Ophelia’s Jump in Upland strives to give underrepresented artists a platform – San Bernardino Sun

Beatrice Casagran and her daughter, Caitlin Lopez, founded Ophelia’s Jump Productions in 2012 with the mission of giving opportunities onstage and off to those who don’t often see themselves represented in theater. OPJ wanted there to be a greater range of opportunities in theater available to Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), women and LGBTQ+ individuals.

The organization also seeks out works by playwrights who are BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and those who are neurodiverse. By telling stories written by and presented by individuals seen less often in theater settings, OPJ believes plays can encourage empathy, critical thinking and create meaningful conversations.

Casagran considers small theaters the farm teams for major productions. New works often find their first showing with smaller regional theaters in smaller revenues, she said. Technicians and actors also need to start somewhere to gain experience, she said. While community theaters offer experience, professional theaters like OJP, which pay their actors and technicians, can be resume builders.

OJP is a teaching organization and many of its staff and interns go on to programs in higher education. Miranda Tejeda interned with the organization in high school and while studying stage management at University of La Verne. She was wait-listed for the graduate program in stage management at Columbia University. OJP employed Tejeda as their resident stage manager and with that addition to her resume was ultimately accepted, according to Casagran.

“There are so few Latino women in stage management,” Casagran said. “Technicians, makeup artists, and actors all need things in their portfolio. We have many young women who are now in grad school, will have careers and this is what keeps me going.”

The last few years have been a challenge for Casagran, especially with the implementation of AB-5, a bill which requires the organization make everyone working on productions employees rather than paying them stipends. This has tripled costs on a budget further impacted by inflation. In 2019 the organization had a budget of $185,000 and now requires $500,000.

Recently, OJP received a Community Impact grant through the Inland Empire Community Foundation which will assist in this season’s productions. In the past, the organization was able to cover 40% to 60% of its costs with ticket sales, but this year ticket sales will only cover 20% to 30% of operations, Casagran said.

“People don’t realize the job creation theater provides or the economic impact it has on a community,” Casagran said. “It’s not just doling out money. The arts have a positive impact on the community economically, civic engagement and mentally.”

OJP is the only theater within a 30-mile radius presenting professional work, according to Casagran who said the economic benefit and the benefit of seeing professionally produced theater is impactful. The audience may not agree with everything presented on stage but exploring the stories and the conversations they start are important, she said.

OJP’s current production, “Black Super Hero Magic Mama,” opened on Sept. 10 and will run through Oct. 16, at the Upland theater. The play, which originally opened at the Geffen Playhouse, is a fantastical journey that explores the expectations placed on Black mothers and their sons.

Tickets or donations can be made through the organization’s website.

“Art is necessary and important for our society,” Casagran said. “We are community based, but this isn’t a hobby. We strive to work professionally and give that experience to our artists.”

Information: https://opheliasjump.org/ or 909-734-6565

Inland Empire Community Foundation works to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy.

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