Music has dreams coming to life on stage

Play production class performs original play by senior Aleeza Zakai today and Friday


Daksha Chandragiri

Kit Town, left, rehearses her scene with Emma Kollo, sitting, while Shea Daly, background left, and Sarah Haslim create the set for the play “The Cassettes of San Francisco.” The play will be performed today and Friday at 7 p.m. in the theater.

The story of dreamers in a huge city explored through music sounds magical.
This is the story that Cal High’s play productions class presents today and Friday in their original play, “The Cassettes of San Francisco”.
Written by senior Aleeza Zakai, “The Cassettes of San Francisco” is a series of vignettes about different dreams in San Francisco, some lost, some just found, and some sought after.
“My goal when I was writing this is that someone connects to it, in some way or another. I hope that people watching the play can find a path or a connection that shows them that their dreams matter,” Zakai said. “I would say that the play in its essence is just about ambition and what people do with it.”
In the play, one of the characters, Francesco, portrayed by senior Darren Murphy, is given a cassette tape with four different songs on it, and each is connected to a vignette that plays out in different parts of the city.
The play, features all actors in the class,which will be at 7 p.m. in the school theater on Feb. 9-10. Zakai, who has already won awards for her plays, was a semifinalist in The National Blank Theater Young Playwrights Competition in Los Angeles last year, when she entered “The Cassettes of San Francisco”. She also directs this play with senior Dylan Burlingame.
“I wanted to mix a bunch of different mediums,” Zakai said. “I thought of cassette tapes because my dad has some, and I thought they were really cool. That’s where I got the idea for the music.”
“I also love jazz, so I knew I wanted to incorporate that somewhere,” Zakai continued. “For the stories, all of them were taken from my own experiences, and people I know, and they were reformed to fit the whole story.”
The play has many different elements in each of the character’s stories, which makes it very unique. Zakai describes one of the last scenes, part of Dolores’s storyline, as one of her favorites since it features a “La La Land” inspired waltz and is performed in an almost dream-like state.
“Not only is the play good in general, compared to other student written plays, it’s very, very well done,” Murphy said. “I really think it’s a good play.”
The play productions class has 22 students, all of whom have specific jobs to make the play happen.
“I have a crew of techies building the set,” play production and drama teacher Laura Woods said. “I have actors rehearsing. I have people bringing in costumes and making props. I have a light designer, I have a sound designer. So, everyone has a job to do.”
The light design is organized by senior Jessica Garcia, who is entrusted with making sure the lights suit the moods and scenes during the play. The class will also be creating a lit up 10-foot-tall construction of the San Francisco skyline that was designed by junior Noah Shallcross.
The set of the San Francisco scene also includes many props such as street lamps to help transform the stage into a city street.
“As a director, it’s your job to kind of share the vision with everyone,” Zakai said. “So for the past few weeks, I’ve been making it all come to life along with everyone else.”
Behind the scenes, the actors are also doing rigorous character work to be able to portray their character correctly. In the hot seat exercise, for example, actors must stay in character while getting asked questions unrelated to the production.
“Every class is a rehearsal and we’ve been trying to hammer it out and make sure the transitions are down since they’re so important,” Murphy said. “It’s based in San Francisco, and since so much is going on in the city, you switch between scenes, but it’s not supposed to be a big scene change since you’re still in the city.”
“The Cassettes of San Francisco” will feature live music by Cal’s jazz band, which opens and ends the show. Senior Gautam Vedula also composed some scores to help the flow and transitions of the scenes.
Some music and English classes already saw a sneak peek of the play during a dress rehearsal on Jan. 31.
In addition to this performance, the class also took “The Cassettes of San Francisco” to the Lenaea High School Theater Festival in Folsom Lakes College last weekend.
Sixty-five high school programs participated in the festival. Cal students competed in a wide variety of categories, including monologues, musical theater, scenes, set design, costume design, and the one-act play. There also were workshops for actors, who received feedback from professional directors, writers and filmmakers.
“I’m looking forward to Aleeza getting feedback from professional playwrights because it’s a really beautiful play, and she’s a phenomenal writer,” Woods said before the Lenaea Festival. “I’m also excited for the kids to perform live, since we’ve been going to the Lenaea Festival since 2005 and for the last two years it’s been virtual. It’s just not the same as going in person.”