"TBA”: UP Theater tackles identity and storytelling with diverse cast

The show will run from Oct 4 - 8 in Mago Hunt Theater

By Camille Kuroiwa-Lewis | October 4, 2023 5:35pm
A graphic depicting students rehearsing on the Mago Hunt stage. "TBA" is directed by Reed Professor Barbie Wu and will be performed from Oct. 4 through Oct. 8. Photos by Jayme Mintz and graphic by Kate Cuadrado

Mago Hunt’s stage is bare, save for a school desk and a couple of chairs, for the first play of the season, “TBA.” Directed by Barbie Wu, a professor from Reed College, “TBA” is entirely stage read, meaning the actors read from scripts as they perform on a mostly empty set. The audience gets to witness the actors flip the pages, often all at the same time, while a stage director audibly describes the play’s setting and character action from one side of the stage.

Notably, “TBA” is the first play in UP history where all the actors are people of color. Casting was a difficult process, and involved reaching out to two alums, Bennet Buchholz and Mia Lindsay, for the roles of Silas and his agent, Darren. 

Silas, the protagonist, is a Korean-American writer coping with the stress of heartbreak and publishing through drinking and leaving long messages on voicemail boxes. Soon, fortune strikes Silas in the form of a book deal — that is until his brother arrives at his apartment angry at the idea of Silas publishing an autobiography about their family. 

Cast members Bennet Buchholz (left) and Ricardo Guevara (right) rehearse on the Mago Hunt stage in preparation for the show.
by Jayme Mintz / The Beacon

The play deals heavily with questions of identity and storytelling. For instance, Silas feels pressure from his agent to market himself as an Asian-American writer, asking, “can’t I be a guy? Just a guy?” 

Though the play has a mix of freshman and graduated students, the group environment remains lively throughout rehearsal. Wu, the director, begins the session with affirmations, “I am beautiful, I am talented and I have a secret.”

The fun atmosphere continues throughout the session. Actors sat at the back of the stage laughing as Wu, who was filling in for an absent actor, squatted down in one scene where her character was pleading for a restroom. 

While the play deals with difficult subject matter in often funny ways, “TBA” can also be relatable for some of its audience members. One character has history in Hawaii and the Chicano family Silas was adopted into plays a large role. 

The play also poses questions regarding what makes a story ours to tell. While “TBA” offers no easy answers, this central question has resonated with many involved with the play. 

“It’s really important to increase the diversity of the department, not only in the people in it, but also in the stories that we tell,” Ricardo Guevara, who plays Silas’s brother, said.

“TBA” will be performed Oct. 4 through Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. with a final show on Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. 

Camille Kuroiwa-Lewis is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at kuroiwal26@up.edu