Forbidden fruit for UH actors
A UH student-run production company is providing audience members with tomatoes this weekend, but not in a way that one would expect.
Members of the Vagabond Theatre Project are presenting “Tomato/Tomáto,” an original script written by playwriting senior Richard Sabatucci this Friday and Saturday in the Quintero Lab Theatre at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center.
Their mission is to “Make Something Out of Nothing,” and although they’re going through some internal changes, there have plans to produce additional student-run plays.
“It creates more opportunity by having a student theatre company working with the school,” lighting designer and Vagabond board member Micah Gamache said.
“Tomato / Tomáto” is an original script written, directed and produced solely by UH theatre students. Sabatucci finished the script last year, and at the prodding of cast member and girlfriend Sarah Heddins, it finally came to life in June with the help of director and Vagabond board member Josh Hoppe.
Although he was initially reluctant to let Hoppe direct “Tomato / Tomáto,” Sabatucci gave him the seal of approval after a week of serious consideration that he puts all prospective collaborators through.
After a previous project fell through, Vagabond was looking for a replacement play to produce. At the suggestion of Hoppe and on a budget of less than $200, “Tomato / Tomáto” was put on the fast track.
“Everything fell into place,” Sabatucci said.
Vagabond might be producing, but UH faculty members have had a supportive presence from the beginning.
“They’ve allowed us to use the facility free of charge, plus all of the equipment,” Gamache said. “There’s a great deal of trust that goes into it, and they’ve been supportive the whole way.”
“Tomato / Tomáto” is a play that presents two sides of one story. Some scenes are flipped in the second half, but the dialogue remains the same in both acts.
“For my character, you get to play one role, then the exact opposite in another scene,” cast member David Clayborn said. “It’s always fun to originate a role. I’ve always wanted to do that.”
Having the stage direction change around the actors allows for creative freedom from every person involved.
“It’s like getting a text message with ‘call me’ in lowercase, then a different one ‘CALL ME’ in all caps,” Sabatucci said. “Same words, different play.”
“Reading (the script) and seeing it are two completely different things,” Heddins said.
“Since the dialogue is the same, you can’t totally imagine the different circumstances and how completely different they are until you see it.”
Because “Tomato/Tomáto” is an original piece, opportunities have been created for designers, actors and stage managers that, until now, have not been available.
“The School of Theatre and Dance doesn’t have opportunities like this academically,” Hoppe said.
“Every guest lecturer has emphasized that you have to make your own work because this business is a gamble.”
“Tomato/Tomáto” has even caught the attention of Horse Head, a local theatre company that focuses on re-energizing audiences using non-traditional theatrical methods.
“An actual theatre company that isn’t UH-affiliated is coming to see our show,” Sabatucci said. “It’s exactly what we need and it’s nice whenever it happens.”
“Working on this project is such a breath of fresh air because it’s nothing but pure creation,” Hoppe said, which is a sentiment felt by all of members involved.
“Tomato / Tomáto” opens at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and tickets are $5. This is the only weekend the play will be performed. For more information, check the Vagabond Theatre Project event page on Facebook.