As parents, students and members of the Santa Monica community socialized amongst the dimly lit Humanities Center on June 1, the sweet smell of mocha and tinkling of soft music slowly filled the room. Soon after, the lights shut off and the music ended. Samo’s newest creative showcase, Public Domain, had began its debut.
Two years ago, Java Drama, which was designed to showcase Samo students’ original work in different areas of the theatre arts, was created. When current theatre director Kate Soller came to Samo this year, she made the decision to create a new production modeled after Java Drama, and Public Domain was born.
According to Soller, Public Domain is a compilation of one-acts, short scenes, monologues, songs, dances and musical theatre. Though some one-acts have been re-interpreted from other writers and some songs are covers, the production was also designed to include original work.
The one-act “Indifference,” written and directed by junior Daniel Bottita, is a prime example of the original work that set Public Domain apart from other Samo theatre productions. In this one-act, a friendship between boy and girl dissolves when they grow older. When the boy assaults the girl at a party, they have a serious discussion. What begins as a discussion about the assault turns into a deep conversation about the boy’s indifference toward every event that happens to him in his life. Bottitta believes that practicing writing one-acts helps him develop his sense of playwriting.
“I was told by a playwriting mentor to write a number of two-person one-act plays to find my voice and I wanted to find a venue to perform it. Public Domain was ideal,” Bottitta said.
According to Bottita, he decided to direct his own play because he believes he is the only one that can understand it inside and out.
“[Directing and writing] is something that I’d be opposed to if logistics were different, like if I could find a director who I thought was strong at the high school level,” Bottita said. “Unfortunately, partially because I’m an infant writer and partially because of the venue, I don’t feel comfortable surrendering [the play] to other people, but it’s been hard; in the theatre world, I totally understand why writers aren’t supposed to direct their [own] things.”
However, according to Bottita, he sought outside input throughout the production of “Indifference,” to make sure it appealed to a wide variety of audiences and that he had a second pair of eyes.
“I tried to listen to different interpretations of the text, other than the ones I initially thought of,” Bottitta said.
According to Soller, Public Domain is meant to highlight the originality of the students but also to challenge their creativity and independence.
“It’s giving the students a chance to show what they can do and what they can put on,” Soller said. “For the most part, it’s really what the students are doing. If they’re directing somebody, it’s all theirs. They went and picked [or wrote] a script, they chose the actors that they wanted and they showed up every single time [to] direct these people in their production.”
Student leader Emily Balaguer helped Soller develop the show’s different performances into acts that are exclusive to Samo.
“We were looking for people with a stage presence, [who were] unique and original in the way they approached the text and how they read the script — people who we felt would actually fit the part and be able to take direction,” Soller said.
However, Public Domain did not only consist of theatre. Senior Olivia Mugalian took charge of the production’s music this year, hoping to ensure that this year’s production would be as original and creative as Java Drama was in the past.
“I took on this position because I wanted to encourage people to do original work and I wanted this to be a place for singer-songwriters to show what they’ve been working on for years,” Mugalian said.
After being selected to participate in Public Domain, the entire cast and crew spent time perfecting the acts, whether that meant learning lines and choreography, perfecting songs or adjusting a microphone. They did it all. When the preparations were done, cabaret dancers, slam poets, actors and singers were ready to perform and transform the Humanities Center. Applause and laughter filled the room, voices rang out in harmony and student directors finally saw their long awaited finished products. The extended and eclectic cast took the stage for a final bow and, after these two nights, their work was done. Public Domain was finished.