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School of the Arts

Our House

CSU, Chico to Present Darkly Comic Play, Our House

Business man bending over anchorwoman as she sits in chair
Thomas Hart (Wes) and Kelsey Campbell (Jennifer)

CSU, Chico’s School of the Arts presents Theresa Rebeck’s darkly comic play, Our House. Performances are Thursday–Saturday, Oct. 18–20 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday–Sunday, Oct. 20–21 at 2 p.m. in Wismer Theatre. Seating is limited, and purchasing tickets in advance is recommended.

A big-shot TV executive faced with dwindling ratings installs America’s favorite news anchor as the host of a reality show. Meanwhile, in St. Louis, a house full of roommates bickers over high-stakes, real-world conflicts. When reality collides with reality TV, the resulting drama holds the nation riveted.

Cast members include Thomas Hart, Kelsey Campbell, Alexander Ojeda, Eliza Odegard, Z Hansen, Leif Bramer, and Ashleigh Hardy.

“One of the essential concerns of the play is how completely we seem to be erasing and blurring the lines between reality TV and reality, and making infotainment and social media posts indistinguishable from factual news reporting,” said William Johnson, director and Department of Music and Theatre faculty member.

This blurring of the lines is reflected in the way the stage set helps the story move fluidly back and forth between the two worlds in the play—slick, modern TV Land and the drabby St. Louis house—until they finally merge into one as the drama reaches its peak.

the set of "Our House"
The set of "Our House" under construction

“Chico State set designer and assistant professor of theatre Brian Redfern came up with this really ingenious way of allowing us to move back and forth between St. Louis and TV Land using some pretty sophisticated machinery that he, along with scene shop foreman, Pete Austin, designed and built themselves this summer,” Johnson said. 

Other designers involved in the production include two senior Theatre Arts majors: Kelsey Blotter (costumes) and Hayden Bearden (sound). Julia Baldoni, a junior Theatre Arts major is the stage manager, and Jeremy Votava, School of the Arts staff, is designing the lighting.

The story is full of messages that relate to the bombardment of news from questionable sources that our society receives on a daily basis.

“Even though Rebeck wrote the play over ten years ago, it feels more relevant today than ever. In this world of information, social media, and streaming, I hope Our House motivates people to start scrutinizing the information they take in more carefully, and start thinking for themselves,” Johnson said.

Man in pajamas sitting on couch and gesturing
Z Hansen (Merv)

But besides this important message, there is still plenty of comic entertainment.

“It’s funny as hell,” said Johnson. “The funny situations lead up to some pretty serious consequences, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of laughs, because there are.” 

This production contains occasional graphic depictions of sex and violence with loud startling noises, and is not recommended for anyone under 16.

Tickets are priced at $20 adults, $18 seniors, and $8 students and youth, and are available to purchase at the University Box Office or by calling 530-898-6333.

Wismer Theatre is located in the Performing Arts Center. For those who need special seating accommodations, please call 530-898-6333. More information is available online at the School of the Arts website – www.csuchico.edu/soa - and Facebook page – www.facebook.com/ChicoStateSOA.

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Story by Shelby Casey, School of the Arts publicity assistant 


Additional Information

The play Our House by Theresa Rebeck is a satire on the devaluation of news and an alternate reality variation on Paddy Chayefsky’s classic Network. This dark comedy is a contemporary play with a bifurcated plot.

Wes, a network chief and up-and-coming news anchor deplores having to produce unprofitable news programming, as many viewers do not care to watch the news. He decides to have a Big Brother-like reality show on the network and chooses Jennifer, a female newscaster with whom he may be having an affair, to host it because a reality show would provide her more exposure than the news. Critics have compared Wes and Jennifer’s relationship with real-life CBS’s Les Moonves and news anchor and Big Brother host Julie Chen.

The other part of the plot involves four roommates in their twenties. Merv is a lazy slacker who spends his days in front of the TV set watching reality shows and getting on his roommate Alice’s nerves. Alice wants Merv to watch less TV and spend more time doing his share of the chores. She calls a house meeting to vote on his eviction both because of this and him not paying his rent.

In the second half of the play, the two plots collide as a crisis brings Jennifer face-to-face with Merv.

The world premiere of the play was at Denver Center Theater Company on January 17, 2008. It made its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons in 2009, directed by Michael Mayer.

Denver Post wrote of the play, “Theresa Rebeck’s tough, twisted comedy ‘Our House’ is not only a virulent condemnation of the boob tube, but a vibrant depiction of the resultant, numbing malaise it has on an already underinformed populace.”


About the Author

portrait style photo of Theresa Rebeck

Theresa Rebeck is a producer and television writer well known for the shows Smash and NYPD Blue. She is a novelist as well, and has Broadway and off-Broadway experience. Rebeck has an MFA in playwriting and a PhD in Victorian melodrama, both from Brandeis University. She has also taught at Brandeis and Columbia University.

Rebeck has written many pieces for television. She wrote for Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Brooklyn Bridge, LA Law and many more. However, her writing for NYPD Blue earned her: the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, the Hispanic Images Imagen Award, the Writer’s Guild of America Award for Episodic Drama, and the Peabody Award. The show Smash earned her numerous awards such as the GLAAD Award and the William Inge New Voices Playwriting Award. 

Rebeck is also known for her work in Broadway productions. On September 25th, 2018 Rebeck will premiere her fourth Broadway play, Bernhardt/Hamlet. This will be a part of Roundabout’s 2018–2019 Broadway season. This will make her the most Broadway-produced female playwright in history. Rebeck has also written for off-Broadway productions such as Omnium Gatherum. This production landed her as a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Rebeck is a very well-rounded writer. On top of writing for television and plays, she has also published her own books. She has written three novels: Three Girls and Their Brother, Twelve Rooms with a View, and I’m Glad about You. Rebeck also published Free Fire Zone, which is a book of comedic essays that talk about writing and show business.


About the Director

William Johnson

William Johnson holds an MFA from Penn State. In his 26 years at California State University, Chico, Johnson has taught all levels of acting, voice and speech, and text analysis, and has directed over 20 productions.  He is a past chair of both the Department of Theatre Arts and Department of Music and Theatre. Acting credits include roles at Houston’s Alley Theatre, the Houston and Colorado Shakespeare Festivals, Stage #1 in Dallas, and the Pennsylvania Festival Theatre. Locally, he has acted and directed at the Blue Room, Chico Cabaret, and Shakespeare-in-the-Park. Other directing/assistant directing credits include productions off-off Broadway in New York, and at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.