Winter opener “Very Berry Dead” encourages diversity in theatre

Saginaw Valley State University will kick off its winter theatre season with “Very Berry Dead” by Jose Perez. Perez will also be the director of the show as a guest at SVSU.

The show follows the loss of multiple family members and how it brings a family back to the farm to bury the deceased in the ancestral cemetery. However, while there, the family finds out about how strict Vermont state laws are.

They must now decide who gets to be buried in the family plot and who will have to be left out. The head of the family is left to make the decision, along with two feuding adult children, a rancher, a pagan, a visitor and the town health officer. The health officer describes the family as a circus they were not prepared for.

Junior creative writing major Zoey Schwab was cast in her first SVSU show.

“My character’s name is Casey, and she has a difficult past with her family, making coming back to the farm hard,” she said. “She’s distant, and can come off as icy, but deep down, she’s a very emotional character, trying to figure out how to come back to a conflicting past.”

She believes the play is important because of how it was written.

“This show is incredible with diversity,” she said. “The show was written so that anyone can play any character regardless of gender or race, which is so important to see. It also tackles how hard family can be in all of its subsets.”

The show consists of nine characters, all of which could be played by either ciswomen or cismen, making the show more versatile and diverse.

This show has been performed at the University of Pittsburgh, but SVSU will see its first full length run.

Schwab auditioned because she heard about the atmosphere of the SVSU drama department.

“I auditioned because I love theatre and wanted to be a part of a group here on SVSU,” she said. “I heard the people involved with the theatre department were incredibly kind and welcoming, so I auditioned.”

Perez has written other shows in the past, including “Or Forever Hold Your Peace,” “Fighter,” and “The Battle of Taco Hill.”

As well as being a director, Perez is a fight choreographer, teacher, and actor. He likes to make exciting, new work. Something he prides himself on is creating a safe and healthy space for rehearsals.

His work has been seen in places like the Times Square Arts Center, Galapagos Arts Space, HERE Arts Center, Joe’s Pub, The Ohio Theatre, and the Theatre for the New City.

SVSU’s performance will be held Feb. 15-19. Times and tickets can be found online on SVSU’s website.

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