New SJSU Performance “Alone Together” Explores Life During the COVID-Era at the Hammer Theatre April 24

 
When Elisha Miranda, chair of San José State’s Film and Theatre Department, saw Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Kirsten Brandt at the Hammer Theatre Center for the first time in more than a year, she felt like crying. Though they had collaborated closely on many creative projects over the past year, they had yet to work together face-to-face. 

They came together in person in March 2021 to collaborate on “Alone Together,” a series of plays and monologues written during and about the pandemic. The production is the department’s first in-person performance on the Hammer stage, which will be performed by SJSU actors and livestreamed by Film and Theatre Lecturer Christine Guzzetta, ’86 Radio, Television, Video and Film (RTVF). 

“COVID is a universal issue, though it has impacted different communities in different ways,” said Miranda, who is the show’s co-producer with Barnaby Dallas, SJSU’s director of production for film and theatre.

“Even with our students in “Alone Together,” COVID has become the universal fulcrum that ties us all together and makes us stronger storytellers, more accountable educators and artists.” 

"Alone Together" at the Hammer Theater.

SJSU students rehearse “Alone Together” on the Hammer Theatre Center stage. Photo by Oluchi Nwokocha.

Film and Theatre Lecturer Oluchi Nwokocha, ’12 Theatre Arts, is directing the evening, which features eight short plays and monologues written by professional and distinguished playwrights who were commissioned by UC Santa Barbara’s LAUNCH PAD program in spring 2020: Jami Brandi, Anne García-Romero, Lynn Rosen, Enid Graham, Brian Otaño and Arlene Hutton.

“‘Alone Together’ deals with all the emotions that we have been going through during this time, either with our partners or with ourselves, friends or family,” said Nwokocha. 

“It’s very funny. I think it’s actually pretty cathartic.” 

“With so much death and so much decay happening in the world, knowing that we can create art out of this has been really important,” said Brandt, who is the play’s artistic director. 

Because the plays were written during the pandemic, stage directions recognize the need for actors to socially distance themselves on stage. Most of the pieces are performed by one or two actors to allow them to stay six feet apart. 

In addition, cast and crew are required to comply with strict COVID-19 protocols inside the theater. 

Performing pandemic challenges in real time

Nayeli Roman in "Alone Together"

Nayeli Roman is one of the SJSU students performing in “Alone Together” on April 24.

For Nayeli Roman, ’24 RTVF, “Alone Together” is her first time performing at the Hammer—and her first time performing beyond the confines of her computer screen in over a year. 

During her first semester at SJSU, she performed in “Betty’s Garage,” a radio play adapted by Miranda, and co-wrote a play inspired by folk tales that was produced remotely as part of Brandt’s fall show, “Mementos: Tales for a New Century.” The first time she approached the Hammer Theatre Center in person to buzz inside and rehearse, Roman filmed her entrance on her cell phone—it was that surreal, she recalled.

“All of our creativity is heightened because we are trying to recreate how we perform theater,” said Roman, who plays lead characters in two of the short plays. 

“It was wonderful to see how the sets were built, how our director Oluchi has directed our movements. It almost feels like we’re not doing it all on purpose to keep each other safe. After a year of not being able to perform in person, it reminded me of how much I love theater—the lighting, the excitement, the collaboration. It’s almost indescribable.”

The monologues and vignettes tackle the plight of essential workers, the anxiety and angst of living through a pandemic and even the humor of the unexpected. For example, in “Neither Here Nor There,” Roman plays Katie, an undergraduate in Florida who tries to catch up with her college roommate over Zoom and discovers just how different their lives are. 

The magic of “Alone Together,” Roman said, is the opportunity to inhabit characters who are living through many of the same experiences that she has as a college freshman making the most of school during a global pandemic. 

“‘Alone Together’ not only expresses how the pandemic has become a setback to society but how it is opening new doors to the future,” said Roman. 

“It is teaching us important lessons—reminding us not to take things for granted. This is the beginning of our new normal.”

“Alone Together” is being livestreamed from the Hammer at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 24. 

Tickets are free for students and $10 for general admission. 

To learn more, visit hammertheatre.com/events-list.

The Argus: Theater Student Becomes YouTube Sensation With Funny Videos

Fremont student goes viral with “FouseyTUBE”

Posted by The Argus Feb. 19, 2012.

FREMONT — It’s been less than a year since Yousef Erakat began uploading his comedy videos to YouTube as “FouseyTUBE.”

Today, the Palestinian-American student at San Jose State University has a massive online fan base, with more than 147,000 YouTube subscribers and nearly 106,000 Facebook fans.

Erakat’s videos, in which he dresses up like his parents, belly dances in Apple stores and generally pokes fun at Arab stereotypes, have received more than 31 million views — and counting.

Now, the Fremont resident is bringing his stand-up routine on the road to cities across the United States, Canada and Australia.

Australia?

“They’re actually one of my biggest fan bases,” Erakat said. “They support super-hard.”

So how did a 22-year-old theater arts student get so big so fast, inspiring strangers who live 8,000 miles away to launch Facebook pages such as “Yousef Erakat should come to Melbourne?”

Working at it

It wasn’t haphazard, he says. Erakat has been making videos his whole life. It wasn’t until March, though, that he developed a business plan and started uploading them to YouTube.

He used social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr to market them and campaigned on sites like King of the Web.

“It wasn’t luck,” Erakat said. “I honestly think it was the work that I put into it. Just nurturing YouTube and your social networks like a baby. Always posting stuff,

always keeping stuff new, always keeping people entertained.

“What I found is you can’t force a viral video. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.”

What made it happen for Erakat was “Middle Eastern Parents,” which he uploaded in July.

To date, it has garnered more than 2.1 million views. Next came videos like “Middle Eastern Dining Room,” “Middle Eastern Ramadan” and “Hummus: The Dance.”

Cena Mahmood, 21, a student in St. Louis, found out about the FouseyTUBE channel through social media. She was immediately hooked.

“I like the fact that it’s directed toward Middle Easterners, and we all kind of got it,” she said. “It was something that we all could kind of relate to. … We all have the Mama Erakat in our lives, and the citi, the grandmother. We all have those people in our lives.”

Mahmood decided to invite Erakat to St. Louis in September to appear at a fundraiser for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

“Everybody in the St. Louis community was just going crazy over him,” she said. “So I said, ‘Why not, I’ll see if he’ll come out here.’ ”

Erakat agreed and worked for free.

“He brought a lot of people together for a big cause,” Mahmood said.

At the end of September, Erakat traveled to Washington, D.C., for the DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival. Erakat has “kept audiences around the world entertained with his often comedic but always captivating work,” festival organizers said in the program. “We like him too and are excited to feature his work.”

Becoming a hit

This month, MBMuslima Magazine named Erakat one of its “40 Inspiring Muslims Under 40.”

He recently returned from appearances in Ottawa and Edmonton, Canada, and his OMFTour will take him to cities from Toronto to Dallas, and eventually Down Under.

“It’s become something much bigger than I would have expected,” he said. “At these shows you have people of all ethnicities coming, sitting in a room together, who maybe a couple of years ago wouldn’t have even bothered to be in the same vicinity. And now they’re laughing together and having a great time together, so it’s awesome.”

Not everyone gets the joke, though. Some say Erakat’s not really that funny, while others are infuriated by his depiction of Middle Easterners.

At times, it’s gone beyond mere criticism.

“I’ve gotten a lot of death threats, a lot of hate,” he said. “I have people calling the house sometimes just to let me know their opinion of what they think of me and my work.

“It comes with the territory, especially with the culture and the religion I’m targeting. Like everything else, there’s an extreme side to it. And that’s another reason why it hits so well, because a lot of people in my culture, because of the fear of the repercussions, don’t do stuff like that.”

Dancing with DeGeneres

Just keeping on top of everything can be a challenge. In addition to his college work and the new tour,

Erakat has to keep feeding the beast by shooting, editing and posting a video a week, as well as staying on top of his social networking.

On Friday, three clips from one of his videos were featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show as part of “Ellen’s Dance Dare” — to dance behind people without them knowing it.

Erakat’s short-term goal: To dance with DeGeneres on her show. Long term: “To change the world one smile at a time.”

Ultimately, he’d like to break into TV — but on his own terms.

“I’m not going to subject myself to a stereotype and play a certain role,” he said. “I want to be who I am, where I’m from and have people like me for what I do.”

To see Erakat’s videos, go to www.youtube.com/user/fouseyTUBE.

University Theater Presents Much Ado About Nothing: Love, War, & Comedy in California”

SJSU Presents Much Ado About Nothing: Love, War, & Comedy in California”

University Theater Presents Much Ado About Nothing: Love, War, & Comedy in California”

The production features SJSU's own grupo folklorico, Luna y Sol (photo by Mike Adams).

Script Adapted for a Comic, Unique, Cheerful, and Bilingual Production

Contact: Buddy Butler, San Jose State University Theater, (408) 924-4664

San Jose, Calif. – San Jose State University Theater, directed by Buddy Butler, is proud to announce its newest theater production “Much Ado About Nothing” Nov. 11-19.

The play journeys back to the early days of the Republic of California as William Shakespeare’s clever romantic romp transports the audience to 1846 Monterey, California.  Set against the background of the Mexican American war, “Much Ado About Nothing” excels in combative wit as love faces hilarious, provoking challenges. Will love prevail in this rich comedy that swiftly pits the “battle of the sexes” against the battle for California’s independence? Set to the rhythmic beat of rich traditional Mexican music, “Much Ado About Nothing” is an elegant dance that is cheerful from beginning to end. The production is choreographed by Itza Sanchez from San Jose State’s own acclaimed Grupo folklorico, Luna y Sol.

“I wanted something different,” Buddy Butler said. “I wanted to embrace the wonderful work of art of William Shakespeare and adapt it for an intriguing performance that the San Jose community could relate. In this play, the audience can enjoy the arts, culture, and history of their heritage.”

“Much Ado About Nothing” will run on the following dates: Nov. 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, and 19 at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $5 for high school students, $10 for college students, and $20 for the general public. Tickets are sold online and at the door on the day of the event.  More on “Much Ado About Nothing” or the San Jose State University Theater.

About San Jose State University Theater

The San Jose State University Theatre Co. is where aspiring theatre arts students get together to build their knowledge & creativity to produce both thought provoking & innovative performances.

Young Actors Develop Creativity at Magic Carpet Theater Summer Camp

Omar signs a camper's t-shirt

Alumnus and actor Omar Benson Miller autographs a camper's T-shirt before attending the July 29 performance of the Magic Carpet Theater's "The Pied Piper." (Photo by Michelle Terris)

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

For the month of July, children ages 5-14 got a chance to express themselves and improve their performance skills at the Magic Carpet Theater, a four-week camp offered by SJSU’s theatre department.

“The whole purpose is to build self-esteem, make new friends, and develop creativity,“ said Professor Buddy Butler, the camp’s artistic director.

According to Butler, the theater strays away from the usual models and puts a twist on the productions.

“We don’t do Disney,” Butler said. “We are multiculturally diverse in the makeup of the staff, the play, and the campers.”

Magic Carpet Theater introduces kids to the basic principles of theater. Classes are offered in acting, dance, voice, and puppetry. The program is broken up into three groups, called acts, according to age.

Three Acts

Act I, ages 5-7, attend half-day classes and work on pieces for their showcase performance, while Act II (ages 8-10) and Act III (ages 11-14) attend full-day classes consisting of more specific acting techniques and a chance to practice their part for their end-of-camp production, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.” Fourteen-year-old Morgan Thompson, a third-year veteran to the program, will be the Pied Piper.

“The easiest thing about camp is acting in front of all of the friends that you meet,” Morgan said.

Field trips include visits to the Tech Museum and the Puppet Theater at Happy Hollow. Guest artists for the camp include a storyteller, a dance group, and Magic Carpet’s very own staff performing “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Magic Carpet Theater collaborates with King Library’s literacy program, Partners in Reading, which promotes learning through literacy and a love of books. Each year, the camp pulls and reads a story or piece from classic literature.

Past performances include “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Puss in Boots,” and “Cinderella.” This year’s camp is made up of 34 children, 12 staffers, and 4 counselors, including high school student Patrick Thompson.

“It’s a very good experience in getting to know children and helping them discover what they really believe they want to do when they grow up,” Patrick said.

A Hollywood Visitor

Actor Omar Benson Miller, best known for his work in “CSI: Miami” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,”  will be in “The Pied Piper” audience to support his alma mater’s theater program. Miller recently released to DVD his film, “Gordon Glass,” about an aspiring actor who moves to Los Angeles to pursue his dreams.

“The Pied Piper” will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at the Hal Todd Theatre. General admission is $5. #

SJSU in the News: Mercury News Profiles “Gifted Director,” “Power Schmoozer” and “All-Around High-Voltage” Theater Professor

Amy Glazer’s full-throttle life

Originally published by the San Jose Mercury News June 18, 2011

By Karen D’Souza

Amy Glazer does not need coffee to get amped up in the morning. She goes to bed very late, after theater rehearsals (she’s a director), and rises very early to answer student emails (she’s also a professor), but she is accustomed to running at full throttle.

“I wake up with a great deal of intensity about what has to happen, and then it does,” Glazer says in her usual speedy patois. “I’m all jazzed. My image of myself is the guy in the circus spinning all the plates on the pencils. It’s rare to have a moment to just stop and breathe.”

Glazer is the total package: a gifted director (“The Scene,” “Shining City”), a power schmoozer, a devoted mother and all-around high-voltage individual. A Bay Area theater stalwart who teaches theater and film at San Jose State University and lives in the Oakland hills, she frequently directs at SF Playhouse, where she is currently rehearsing “Tigers Be Still,” a quirky new coming-of-age dramedy by Kim Rosenstock (whose “Fly-By-Night” is about to debut at TheatreWorks, in its West Coast premiere). She’s also an up-and-coming indie film director, and she can work a room like a shark circling a tank, which came in handy trolling the red carpet at Cannes recently with “Seducing Charlie Barker,” her film version of “The Scene.”

“She is a powerhouse,” says Susi Damilano, artistic director of SF Playhouse. “If Amy is on your side, you will be on the winning team. She is so passionate about everything she does there simply is no stopping her.”

Glazer, 57, talks fast, thinks fast, commutes badly (she gets distracted) and expects everyone to keep up. And while most directors are so busy with their own projects that they never have time to go to the theater, Glazer makes a point of seeing plays several nights a week.

“I love her energy,” notes Rick Lombardo, artistic director of San Jose Rep, where Glazer will helm “The Understudy” next year. “As an ex-New Yorker, it’s so comfortable to talk to someone who speaks even faster than I do,” he adds.

When the going gets rough in rehearsals, Glazer tells the story of giving birth to her son. She didn’t have time to go to birthing class because she was directing at TheatreWorks; so she sent her husband. She was determined not to go into labor until the show opened (“Marvin’s Room”); so she didn’t.

“We opened Saturday night, and I went into labor Sunday morning,” she recalls. “Once you push out a baby with no drugs, nothing will stop you. You do what you have to do.”

An ardent champion of new work, Glazer has made her name with bittersweet social satires from hot playwrights such as Theresa Rebeck, Stephen Belber (“Drifting Elegant,” which she also made into a film) and Rebecca Gilman (“Spinning Into Butter,” “The Crowd You’re in With”). Glazer was an associate artist at San Francisco’s Magic Theatre for many years, but these days she is equally focused on teaching at San Jose State as on directing.

“I’m at a point in my life where it’s not just a gig,” she says. “I work on plays that are meaningful to me, stories that are close to me.”

She grew up in a showbiz family in ’50s Miami Beach (her uncle was Oscar-winning producer Sidney Glazier), where trading puns with Mel Brooks and Zero Mostel was as common as skipping rope. She and her brother once got kicked off the set of “The Producers” because they hit actor Dick Shawn in the head while swinging from the rafters. (Her brother Mitch Glazer is riffing on their childhood for the in-development TV series “Magic City.”)

“Growing up in that world definitely skewed my sense of humor, which is a little twisted,” she says with a naughty giggle, “much to the chagrin of many bureaucrats I have met.”

Indeed, Glazer does not suffer fools gladly, and that can rub some people the wrong way.

“She will never settle,” Damilano says. “She is brutally honest, opinionated (until she changes her mind), completely dedicated to the playwright, to such a degree that it can be annoying (she’ll never let an actor mistake a comma for a period!). And just when you think you want to strangle her, she belts out a full belly laugh at herself and exposes her vulnerability, and you realize she is human. Everything she does is fueled by love. Every critique is honest and intended to help you improve, and the standards she holds for the art in theater and everyone around her are only slightly lower than standards she holds for herself. I have to admit I adore Amy Glazer. I love that she pushes us to excel, and I love that she can take a dishing as easily as she can give it, and she never holds a grudge.”

Collaborators say her commitment to new work is unflagging. She has bonded with Rosenstock so deeply, she says, that she feels as if the promising young playwright were her daughter.

“Amy loves writers,” Damilano says. “The first thing she does when she signs on to direct is contact the playwright to talk about the script, casting, set, everything. She completely involves them in every aspect and truly honors their vision.”

While many directors prefer their playwrights to be seen and not heard, so they can put their own stamp on the material, Glazer tries to channel the author’s original intent.

“What comes most naturally to me is getting inside the head of the playwright and capturing that voice as authentically as I can,” Glazer says. “I have also learned that it’s not my job to fix it. I show it to them so they can fix it and hone it and shape it. That’s my bliss.”

Certainly she relishes a challenge, which is one of the reason’s she is committed to forging ahead in both theater and film with equal zest, and perhaps someday making the leap into TV.

“I’m a hybrid,” she says. “I think in both languages now. If I had to choose one over the other, I couldn’t.”

Surprisingly, Glazer takes none of the credit for her supercharged constitution or her relentless work ethic.

“It’s genetic. My energy and my passion come from my mother, Zelda,” she says, her voice catching with emotion. “She was a dynamo. A miracle worker.”

There’s no doubt her sense of exuberance is infectious. Chatting with her makes you want to run up the steps, instead of just climbing them, so you can reach the top a beat faster.

“People say I am tenacious,” she admits, “but really I am just grateful to have this life and this work. Every day I’m grateful.”

Kimberly Knoll and Yung-Han Chang at the CSU Media Arts Festival 2010.

SJSU Students Win Top Prizes at 2010 CSU Media Arts Festival

Kimberly Knoll and Yung-Han Chang at the CSU Media Arts Festival 2010.

Kimberly Knoll and Yung-Han Chang at the CSU Media Arts Festival 2010.

Kimberly Knoll and Yung-Han Chang won first place for their animated piece, “No Robots.” The award included a $500 cash prize. Knoll and Chang are students with our animation/illustration program. Here’s a synopsis of their film: “In the not so distant future, a cafe owner has to run a business during a time when robots have resorted to crime as a means of survival. He discriminates against mechanical citizens by segregating himself against robotic kind. However, his beliefs are put to the test when he is confronted with a moral dilemma that could change his life forever.” Continue reading