Starburst graphic.

Students Make SMC History at
Prestigious Kennedy Center Festival

SMC Theatre Arts Shines Bright with Regional, National Honors

Ed Begley, Jr. collaborates as writer and co-director with
SMC cast and crew to win invite to regional showcase

Cesar and Rubin cast and crew.
“Cesar and Rubin” cast and crew

The Santa Monica College Theatre Arts Department is well known for its many national honors and as an outstanding producer of successful careers in theater, opera, film and television.

It’s been a particularly stellar year for the department. “Cesar and Ruben,” a musical production celebrating the life of civil rights leader Cesar Chavez and written by Emmy nominee Ed Begley, Jr. was awarded entry into the regionals of the prestigious 2012 Kennedy Center and American College Theatre Festival. This is the third time in recent years that the department has received this coveted invitation.

SMC student Anthony Cloyd and his scene partner Celia Rivera had great on-stage chemistry.
SMC student Anthony Cloyd and his scene partner Celia Rivera had great on-stage chemistry

And SMC student Anthony Cloyd and SMC alumna Celia Rivera made college history after their performance at the regionals competing against hundreds of other actors by being selected for the national acting competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Cloyd’s performance at the finals earned him runner-up honors for a Shakespeare Fellowship in Ontario, Canada.

Alycia Perez went on to the Kennedy Center after winning the regional contest in stage managing.

Alycia Perez went on to the Kennedy Center after winning the regional contest in stage managing

In addition, SMC student Alycia Perez accepted an invitation to the nationals at the Kennedy Center after winning at the regional contest in stage managing.

“Cesar and Ruben” was directed by Theatre Arts faculty chair Perviz Sawoski and co-directed by Begley. The production broke box office records at SMC.

The musical chronicles the life of Chavez through music, imagery and a conversation with slain Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Salazar, who often wrote about Chavez. The show mixes humor and drama, music and dance, history and personal struggles, with songs in Spanish – and supertitles in English – by Sting, Ruben Blades, Carlos Santana and more. It also featured a multi-ethnic cast of 26 and a significant audio-visual component.

Both Sawoski and Begley said their partnership was an ideal match.

Director Perviz Sawoski and co-director Ed Begley, Jr.

Director Perviz Saoski and
co-director Ed Begley, Jr.

“Perviz is so wonderful to work with,” Begley said. “And the students are amazing, so talented, energetic and eager to get this play up and running.”

“Cesar and Ruben” was one of eleven plays selected for the regional festival from 178 productions at 49 colleges and universities judged throughout Southern California, Southern Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Hawaii.

Meanwhile, Anthony Cloyd bested approximately 200 other student actors in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship in the regional competition. Cloyd, who won a $250 scholarship for his showing, was the only community college student to compete in the finals in Utah; the rest were from four-year universities.

Cloyd was one of 16 students from the eight regions of the U.S. competing in April in Washington, D.C. His scene partner was Celia Rivera, an SMC alumna now at USC. Both actors said the Kennedy Center experience, which included workshops, was an outstanding learning experience and a rare opportunity to work with top-notch students from throughout the U.S.

“Anthony and Celia had great chemistry in their scenes,” Sawoski said. “Their performance was free of affectation and they were having fun with the scenes, which were well prepared and handled with clarity and specificity. We are very proud of them.”

Anthony Cloyd, a theatre arts major at SMC, bested approximately 200 other student actors in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship in the festival’s regional competition.

Anthony Cloyd

At the Kennedy Center, Cloyd and Rivera performed scenes from two plays, “The Talented Tenth” by Richard Wesley and “The Colored Museum” by George C. Wolfe.

Cloyd, who has been a student at SMC for six years off and on, has performed in nearly a dozen plays at the college, including musicals, dramas and comedies. He was nominated by the college to go to the regionals for his performance in the SMC production of Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses” in March 2011, but has also been in such plays as the Tony Award-winning musical “Urinetown,” Bertolt Brecht’s “Good Woman of Szechuan,” and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” He is an accomplished singer and dancer, as well as actor.

“I’m so honored, beyond honored,” Cloyd said. “It shows that being at SMC allows you to compete at the university level. I was very proud to represent SMC.”

Alycia Perez was praised by Sawoski for being “an organized and hard-working stage manager wearing many hats. One of her greatest attributes is working effectively under pressure. She definitely deserves this honor.”

Perez, who has been at SMC for three years, most recently stage managed “Cesar and Ruben” at SMC and at the regional competition in Utah. She plans to transfer to a four-year university, probably on the East Coast, to study stage management.

“Cesar and Ruben” was a labor of love for all of us.
We are proud to have given new life to this piece.

Cesar and Ruben cast.
“Cesar and Ruben” chronicles the life of Cesar Chavez through music, imagery and a conversation with slain Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Salazar, who often wrote about Chavez

Ed Begley, Jr., who has been an activist and leader in the environmental movement through such organizations as Heal the Bay since 1970, first met Chavez in the early 1980s.

“Cesar told me, ‘I love that you’re saving whales and the oceans, but what about people?’” Begley recalls. When Chavez told him about the health hazards of pesticides on farmworkers, Begley was immediately intrigued and thus began a 10-year friendship and activist partnership that would last until Chavez’s death in 1993.

“I had the sadness and honor of carrying his coffin in Delano,” Begley said. “But what really struck me was when I looked behind me, there were thousands of people, as many as 35,000, in the funeral procession. It was powerful.”

Anthony Cloyd, Alycia Perez, and Celia Rivera.

Anthony Cloyd, Alycia Perez, and Celia Rivera

Yet, it wasn’t until several years later that Begley had the idea to write a play about Chavez’s life. An actor who first came to audiences’ attention for his portrayal of Victor Ehrlich on the long-running hit television series “St. Elsewhere,” and who has appeared in many major films, TV shows and plays, Begley had not previously written a play.

“Cesar and Ruben” had its world premiere in 2003 at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, playing for nine weeks to packed houses. In 2007, after Begley did some rewrites and adjustments, the play opened at the NoHo Arts Center for an eight-week run to critical acclaim. It won a Nos Otros Award and four Valley Theater League Awards. The musical also received a production at St. Edwards University in Texas.

The birth of the play’s revival at SMC began more than a year ago when Begley met with officials at The Broad Stage at the SMC Performing Arts Center that in turn led to a meeting with Professor Sawoski.

Kennedy Center winners.

Amanda Begley, Jeff Shimizu,
Perviz Saoski, and Gary Gray

The script appealed to Sawoski because “the topic was interesting, the message is good and strong, and I usually have an affinity for something that is new and unknown.”

The two worked together over several months to further refine and streamline the script, changing the beginning and ending, and – most importantly to Begley – have all the songs performed in Spanish. (In previous productions, one-third of the songs were performed in English.)

Sawoski also put her imprimatur on the show with her background in global dance styles, choreographing numbers inspired by flamenco, Mexican folklórico, Afro-Cuban and even Irish styles.

“We were thrilled to take this play to the regional competition,” Sawoski said. “The production was a labor of love for all of us, and we are proud to have given new life to the piece with a reshaped script.”

“Cesar and Ruben” mixes history, drama, dance, humor, and personal struggle with songs in Spanish by Sting, Ruben Blades, and Carlos Santana.

Cast and crew.


For an Easy, Affordable Move into American Culture…

Fall 2012 Offers International Students
a Great Beginning to Their College Careers!

Anthony Cloyd, Alycia Perez, and Celia Rivera.

Santa Monica College is #1 in transfers to the University of California, including UCLA! Many international students choose Santa Monica College to begin their college careers because of SMC’s transfer success, high-quality teaching, and low cost.

The Intensive English Program at Santa Monica College will help you make real progress in college. This program offers a strong plan to help you improve your skills in speaking, reading, listening to, and writing English. For admission requirements and more information, you can contact SMC’s International Education Center on the main campus, or call (310) 434-4217. Intensive English tuition is $3,200 for fall semester 2012. Classes begin on August 27. For information on the web, go to


English — Intensive ESL

Anthony Cloyd, Alycia Perez, and Celia Rivera.

“Coming to a new country, it’s better to start small…
SMC really helped! The intensive English program is like a little community—you spend a lot of time with other students and the teachers are right there taking care of you!”

Galina Inzhakova, transfer student to UCLA