During the Sept. 27-29 auditions for "What in the World?" — an hour-long play by Nick Domich, former Country Day track and field and cross country coach — only one black student at the University of California, Santa Cruz tried out. Because his play had five black roles, Domich had to alter the play. (Photo courtesy of Domich)

Play by former Country Day coach wins UC Santa Cruz competition

An hour-long play titled “What in the World?” by Nick Domich, former Country Day track and field and cross country coach, will be showcased Nov. 8-17 at the University of California, Santa Cruz on the second stage.

Domich, who coached high school track from 2008 to 2018 and high school cross country from 2011 to 2017 at Country Day, is studying creative writing at UC Santa Cruz. 

“I turned 50 about a month after my mom passed away, and I was teaching at Country Day,” said Domich, who also attended SCDS through eighth grade. “I decided I wanted to go back to school and study literature. Back in the ’80s, I had studied history at UCLA because I was too scared to do literature even though I wanted to.”

The Dharma Grace foundation holds a competition every few years for UCSC students to enter plays, and the winning one is produced.

“I was taking the creative writing class, and we had to produce a work of about 20 pages or so,” Domich said. “Every Friday they email us about important events, and that’s where I learned about the Dharma Grace competition. I never read the part where it said that we only had a couple of days to complete it.”

Four days later, the deadline arrived, and Domich submitted his incomplete, 35-page-long play, which is relatively short, according to Domich. Despite this, he won the competition.

The play discusses homelessness in Sacramento during Christmastime.

“It’s about a bipolar, homeless, black woman who gave birth to a stillborn baby in a dumpster,” Domich said. “She never got to hold her baby. Since she’s homeless and black, she didn’t get the regular procedures, so she’s holding out on the hope that her daughter is alive.

“Some of the side characters are two cops, one white and one black, who talk about race, and the white cop finds (the mother of the baby) in the dumpster. Then there’s a store owner from Yemen and a young, white homeless man, and they have some scenes together. Along with that, there’s a black man going through chemotherapy and his nurse.”

The multiracial characters created a problem, according to Domich.

“Only one black student auditioned, and the play has five black roles,” Domich said. “So I had to accommodate for that and change the characters a bit, so they’re having the same conversations but now my lead is surrounded by white people on the stage rather than having allies as I initially intended.” 

Even though the play is about homelessness, it’s meant to be a tragic comedy.

“Although it is a tragedy, it still has funny parts,” Domich said. “I don’t want it to be a total downer, but that’s how the world really is. 

“I’m trying to show homeless people as not so down on their luck and depressed all the time. I want to show the different levels of homelessness people go through and their collective humanity. 

“The character from Yemen tells the young white man, who’s a druggie, that people look away from Yemen because it’s overrun by people, and the druggie says, ‘People look away from me, too.’ And the guy from Yemen says, ‘It’s easy to look away from poor people, and when they no longer exist, we can pretend like we don’t give a damn.’”

 Domich added: “It’s relating to real-world events such as Syria right now. The U.S. troops backed the Kurdish rebels, but now we’ve left, and Turkey is attacking them. I don’t understand how (we have left) the people we were supposed to support to twist in the wind, just like the mentally ill in this country. We need to support them and treat them so that they can become productive members of society, but instead, we leave them on the streets.” 

Domich said he is drawn to the theater because “it’s all live; it happens in front of your eyes versus writing a book or making a movie.” And, according to Domich, plays can display controversial ideas since they’re usually nonprofit.

“More people would see plays if they saw just one that they’re interested in, and we need more people going to the theater because it’s an important art form,” Domich said.

—By Arikta Trivedi

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