Stage movement at Mira Loma

To Be …

Mira Loma High School students practice plyometrics.

Mira Loma High School students practice plyometrics.

To Be …, 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; $7-$10. The Black Box Theatre at Mira Loma High School, 4000 Edison Avenue; Through March 24.

Mira Loma High School

4000 Edison Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95821

(916) 971-9677

The intricate throne room in Denmark’s palace morphs into being in the little black-box theater; Claudius the king takes two steps up, puts his arms on rests and sits down. It sounds like a big-budget set piece, but everything on this black-box theater stage is created with synchronized human bodies—the bodies of students at Mira Loma High School.

SN&R spoke with Mira Loma’s spring production director and theater teacher Doniel Soto—“Mr. Soto” to his students. He’s taught theater at Mira Loma for six years. Before that, he worked extensively with the late Dennis Wilkerson and contributed substantially to the R25 Arts Complex and the creation of the California Stage.

Mira Loma’s current show is To Be …, an original retelling of Hamlet by a touring troupe of fictional “Buscanian” actors. The narrator, Olzgud (played by Kyle Cox), introduces the troupe. What happens next is a blur as 17 actors scramble onto the stage and create the jaw-dropping chorus.

The show takes advantage of plyometrics—a type of explosive physical exercise generally used to improve sports performance—and a healthy dose of creativity, both of which are taught in the advanced drama class and in the spring show’s rehearsal period. Soto teaches his students to use their bodies in character creation, as opposed to creating a character through mental study alone.

There are also elements of mindfulness in the practice, as the students are taught to be in the moment rather than thinking about the next action or line. Soto trusts his more advanced students to make decisions on their own, including those about safety. He says there has never been an injury in the line of rehearsal or performance.

“You must be absolutely connected to your body to perform well. That’s even if you’re standing still,” Soto said. “The game of acting is not a cerebral game. It’s a game of being. It’s about being on stage—not making crap up.”

Soto has made this cast into a single flowing entity that is full of student knowledge and creativity. Audiences can expect interesting work to come out of Mira Loma’s theater program and from the students after they graduate.