SRJC faculty, advisers, alumnus key players in production of new play centering on gun violence

Someone Dies Again, by Hungarian playwright Árpád Schilling is an outsiders look in to the effects of gun violence on American families. Poster by levimillerart.

“Someone Dies Again,” by Hungarian playwright Árpád Schilling is an outsiders look in to the effects of gun violence on American families. Poster by levimillerart.

Aryk Copley, Staff Writer/Photographer

Grimly relevant with the near-weekly mass shootings in the country, The Imaginists in Santa Rosa are putting on a new production centering on gun violence in America.


Gun violence never falls out of relevance in the United States. A country obsessed with the right to bear arms, the U.S. has 120 civilian-owned firearms per 100 civilians, more than twice that of Yemen, the next highest country at 53 per 100 according to the BBC. The price for widespread gun ownership is high. America leads the world with the highest rate of mass-shootings and skyrocketing gun-related homicides and suicides. 


 “Someone Dies Again,” written by renowned Hungarian theater director Árpád Schilling, is a surreal storytelling of a grieving family that has lost a child. An international collaboration nearly a decade in the making, the play features Santa Rosa Junior College faculty, an adviser, and an alumnus as key players in its production.


Brent Lindsay founded the Imaginists with partner Amy Pinto in 2001. Starting out as an experimental theater project, it grew to become internationally renowned for its unique approach to the stage. The Imaginists work to redefine theater from the ground up, describing their mission on their website to “create a vital space for imagination, ideas and freedom.” They’ve made time for both the international stage and on-the-ground community outreach. 


Lindsay has been on SRJC’s theater department’s advisory board since 2015. Despite his down-to-earth, collected nature, he could be spotted as an artist from a mile away. His conversations are animated, his hair flows long and silver, and he loves to talk about theater. 


Lindsay connected with Árpád Schilling back in 2015 after managing to impress a well-known Hungarian critic. The renowned playwright visited Santa Rosa in 2015. At the time, the country was in political turmoil over gun violence. The Baltimore Riots were in full effect and Andy Lopez had been killed just over a year earlier. Morbidly fascinated with the state of the U.S. and enamored with the team at the Imaginists, Schilling decided to pursue a collaboration with Lindsay.

“I could have predicted all of this. It’s very familiar, and yet he’s pushing it to a new level. The bar is rising. It’s exactly what we all hoped for, to challenge ourselves,” Lindsay said. “He’s being challenged by the culture and where we are and who we are. It’s been an incredible project.”


After the conception of “Someone Dies Again,” Lindsay asked one of his actors, Tessa Rissacher, to find a costume designer for the play. Having attended SRJC in 2004 and 2014, Rissacher reached out to the theater department to find the best match.

Coleen Trivett, although only being in her first year as SRJC faculty, is a costume design veteran. (Aryk Copley)


That match was Coleen Trivett. Trivett teaches three costuming classes at SRJC: costume design, teaching students how to draft regalia to suit any character, script, stage or budget, costume technology, a hands on course where students physically construct garments using classical sewing and clothing production techniques and specialty costumes, whose material changes semester to semester, focusing on different specific costume pieces such as draping, tailoring, and millenary, a fancy term for hat-making. 


Although she’s new to Santa Rosa, Trivett spent 15 years in New York working and teaching costume design. A veteran with 20 years of experience, Trivett has designed costumes for theater, opera and film. In her first year as full-time SRJC faculty, Trivett is excited to build her professional network at a new job. So when an email came into her inbox from an old alumnus looking for a costume designer for a local production centering on a relevant national issue, she had to look into it.

“The whole project just seemed important,” Trivett said. “I’m building my professional connections and this just sounded like a really wonderful opportunity.”


Rissacher, on the other hand, is a veteran member of the Imaginists. Having been a student in the classes that Lindsay would occasionally guest-teach, she eventually found her way to a production at the Imaginists’ studio where Lindsay recognized her. He offered her a part of their 2009 production of Ubu Rex, a satirical comedy from Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. Rissacher accepted and has been a part of many Imaginist plays since.


Brett Lindsay plays Marty, the father of a family struggling with the effects of losing a child. (Aryk Copley)

“It’s been a nice artistic home,” she said wistfully. “To be able to come in and out and get experience, training, and joy in making stuff.”


Rissacher is cast in the role of “The Lecturer” in “Someone Dies Again.” In her words, the play is about, “how we deal with the fundamentally unacceptable griefs of life.” 

“One of the really incredible things about the Imaginists is their devotion to original work,” said Rissacher. “Their process is a lot more fluid and organic, building something that hasn’t been seen before.”

Lindsay believes the play holds a lot of relevance, especially for students. In the last two weeks, two mass shootings have taken place in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, resulting in 31 deaths, including 19 children. “I knew it was always going to be an issue that we were going to be looking at. I never thought that it was going to be almost spot on to where we are right now,” Lindsay said solemnly.

Heavy handed thematically, only time will tell how the show will be received. “Someone Dies Again” has just concluded its San Francisco run and is now coming to Santa Rosa, hosted at the Imaginists’ studio space at 461 Sebastopol Ave. Tickets are available for shows on June 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, and 11, all at 8 p.m.