B.R.E.A.D. follows a group of nine university students who have turned to interacting on Zoom in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Scattered across the country, these friends decide to meet weekly to discuss current events and their lives, most pressingly: the increasingly restrictive and unequitable policies being employed by the university throughout the semester. Following the unjust dismissal of a beloved university dean, the group determines it is up to them to expose the corruption plaguing their university. Utilizing a combination of their newfound YouTube platform and their personal social media accounts, the students begin to rally the larger university community to their cause—but not without attracting the attention of some important university figures, who will stop at nothing to make sure that the students do not achieve their goals; that is, if their own personal squabbles and relationships don’t tear the group apart first.
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Why Les Misérables, Why Now?
The section of Les Misérables adapted in B.R.E.A.D. takes place in the months leading up to the June Rebellion of 1832—a real-world event in Paris where students and working people attempted to rise up against the French monarchy in the name of democracy. The causes of this rebellion are likely what you’d expect: increasing economic gaps between the rich and the poor, food shortages, rent inflation, and—most pressingly—a severe cholera epidemic that took the lives of over 18,000 Parisians, most of whom were from financially disadvantaged areas.
The adage “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” rings increasingly true to me every time I’ve reread this particular section of Les Misérables, and while the setting has changed in this adaptation, the injustices and hardships the original story hosts have not.
Why this format?
This transmedia, modernized format was chosen for three main purposes. The first two relate to Les Misérables itself. In the text, Victor Hugo showed a strong desire to show the reality of people fighting for injustice during his lifetime, but also put a heavy emphasis on the never-ending cycle of the powerful suffocating the powerless. Our first goal, then, was to show the universality of this story, and how—despite a change in location and technology—human history has an uncanny way of playing out the same storylines again and again.
Hugo also takes a tremendous amount of time in the story to introduce us to the protagonists of this piece, the Les Amis de l’ABC, in spite of the fact that they are extremely minor players in the epic tome which is Les Misérables. Rather than letting them be nameless and faceless figures in the revolutionary wave they rode on, Hugo makes sure to inform us of their complexities, quirks, and interpersonal relationships. He wants us to see them as people. To honor this, we use individual Instagram accounts for each of the characters, as well as short spin-off videos on the main YouTube channel, to dive deeper into our versions of the Les Amis, and allow the audience to view them in as human and complex a way as possible.
The third reason is more macro: this format is my response to the question that has been haunting all theatre-makers this year: how do we create when we’re scattered across the globe online? I don’t think there’s a singular correct answer to this question, but this is mine. I didn’t simply want to do an adaptation of an existing stage work, nor did I want to fight against the (literal and figurative) boxes that Zoom provides. Instead, I wanted to create something that was made for a pandemic era, and directly engages the reality with which we are forced to live in now. B.R.E.A.D. might not be the ultimate answer to how to create moving forward in this pandemic, but it has been an indescribably valuable and exciting experience for me as a creator, and has proved to be an amazing creative challenge on just about every level.
One unexpected development during this process was our accidental acquisition of a small but dedicated fanbase of Les Misérables netizens on the social media website tumblr.com. Completely unaffiliated with Fordham University or any cast/crew members of the B.R.E.A.D., these fans of the show constantly sent in questions to the characters, made memes based off of our releases, and passionately reviewed each episode. Here are some of our favorite creations and commentary.
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CAST AND CREW
Freddie Bredemeyer (Enjolras)
Kevaughn Reid (Grantaire)
Vivienne Blouin (Combeferre)
Trystan Edwards (Courfeyrac)
Genesis Yi (Prouvaire)
Charles Ko (Lesgle)
Ethan Mock (Bahorel)
Melissa Bautista (Feuilly)
Kana Seiki (Joly)
Nathan Brenn (Marius)
Saman Peyman (Éponine)
Nicolette (Nikki) Nunziato (Cosette)
Written and Directed By: Lee Melillo
Production Designer & Head of Photography: Manon McCollum
Stage Manager: Olive Fox
Production Manager: Will G. Adams
Assistant Director: Jayda Jones
Assistant Stage Manager & Social Media Manger: Taylor Samuelson