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casette tapes

Meladi Thive and Her Words of Comfort

by Preston Choi '23

directed by Cambria Herrera/MFA1 Director

This show is part of the Wagner New Play Festival, an annual festival of new works by MFA playwrights, in collaboration with MFA/PhD directors, actors, designers, stage managers, and dramaturges. This year, for the first time, the WNPF will be presented virtually. The festival will include four audio plays, including this piece, and one animated work.


How to Listen

This audio play will be available to stream beginning June 10 @ 6:00am. On that date, you, the audience, are free to stream it on this webpage and on iTunes and Spotify. Click the links below to stream the festival trailer and subscribe to our channel to stay updated.

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The Cast

Meladi Thive: Grayson Heyl
Eugene: Noah Keeling
Owen: Junior Nyong'o
Roy: Jordan Smith

The Creative Team

Director: Cambria Herrera
Playwright: Preston Choi
Assistant Director: Jazz Nuñez
Sound Designer: Salvador Zamora
Production Stage Manager: Jared Blake Halsell
Assistant Stage Manager: Abby Stein
Production Assistant: Shaila Sarathy
Produciton Assistant: Ben Mclaren 



About the Play

Owen's going nowhere fast with a nagging supervisor, "soul searching" brother, and only one real friend in Baroness, his cat. That is until a birthday gift of self-help cassette tapes transforms Owen's life in extraordinary ways. MELADI THIVE AND HER WORDS OF COMFORT will teach you how to cleanse your suffering, claim your happiness, and put an end to your unfulfilling life.


Director's Statement 

For so many of us, life has recently shifted dramatically. As our current pandemic has left us lonelier and less hopeful than ever before, we might search for anything that offers even a tease of relief, purpose, or happiness. In this short rollercoaster of an audio play, I resonate with the complacency and desperation of Owen, an average guy with an average job, living in his average apartment with his cat. I also resonate with his arch-nemesis, Eugene, the supervisor who’s just trying to get through the job that nobody likes. And when younger brother, Roy offers a shortcut to happiness in the form of self-help tapes, I recognize my own craving that finding happiness was as easy as repeating mantras and following directions. But along Owen’s journey of skepticism, laughs, acceptance, spooks, and surprises, I’m inspired to wonder if maybe we all have something in us that can keep us going even when all seems lost?


About the Playwright

Preston Choi is a first year MFA student and playwright from Syracuse, Atlanta, and Chicago whose work explores Asian American identity, social science fiction, and the horror of being alive. His plays include performing class (2020-2021 Playwrights Realm Scratchpad Series, NNPN 2021 Bridge Program with Interact Theatre and Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists), The Migratory Patterns of the North American Monarch Butterfly and the Development of Fatherless Sons (2021 Kennedy Center Stephen Lim Playwriting Award; 2019 National New Play Showcase; 2017 Agnes Nixon Award), This Is Not A True Story (2018 CAATA ConFest), and Happy Birthday Mars Rover (The Passage Theatre). His plays have recently been developed with Silk Road Rising, Victory Gardens, Sideshow Theatre, Jackalope Theatre, Artists at Play, and Theatre Mu. He received a BS in Theatre from Northwestern University in 2018 and is currently a first-year student at UCSD's Playwriting program.   


About the Director

Cambria Lorene Herrera is a first-year MFA student from Garden Grove, California. They were most recently based in Oregon, where they co-founded and facilitated The AGE Theatre Collective to empower the resiliency of Portland's female and non-binary artists of color. UC San Diego credits: Town Hall. Selected credits: World Premiere Adaptation of King Arthur at Long Beach Opera (Assistant Director), Yellow, Yellow, Yellow at Red Balloon Theatre Collective (Director and Co-producer) Romeo and Juliet at Penguin Productions (Director), Peter/Wendy at Bag&Baggage Productions (Tiger Lily), As One at Portland Opera (Assistant Director), and The Balkan Women at George Fox University (Director, awarded Meritorious Achievement by Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Region 7). Cambria is a graduate of George Fox University, where they earned their BA in Theatre, and an AGMA Union Member. Full resume/portfolio at


Cast Bios 

Grayson Heyl (Meladi Thive) is a second year MFA student. UC San Diego credits: Quince (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Nurse 1 (Orestes 2.0), Yoga Mom/Roller Girl (HEAP). Chicago selected credits: Catherine in Suddenly Last Summer (Raven Theatre), the actor in the one-woman show The Amish Project (Jedlicka PAC), May in Last Train to Nibroc (Provision Theater), Miranda in The Tempest and Lady Capulet in Romeo & Juliet (Door County Shakespeare). Understudy credits include work with The Marriott, Chicago Shakespeare, Northlight, and The Hypocrites. BM double major in Music Theater and Vocal Performance: Oklahoma City University.

Noah Keeling (Eugene) is a second-year MFA student. Born and raised in Las Vegas, he received his BA in Stage and Screen Acting from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. UC San Diego credits: Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tyndareus in Orestes 2.0 and Car Wash Kid 3/Missionary 1 in Heap. He is a proud member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. #eatmoreartvegas

Junior Nyong’o (Owen) is a first-year MFA student. He was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya and holds a BA in Theatre and Digital Arts from Stetson University. UC San Diego credits: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Regional credits: Hamlet, Gertrude and Claudius, 12th Night, Shakespeare in Love, Man of La Mancha (Orlando Shakes)

Jordan Smith (Roy) is a second-year MFA student. Jordan is from Philadelphia, PA and he holds a BA in Theatre from Temple University. UC San Diego Credits: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Letters From Cuba, Orestes 2.0. Selected credits: Fabulation, Or the Re-Education of Undine (Temple University), Harry and the Thief (The Iron Factory), and Marat/Sade (Temple University).


Creative Team Bios

Jared Blake Halsell (Production Stage Manager) is a first-year MFA student originally from Ione, CA. Prior to moving to San Diego, he attended Folsom Lake College where he also worked at The Harris Center for the Arts (formerly Three Stages) as a stage technician from 2011 – 2016. He recently graduated from San Diego State University in 2019 with his Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts.  UC San Diego credits: Virtual production of Town Hall (ASM), Virtual production of Heap (ASM). Select credits include Spring Awakening (PSM), The Who’s Tommy (PSM), Anna in the Tropics (PSM), James and the Giant Peach (ASM), To Be Alive: A New Musical (PM & PSM), The Old Globe’s premiere of Almost Famous: The Musical (SM Intern).

Ben Mclaren (Production Assistant) is a third year BA theatre major from the Bay Area. UC San Diego Credits: The Nether (Woodnut), Balm in Gilead (David), Sonnets for an Old Century (Yusef Bulos), Our Town (Ensemble), Weirdo (Company 157, Zealand) Cutthroat (Company 157, Director).

Naomi “Jazz” Nunez (Assistant Director) is a first-year BA theatre major from the Inland Empire. UC San Diego credits: Uncle Vanya (Production Assistant) Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles (Josefina).

Abby Stein (Assistant Stage Manager)  is a third-year BA theatre major from Orange County, California. This is her second production here at UCSD and is thrilled to be the assistant stage manager. UC San Diego credits: Exotic Deadly: Or the MSG Play (PA). 

Shaila Sarathy (Production Assistant) is a second-year undergraduate biology major and theatre minor. UC San Diego credits: Songs for a New World (Muir Musical), Weirdo (Company 157), Sorry Wrong Number (UCSD Lab), Big Fish (Muir Musical).

Salvador Zamora (Sound Designer) is a first-year MFA student and producer, born and raised in Southern California. He holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts Major from UC San Diego. UC San Diego credits: winterWorks, Town Hall, Heap (ASD), Letters from Cuba (ASD), Balm in Gilead (Sound Coordinator), Classical Women (SD & Composer), Joshua (ASD, WNPF ’18).