By Jacob Fisher
The JJC Theater Department didn’t let the pandemic stop its recent production of “Mice and Men.” Instead, the play was produced audio-only.
Directed by Tammy Perkins, the play ran from April 23 to April 25. No recording will be available.
“Of Mice and Men” follows the story of two migrant workers — The quick-talking George Milton (Christian Moreno) and the soft-loving dim-witted, gentle giant Lennie Smalls (Alex Mendez). They dream of starting their own small farm and being free from having farm-bosses.
Lennie idealizes about taking care of the rabbits. Lennie has a fascination for soft things, which often gets him into trouble due to his tendency to kill small mice, rabbits, and even puppies.
They arrive at a small farm and meet several people, one of which is Curly, the farm boss’s son, another is his wife, a woman who dreams of the big stage and tends to be very social with the farmhands.
The story climaxes when Lennie kills the Boss’s wife while feeling how soft her hair is. Lennie runs away before Curly is quick to start tracking him down.
Lennie hides out where he and George camped the night before they moved to the small farm. George finds him before Curly, and makes the decision to shoot him mercifully and quickly before Curly finds him and puts him to death.
Joliet Junior College’s online audio-only production could be described as a modern radio play. Being hosted on Zoom, there was a visual element, a slowly moving wheat field below a blue sky. This simple visual element served to help place the characters and setting in a very agricultural and ‘simpler’ time.
The production value of the show was very high, with subtitles on the screen and aforementioned visual. The only drawback that I would mention is that voices and characters are much more easily confused, because you have to rely on your memory and their distinct voices instead of being able to see who is speaking.
The benefit of audio-only shows is that it allows for anyone to play any role, as long as they play the part.
“The great opportunity for actors in an audio-only show is that your appearance has nothing to do with the roles you can play! The character Lennie is supposed to be a giant of a man- think someone the size of Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile,” Perkins said.
Focus in audio-only plays relies on the talent of the voice actor and the listeners imagination. Discrimination for roles based on looks is virtually nonexistent.
“There were three other actors who were taller than Alex Mendez, who played Lennie. Race, ethnicity, gender, age, weight, height: none of these elements, which can prevent an actor from being cast in an on-stage or film/video role, have any bearing on casting in audio-only shows,” Perkins said.
The acting between characters had a lot of dynamic, and each character had a distinct enough voice — which is a lot more important in an audio-only event.
The dynamic and connection between Moreno and Mendez was very evident, and both actors brought their respective characters to life. George and Lennie seemed very real to me, as did a lot of the supporting characters.
The rest of George and Lennie’s small group, Candy (Tommy McElmeel) and Crooks (Nathaniel Revish), were portrayed very well and brought a lot of life and personality to their characters.
There will be opportunities for students to get involved in productions later in the year.
“I am currently planning a similar production in the fall of ‘The Night of the Living Dead,’ so watch for audition announcements in late August. Auditions are open to all JJC students, and you do not have to be a Theatre major,” Director Perkins said.
Those interested in auditioning don’t even have to be a student at JJC, they simply must live within the district.
And as for future plans, JJC will also be doing “three other plays during the ‘21-’22 school year, one of which will be a musical,” according to Perkins.