Crossroads News

Drama Students Zoom with Playwright Naomi Iizuka

“Anon(ymous)” writer discusses the play’s themes and message with Upper Schoolers.
Like schools across the country—and the world—Crossroads has moved to a remote learning platform and canceled events to slow the spread of COVID-19. The School closed its doors to students as of March 12—eight days before the Upper School theater production of “Anon(ymous)” was to open. The cast and crew had worked hard on the play, but now—contrary to the popular expression—the show would not go on.

Yet from this disappointment sprung an invaluable new way to engage with the material. Director David Bauman reached out to playwright Naomi Iizuka and asked if she would be willing to Zoom with the cast and crew. The writer, who was social distancing within her San Diego home, was happy to oblige.

So, on April 7—in the middle of their spring breaks—15 students joined a Zoom call with Iizuka, David, Upper School Drama Department Chair Davida Wills and Upper School Drama Teacher Nick Santiago. “Anon(ymous)” is a modern-day re-telling of the Greek classic “The Odyssey,” depicting a young refugee’s journey through the United States in search of his family. The students asked Iizuka deep and thoughtful questions, raising issues that that had come up during the rehearsal process.

Sophomore Bella Williams noted the racial diversity of the cast, with students of different backgrounds playing biological family members. She wondered what the playwright thought of this type of casting (often referred to as “colorblind”).

“These Greek myths were larger-than-life, fictional creations,” Iizuka explained. “The characters are archetypes. The racial complexity that you articulated is actually very well-suited to Greek myth, which is really a blank canvas.”

Other students posed questions about racial appropriation versus racial appreciation, contemporizing an ancient story and the vulnerability inherent in presenting a work of art to an audience.

“So much of life is codified and predictable,” said Iizuka of the latter. “Theater is the opposite. You don’t know how it will land and be processed. There’s an unpredictability and volatility to an audience’s response. It’s wonderful.”

Following this conversation, the students created a video interpretation of the play. Click here to watch their work.