By: Theodore Taylor III
LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Tiara Estupinian sits in the basement of the Theatre Arts building. She applies her makeup and heads to the costume crew to retrieve her costume. After she gets her costume, she must head upstairs to the studio theater and prepare for the first dress rehearsal. It's a routine she's become all too familiar with as this now marks her third time being a part of a CalRep production. Not far behind her is Arlene Duran. Similar to Tiara, this is nothing new as this is now her second CalRep production. For the newly transferred Angel Robbson, though, everything about this has been new. A transfer from Solano Community College in Fairfield, California, this is her first time doing theater at the university level. All three of these actors have had different journeys, but for these past two months, they've arrived at the same destination: the mainstage of the CSULB Theatre Arts department to take part in the play entitled "For the Love Of (or, Roller Derby Play)."
When Angel first transferred to Long Beach State, she had plans of just going to school and working until she was approached by the chair of the theatre department, Ezra Lebank. "This was such a last-minute thing. Like this semester, I just wanted to go to school and work," Angel said. "The day before classes started, I just came to campus to find my classes, and that was the day they did callbacks for the show - So Ezra and another teacher stopped me and asked if I auditioned for the show." "I originally read for Arlene's role, and the director asked me to stay the rest of the night and read for the character of Joy, who I didn't know was the lead until all the other girls told me," Angel said. Angel plays the lead character of Joy Ride. A newcomer to the Roller Derby team, Joy is a "social, funny, laid-back, go-with-the-flow type of girl." Joy Ride is in an interracial relationship with the character of Michelle played by Jane U'Ren. While being a part of this rehearsal process, Angel has found these traits of Joy to be similar to herself. "She's a lesbian, I'm a lesbian, so that's one similarity off the bat," Angel said. "In the script, Joy is written to be black, and that plays into her relationship with Michelle - within the script, there is subtext that shows that while I'm happy in this relationship, there are aspects of my life that you will never understand, and I relate to that because my partner is also white."
This play itself deals with themes of love, family, games, and friendship. But when it comes down to friendship, throughout the rehearsal, it has been evident between 4th-year theater majors Tiara Estupinian and Arlene Duran. Despite having characters that rarely interact with one another, this rehearsal process has made them even closer than before. "We're best friends, we've never said that, but we hang out and text every day, she's made this process fun," says Tiara. In August of 2020, Tiara enrolled at the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California, as a bio major. Two months later, she switched her major to theater, and that has led us here. Earlier this semester, Tiara took part in another CalRep produced piece entitled "A Night of Student Work." Immediately after Night of Student Work, she jumped straight into the rehearsals for Roller Derby. Tiara plays the character of Lizzie Lightning, the co-captain of the Roller Derby team who is independent, competitive, grounded, headstrong, and wants to get hers by any means necessary. When seeing that CalRep was going to produce an all-women piece that was also looking for Latino actresses, she knew this was the right piece for her to audition for. "I honestly thought we were going to skate, but when I heard that there were Latino roles in this play, had women coming together, and talked about the love of the game, that's something that relates to me a lot," said Tiara. "This piece breaks stereotypes by showing that a Latina can do anything and be a leader, or a woman can do anything without having to be told XYZ."
Last semester, Arlene Duran played the protagonist Amy in the play entitled "Dry Land." This semester she's back on the main stage, this time playing a nurse named Anna Stecia who's responsible, funny, and empathetic and always looking to take care of people. Playing the character of Anna has led to Arlene showcasing traits that she normally suppresses. "I feel like Anna is my opportunity to bring out my inner badass," says Arlene. Growing up shy, Arlene began to take up theater in high school, and that's where her love for acting began. Her love has been evident throughout this semester. Despite trying to balance a job on the weekend, 8 AM to 10 PM weekdays, and an hour-long commute, she wouldn't trade it for anything. Using downtime, she goes to the University Library or the green room in the theater building to finish school assignments. She also credits her 8 AM acting class with acting professor Hugh O'Gorman as being beneficial to this rehearsal process. "I feel like I've been able to connect more and find a story for my character by taking Hugh's class this semester," Arlene said. "It opens us up a lot more, and I feel very grounded and feel like I can explore a lot more in this world of Roller Derby."
This dynamic triple threat, all with different journeys, have a shared love for the arts. That love has been reflected in these last few weeks of rehearsals. Alongside a superb cast and director, "For the Love Of (or, the Roller Derby Play)" will be "rolling" through the theatre arts building from Oct. 19 to 28 at 7:30 PM and on Oct. 21 and 28 at 2 PM. For the Love Of is set to be an exceptional experience, don't miss your opportunity to catch this show.Get your tickets here.