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Five-student cast performs “Tar Beach” 

Jason Underferth
Cast of Tar Beach. Zach Sullivan on the right, Ruby Brisco and Ellie Parish in the front and Laurelle Bandy and Savannah DeShazo in the back.

Performing for a sold-out audience on opening night, Viterbo’s Conservatory for the Performing Arts put on the production of “Tar Beach” in the Black Box Theatre on February 2-4. “Tar Beach” is a memory play that takes place during the summer of 1977 in Queens, New York. It centers on a family from the perspective of the youngest daughter. Taking place over a weekend during the Son of Sam killings, the show follows the family as they search for one of the daughters who goes missing, and as they struggle to cope with the aftermath of events.  


“The show had a lot of heavy subject matter, but I think audience members probably walked away realizing that they actually could relate to a lot of what these family members were going through, that a lot of the things that these people were grappling with are absolutely universal,” said Brittany Bara, the director of “Tar Beach.”  


When asked about her favorite part about putting on the production, Bara said, “I think what was really fun about this show, because it has such a small cast, it’s only five people, is we were able to do a lot of exploration. It wasn’t just about like, here’s your blocking, let’s just run the scene. It was a lot of talking about things, running the scene, trying a lot of different things. So, I really enjoyed the process of discovering…the family members and the relationships together. But then I also really loved the tech process when we started layering in sound and lights and costumes and all [of] the scenic elements. It was just really exciting to see it all come to life.” 


The five-person cast Bara mentioned includes sophomores Ellie Parish and Laurelle Bandy, juniors Savannah DeShazo and Zach Sullivan, and senior Ruby Brisco, along with understudies sophomore Helen Riddle and senior Lauren Canfield.  


Although the performances occurred at the beginning of February, rehearsals for the show began before Thanksgiving break. “[F]eels like a really long process,” Bara explained, “But with all of the breaks, we had about five weeks of rehearsal before we went into tech, and we generally rehearsed four or five days a week for about three hours a day.” 


“Tar Beach” was selected by a selection committee composed of both faculty and students. A few students read through the script in a text analysis class, enjoyed it, and submitted it to this season’s selection committee. It was chosen for the 2023-2024 school year and graced the Black Box stage this month as one of the productions. 


“One of the things that we talked a lot about in rehearsal, and that I mentioned in my director’s note because it is a memory play, is looking back on the events that shape your life,” Bara said. “And even after the fact, kind of deciding for yourself, ‘Are those the moments that I want to let define me? Do I want to look back at my life and define it differently?’ I hope everybody gets a chance to do that. To take a look back at their life and just kind of re-evaluate how you got to where you are.”  



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Sailor Zarecki
Sailor Zarecki, Campus Life Editor
I am the Campus Life Editor for the Lumen; a first-year English major from...
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