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
Freddie is a sophomore performance major and is incredibly excited and grateful to be working on this multi-media experience. He was in 2019’s Studio Production of Electricity and was scheduled to make his mainstage debut in To the Bone until.. ya know… everything shut down. He would like to thank his teachers, parents, and the entire production team for their support and encouragement.
Vivienne is a freshman theatre major in the playwriting concentration and she is thrilled to be in her first show at Fordham University. Previously, she acted in more than 20 productions at her high school. Favorites include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Helena), The Amish Project (Anna), and The Wolves (#25). IG: vivi.m.b
Genesis is currently a freshman majoring in theatre performance at Fordham University. She is Korean-American and enjoys dyeing her hair on a whim and journaling during her free time. Some of her favorite roles past productions in high school include Frenchy in Grease, Mayzie La Bird in Seussical the Musical, and Aaron Kreifels in the Laramie Project. She is incredibly excited to see how theatre will develop during the time of the pandemic and grateful to her lovely cast and crew for this opportunity to grow as an artist! Follow her on Instagram @GenesisYi
Ethan is a sophomore Theatre Performance major from Houston, Texas. Fordham Studio: Valor, Agravio, y Mujer (Tomillo), Anne of the Thousand Days (Smeaton/Fisher). Other: Cymbeline (Posthumus), Romeo & Juliet (Mercutio), Antony & Cleopatra (Scarus/Attendant), Spring Awakening (Melchior). Thanks to the company for going on this wild Zoom-venture.
Kana Seiki she/her/hers (Joly/June) is a freshman performance track. Kana is overjoyed to join the cast of BREAD. Past credits include Joseph and the Amazing… (YTJ), Freak (Round House Theatre), Sideshow (WST), etc. Kana enjoys dancing and also loves playing basketball, even though she’s 5’ tall. She would like to thank her incredibly talented members of the show and her family for always supporting her passion. Instagram: @orangekanas
Saman is a sophomore performing arts major at Fordham LC and is originally from Southern California. She has credits in some film productions as well as school and community theatre. This semester she is in her first two studio shows: playing Éponine/Vanessa in Bread, as well as devising and acting in The Wallpaper Project. This adaptation to zoom theatre has challenged and excited her to learn new methods of storytelling, working in isolation with limited human connection. She is so thrilled to be working with this talented cast and crew!! @saman.n.peyman
Lee is a junior English and directing double major at Fordham University. Previous stage credits include directorial and assistant directorial positions on A Touch of the Hand, The Wolves, The Turn of the Screw, The Odd Couple, and Words, Words, Words. With her full-length Fordham directorial stage debut postponed due to COVID, Lee turned to a story that has been near to her heart for nearly a decade when deciding how to charge forth into this digital creative landscape. She very much hopes you enjoy what she’s done with it (particularly the people who will be giving her a letter grade for this series come December), and would like to extend her thanks to her family, friends, and all of the folks at Fordham and elsewhere who have helped to make this project a reality. (Twitter: @leemelillo. Website: leemelillo.com).
Jayda is a Theatre Directing major, making her Fordham debut as the assistant director of B.R.E.A.D. Prior to her career as a director, Jayda acted and played characters such as Ariel Moore in Footloose and Daniela in In the Heights. Jayda hopes to pave a way for young black women to have both a strong voice and extensive representation in the theatre, and to make art that inspires positive change. She would like to thank Lee Melillo for giving her the amazing opportunity to work on such a powerful show and Fordham Theatre as a whole for giving her an outlet to express her creativity.
Manon is a freshman directing student at Fordham who wants to try a piece of every part of the theater! He is excited to design on B.R.E.A.D., his first show at Fordham, and to learn the ropes of the theater department despite corona slash zoom restrictions. In his free time, he likes making collages, riding around the town on CitiBikes, inviting people to his dorm, and forcing people to listen to his historical “fun” facts. He would like to thank the production team and all his friends for their support!
Kevaughn is a Theatre performance major, making his Fordham Theatre debut in B.R.E.A.D. He has played an array of characters, such as Harpo in The Color Purple, André in Ain’t Misbehavin’, and Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum. He enjoys writing scripts and being a part of important storytelling. Kevaughn hopes to inspire many people like him that have constantly been told no. He would like to thank Leigh Melillo, Olive Fox, Jayda Jones, Manon McCollum, and Taylor Samuelson for being the absolute best.
Trystan is a Theatre and African American Studies double major and is making his Fordham Theatre debut in B.R.E.A.D. Other favorite roles include Trissotin in Learned Ladies, Mr. Grossman in These Shining Lives, and Tommy in Making God Laugh. Trystan enjoys writing poetry, fashion, and talking in a British accent unprovoked. He plans to work with local non-profits to combat institutionalized inequalities in the near future. He would like to thank his family for trusting him, director Lee Mellio for facilitating this project with such grace and ease, and the cast and crew for their undying support.
Charles is a sophomore majoring in Design & Productions with a concentration in Costume Design. This is his first show at Fordham and he’s excited to get back into theater! He would like to thank Lee, Olive, and Jayda for giving him this opportunity, as well as the entire B.R.E.A.D. cast for making this show such an amazing experience! He is also thankful for his friends for the support they have given him.
Nathan is a junior internal transfer on the performance track. In his early years he appeared in the revival of West Side Story on Broadway, but much more recently was in The Addams Family (Lucas) at Norwalk High School. He’s thrilled to be part of such an interactive production that has embraced the concept of virtual performance.
Nicolette (Nikki) Nunziato
Nikki is a freshman at Fordham University. She is a theatre major with a concentration in performance. Nikki’s most previous and enjoyable role was Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and she is beyond excited for her first show at Fordham. Nikki would like to thank Lee, Olive, Jayda, Taylor, Manon, and the cast of B.R.E.A.D. for making this amazing experience possible.
Production Stage Manager
Olive is a sophomore on the design and production track with a concentration in stage management. Studio: Small Mouth Sounds (SM), The Most Massive Woman Wins (SM). Other: A Flea in Her Ear (PSM), Mamma Mia (PSM), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Stage Management Intern) at the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. She would like to thank Lee, Taylor, and the Company for adapting and learning together how to produce theatre on Zoom.
Assistant Stage Manager, Content Manager
Taylor is a freshman Stage Management major at Fordham University at Lincoln Center. Before Fordham, she was a stage manager, choreographer, student director, and designer on multiple productions at her high school, such as Noises Off!, Blithe Spirit, Anything Goes, and much more. Taylor is extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow in such an amazing theatre program and would like to thank Olive Fox and Lee Melillo for allowing her to hop on to this incredible team. (Instagram: @taylor.rose33)