Cast renders “raw and uninhibited” performance of professor-written play

Julia Lasko, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

Performances of the original play, “When Push Comes to Shove,” written by the University’s very own Visiting Assistant Professor of English Joe Scapellato, rocked the stage of the Tustin Studio Theatre on Feb. 19-21.

Director Samantha Norton worked alongside Scapellato and a cast and crew of talented students to create a humorous, thought-provoking, and enthralling production about a group of seven college students from Brace University that take a camping trip to the notoriously haunted Pit Cave. The students are in search of the ghost, When Push Comes to Shove, and along the way are possessed by power, pain, memory, and violence.

Following the performance on Feb. 21, a forum was held by the director, cast, and crew, in which audience members were encouraged to discuss their thoughts on the play.

The cast’s performances were raw and uninhibited. They allowed themselves to fully embody their characters as they crawled, ran, and threw themselves around the stage during intense stage combat scenes.

“Throughout the majority of the show, I was on top of the bluff and I had very limited space to work with, in a way this made me more attentive to the specific times in which I chose to move. Also, by being on top of the bluff I was always visible to the audience and I knew at anytime an audience member could look towards me. This meant that I had to react to everything that was happening onstage and be present in each moment,” Rodney West ’17 said of his character Antonini.

“I’ve had Professor Scapellato as a fiction writing professor, so I was super excited going into the process because that man’s a real genius when it comes to putting words on the page. He did not disappoint,” Evan Turissini ’16 said.

He continued, “His script was amazing, with beautiful imagery and snappy, witty dialogue, leaving lots of room for us, the actors, to work and explore. Some of the lines were so funny that in rehearsal we would laugh so hard we couldn’t say our lines.” 

“It’s a wonder to watch a script become a play, to be awestruck, phase by phase, as a play becomes a thing that belongs to others. As the writer of a script I am not the owner of a play. This play belongs to everyone who’s worked on it, whose names are recorded in the program, who through enormous and often unseen efforts have made it raw, real, personal, functional, sturdy, otherworldly—present, present, present,” Scapellato said.

“When Push Comes to Shove” succeeded in seamlessly fusing together a broader commentary on the effects of love, loss, power, and pain among humanity with undeniable humor that left the audience laughing out loud, along with action and suspense that had them sitting on the edge of their seats.

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