interacts with Chutes&Ladders, played by Umi Grant, in an online addiction recovery chat room in “Water by the Spoonful” at a rehearsal in the Knox Center on Monday.

By Jose Arebola, Scene Editor

An impactful story set around family and community struggles in the digital age graces the stage beginning Friday and continues through Nov. 18 at the John and Jean Knox Performing Arts Center.
“Water by the Spoonful,” written by Quiara Alegria-Hudes, traces the stories of multiple characters connected by familial bonds and online communities.
All the characters have been affected by trauma and recovery.
Angelina LaBarre put together a strong, diverse cast to give audiences a play portraying suffering and hope.
“The play requires a diverse, yet very specific, set of roles. It does now allow for just anyone to be cast. It has characters representing various ethnicities and cultures,” LaBarre said. “The play does not directly deal with race, but culture and backgrounds play an important role.”
The show explores how different cultures experience adversity when dealing with trauma and addiction. It includes stories LaBarre said she feels will resonate more deeply with the college community.
The show was selected as a way to seriously tackle some of the issues members of the community experience. The performance outlines the real-life struggle veterans, people of color and those suffering from drug addiction face in their everyday lives.
LaBarre said casting roles for “Water by the Spoonful” proved difficult as it was hard to find the number of actors needed with just students from the campus to choose from.
This production had many roles to fill, however, not enough students were available to put on the show. So local community actors were brought in to fill out the cast.
Bringing experienced thespians on has helped the student actors grow as well.
“(In the play) some characters have experiences such as the loss of a family member,” LaBarre said. “For some of our younger students, they’ve never experienced that. Having older community actors around has been useful as they share their experiences with these students.
“While the show is centered on sincere, human experiences, audiences can expect to walk out of the theater with a light-hearted feeling as well.
“We don’t want to pound the audience down with heavy subjects. Instead, we want to provide a balanced take of the themes,” LaBarre said.
The show is the first stage experience for Melissa Velasquez, who plays Yaz, cousin of the main character Elliot.
“It is harder than you’d expect, (like) memorizing all the lines and being genuine. People can tell if you’re not being real with your emotions — it’s easy to see,” Velasquez said. She said the character has been easy for her to relate to as she brings her own family experiences into the performance.
Diego Loza, who plays Elliot in the performance, said that the hardest part of the production is memorizing all his lines and choreography.
“There is a lot of hope in the play, even though there’s a lot of shit — it’s never the end of things,” Loza said. “The show is intense and deals with serious family bonds, but carries a lot of hope.”
During rehearsals, actors said they have been able to take a balanced approach to the script.
Through each scene they were able to take a moment filled with joy and shift it into dark themes fairly easily.
The creation of characters and their perceptions was also a collaborative effort. As director, LaBarre allows the actors to have input into their characters as well.
The set design has been created so the stage has platforms acting as a metaphor for real life and the internet.