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Department ofTheatre and Dance


Celebrating 20 years of Charisma

The annual student-led devised theatre performance explores spirituality and existence while combining art, music, and dance, with the spoken word.

The annual student-led devised theatre performance explores spirituality and existence while combining art, music, and dance, with the spoken word.

By Ally O'Connor '20

Celebrating twenty years, Charisma, the annual devised theatre performance by Santa Clara University’s Theatre and Dance Department, impressed Fess Parker Theatre audiences this quarter. Conceived, written, rehearsed, directed, choreographed, and performed by students, Charisma includes a combination of dance, theatre, and music, and is unique each year.

Co-directed by students Avery Rissling ’20 (Political Science and Dance) and Anthony Sampson ’20 (Theatre Arts and Marketing), this year’s performance was titled "Sorry for the Wait.” As part of the 20th anniversary reunion, the show was dedicated in memoriam to Michael J. Poitevan, one of Charisma’sfirst supporters, and on closing night, invited Charisma alumni to a pre-show reception, and held a post-show panel featuring previous directors.

Set in a French restaurant described as a limbo for all the characters who had arrived on a bellhop’s cart, seemingly unaware of why or how they had landed there, the cast “spent the play figuring out the meaning of the space, their own stories, and a larger overarching story of the earth, personified as the waiter ‘Guy’ later to be revealed as ‘Gaia,’” explains faculty advisor and senior lecturer Kristin Kusanovich (Theatre and Dance).  Rehearsing 10 hours per week during Fall quarter and then 20-30 hours per week during early Winter quarter, the cast worked hard to create this 65-minute narrative with live music, flashbacks to memories of individual characters, dances, and a six-character interconnected plot.

When asked about the creation process, Kusanovich explained that “the cast set out with the goal of exploring the intersections between spirituality and the arts and began working together in spring of [last] year. They had assignments over summer, went on a partially silent artists retreat in the fall, and then worked with guest artists [and myself].”

After serving as Charisma’s faculty advisor for five years now, Kusanovitch shares that twenty years signals “a time to look back at what the experience of Charisma has meant for those who were involved with it.”  She continues that she also “really loved having a chance to pull together a reunion of previous casts, crews and directors, and even faculty and staff who have been so instrumental in mentoring the project or who have attended virtually all 20 years! It was so important to reflect on the accomplishments of the previous students, the department, acknowledge the support of the donors who have helped make this project possible, and pay tribute to Carolyn Silberman who was the faculty advisor for the first 15 years of the project.”

The culmination of a year's worth of hard work and a twenty year legacy, Kusanovitch calls this year’s Charisma an“extraordinarily expressive show with deep philosophical, theological, environmental, and social resonances.”