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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Lights, camera, academics

Photo by Shelby Knowles
Photo by Shelby Knowles

Sam Scott, news reporter, sits down with James Cho, Telecommunication and Media Studies graduate student and actor in the local play “Kiss Me Kate” for The Bryan-College Station Theatre Company. Cho shares his experiences in balancing life as a student, an academic and an actor.
THE BATTALION: Since performances for “Kiss Me Kate” began last Friday at The Theatre Company in Bryan, can you give us a short synopsis of the play?
CHO: The play, it’s actually a musical that’s based on the William Shakespeare play “The Taming of the Shrew,” which is about a character who comes to a place in Italy called Padua, basically seeking to become rich, and he tries to marry into a very wealthy family. But the daughter that he has to marry is a very, very quarrelsome, very strong-headed woman, and it’s just kind of a story of gender relations and things. It was actually kind of subversive for its time because it talked about the gender relations but, towards the end, it sort of undercuts that, and so it’s just an interesting story. The Musical Kiss Me Kate is sort of a play within a play – it’s like the inception of plays. So the musical is about the actors who put on the play, but they’re also dealing with offstage life and relationships and things, and so you get to actually see two levels of things happening in the show.
THE BATTALION: You’re playing a character named Bill Calhoun, who is also playing Lucentio, so what sort of character is he?
CHO: Bill Calhoun, you learn very quickly that he’s a compulsive gambler and he’s also really sort of head over heels for one of the other characters named Lois, who’s also in the production. Lois is a very loose woman, to say the least, but Bill’s sort of unaware of that. He’s sort of like the dupe who gets caught up in having these rose-colored glasses through which he views her. So that’s the character that I play. Now the Shakespearean character that Bill plays, if you’re still following me, is a character who wants to marry the younger daughter, the woman who is the younger daughter of the wealthy man, but back in the day she couldn’t get married until the older daughter got married, right? So this guy Lucentio, he agrees to hatch a plan to get his friend to marry the older daughter for money, so that he could marry the younger daughter for love. So Lucentio is sort of, like, very opportunist but he’s very genuinely in love with the character.
THE BATTALION: How did you get into stage acting? Is this something you’ve been doing for a while?
CHO: No, actually, no. When I moved down here a couple of years ago to start grad school here I was looking for things to do. You know, I came from a big city, Chicago, and so there are a lot of things to do there–a lot of places to eat, a lot of things to do. When I did a little research I saw that there was a theatre company here that put on productions but they also had open audition for people who wanted to get involved, and so Les Mis, which was put on last Fall, was my first show ever on stage.
THE BATTALION: You’re also a Doctoral Student in the Department of Communication, so what type of work do you do offstage?
CHO: The Ph.D. program here has a lot of different emphases in the Comm. department. My specific emphasis is in Telecomm. and Media Studies, and if you’d like me to get more specific, I research something called digital religion, which is examining how religious individuals in communities use media technologies. So how does one of the larger churches in the Bryan-College Station area to fulfill their goals and missions? How do muslims engage with online tools in order to combat negative perceptions that people may have about them? These are just a couple of examples of things that somebody who studies digital religion might look into.
THE BATTALION: Are there any other theatre productions that you plan on being a part of in the future?
CHO: There are a couple of other shows that are coming up that are going to be really big shows, I haven’t decided because it really depends on my schedule. There’s a classic that’s coming up — Peter Pan is coming up soon. Carousel, which is another classic one, is coming up. And then there’s a big, big show over the summer called Addams Family, they turned that into a musical as well. I haven’t decided if I’m going to be auditioning for any of those yet because it depends on the schedule but, yeah, I plan to continue being a part of the theatre because I enjoy it a lot. It’s a very good group of people from the community that come together and they want to put on good productions. It’s not just the actors and the director but it’s also the people who work backstage, the people who generously underwrite the shows. It’s a really good community, so I will for sure continue to be a part of it in the future.

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