'Happy Days' and 'Everybody Loves Raymond' stars will give a live reading of a student sitcom
Writing a comedy script can be a difficult proposition in the best of times, but having to go through the whole process remotely adds another hurdle. The University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film and Television students in adjunct instructor Brian Levant's Sitcom Boot Camp rose to the challenge and addressed the pandemic and how it has affected lives by writing a 30-minute comedy script, "Famdemic."
The world premiere of the original comedy is Wednesday, Oct. 28, with a live, staged table read with professional actors. The reading, presented by the School of Theatre, Film and Television, will stream on Zoom at 7:30 p.m.
The cast includes Marion Ross (Mrs. Cunningham from "Happy Days"), Brian Haley ("Gran Torino"), Alex Meneses ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), Jim Meskimen ("Family Guy"), Julia Reilly ("School Spirit," "Dead Silent"), TFTV sophomore Alex Simpson ("Figment Crave") and Zane Austin ("Max 2: White House Hero").
The story revolves around Nigel, a British film student at the University of Arizona, who is stuck in America due to the pandemic. His girlfriend reluctantly invites him to quarantine with her family. While in lockdown, Nigel will have to bring the Armstrongs together to save their family business.
The Sitcom Boot Camp is led by Levant, an award-winning director and University of Arizona alumnus who has worked on the shows "Happy Days" and "Mork & Mindy" and the movies "Beethoven" and "The Spy Next Door". In the boot camp, students simulated every step of the creative process, along with the frustration, pressure and improvisational thinking experienced in a professional writers room.
"I was nervous at the beginning of the semester that collaborating online would deny the possibility of generating the chemistry that interaction sparks," Levant said. "However, after the first few sessions, my fears were forgotten as people learned how to express themselves and contribute creatively despite the walls between us. I'm incredibly proud of this class and what they've accomplished and can't wait for them to see their work brought to life."
"Famdemic" was created and written by students Hayat Al Qattan, Paul Cannon, Maiya Coder, Jackson Dicker, Alex Gallastegui, Megan Hurley, Kate O'Malley, Vanessa Ordway, Zelio Pereira, Madison Shuman, Isaac Springer, Bryce Taylor and Grant Webb.
Webb, a senior majoring in film and television, described what it was like to write a comedy during a pandemic.
"It's been a challenge constantly switching gears between job searching, business classes, my capstone project and writing a sitcom pilot all from my bedroom," he said. "It is incredible to see everyone's ideas come together and slowly take shape as this completed show. I can't wait to see the best moments of those long writing sessions finally put out into the world for everyone to enjoy. After four years in the FTV program, it's incredible to see how my friends and I have grown and found our own paths in this business."