What is the Jepson Shakespeare Project?
As a class, we will be putting on a low-budget production of a Shakespeare play, working with several Jepson Community Partners throughout the semester. Each year, the Jepson Leadership on Stage and Screen class picks a different play.
The class will be divided into groups, with one section of the play given to each group (each section will be roughly equal in length). Each group will be assigned a cast of junior high, high school, or livelong-learning students from one of our Community Partners. Each group is responsible for helping their cast put on a production of their assigned act, in conjunction with the other four groups from class.
At the end of the Project, the casts will perform their acts (in order). Their families, Jepson students and faculty/staff, and other UR faculty and students will be invited to attend.
What Do I Have to Do?
The academic part of this project will be to keep a journal of the process, on our Production Blog (blog.richmond.edu/ldst368), with your reactions, thoughts, and ideas. This is an informal record of your experiences as you work through the project. Include links to or images of your scripts, prop lists, and other production-related documents and files. You may use photos of your classmates, but not any of our partner students. Comment on how the project relates to other readings from this or other classes you’re taking, or how other readings or classes make you think of ideas for your act. Talk about ideas that got thrown out, things that didn’t work, and things that you wish you hadn’t done, as well as good ideas and successes.
You will need to write a group paper (in your act groups) about the experience of working with the Community Partners, about your interpretation of the play, and about the whole project and what it has taught you about how theater is relevant to leadership and vice versa. You will receive a separate sheet for this assignment. The final paper will be due Monday, December 9th, by noon.
There are several stages to the Jepson Shakespeare Project (JSP), including Pre-Production, Rehearsals, “Tech Week,” Production, and Post-Production.
Before rehearsals can begin, there are several things that need to happen to prepare you (as the directors and acting coaches) for the process. Some will be easier than others.
- Understanding the play. We will be reading and discussing the play in class, watching or reading a revision of it, and watching a documentary (Shakespeare Behind Bars) about a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. All these things should help you come to an understanding of some of the issues at hand in the play itself.
- Forming a group. Your groups will be determined based on the availability you give to Dr. Bezio. Each group may choose to name itself (like a theater company would) with or without the help of its cast. Once we have everyone’s availability, we will match you with a partner site. Attending rehearsals is considered part of class and you must go to rehearsals. Should something happen that prevents you from attending a rehearsal, let your group mates know immediately and make it up to them.
- Cutting the script. You won’t want to do the WHOLE section you’ve been assigned. The play should not go over an hour and a half in length, so you will want to time your section to no more than 15 minutes. Some acts may be shorter, and that is perfectly fine.
– Part of cutting the script is deciding (for some acts) what songs (if any) to leave in, take out, or turn into recitation rather than music. You can also make one decision now and change your mind based on your cast later.
- Deciding on a theme. This is not a large-budget production. In fact, it’s mostly a no-budget production. There will not be sets, there may be some small pieces of furniture and rehearsal blocks, costumes will be minimal. You can decide on a theme or idea for your act, or the whole class can decide on a theme together.
– What kind of message does your production want to send? How do you want your audience to think about the play? Is the play about magic? Race? Religion? Power? Gender? Do you want to “preserve” the original Shakespeare or make it feel more modern? Is the play tragic? Comic? A mix of both? Which character is your hero? Which your villain?
– Who are your characters going to be? Give a brief description of a sentence or two to each character. What is their attitude? What do they think of other characters? What “type” is each character?
- Meeting your cast and casting the play. In some ways, this will be one of the harder (and more important) things you have to do. You won’t be able to cast until you’ve met your Partner group at least once. You may decide to have them help you decide at the first meeting. You might ask them all to read something, do the casting yourselves, and get started at your second meeting. It’s up to your group how you want to handle this. Part of what you’ll want to do is make sure that no one is completely left out. You may need to split a character between two actors, to double- or triple-cast an actor as more than one character, to change the gender of a character or have a cross-gendered actor, etc. Since you will know how many Partner actors you have before you meet them, you should be able to make some decisions ahead of time.
– You will need to report your cast list to Dr. Bezio, who (along with Dr. Soderlund and Ms. DeBusk-Maslanka) will be in charge of putting together a program for the show with the cast, their Partner organization, and so on.
Rehearsals with Partner casts will begin early October. You will have until then to get ready for the first session, at the very least, and I would advise working through your script even before then to get preliminary blocking down on paper.
- Structure and Plan Rehearsal Time. You will need more time than you think you do. Remember, you will have to explain to each of your actors what they are saying, how to say it, where to stand, what to do with their hands, and how to use props. You may need to work on stage combat skills (I can help you there) or dance moves or music. Play to the strengths of your actors and yourselves! What you know, you can teach to them, but make your decisions before you get to rehearsal.
- Meet as a Directorial Team Regularly. Touch base with each other every week so that you’re all on the same page before you get to rehearsal. Make sure everyone knows what’s going on, everyone knows which actors they’re working with (maybe one person will always work with a certain pair of actors, one person is in charge of music, etc.). Figure out your blocking (how the actors move around on stage) before you do it with the actors.
- Find any tech you need. If you want to use music, find the music you want to use. Find or record sound effects (again, I can help you put these things together). Find, make, or borrow props, if you need them (I can help with this, too). The actors will want to work with them as soon as possible (especially if the props are weird). (Note: NO SHARP WEAPONS ALLOWED.)
- Assign the Tech Crew. This is you. You will need to have a prop master/mistress (someone backstage to help the actors with their props), an assistant stage manager (someone backstage to help with cues and prep work), a tech op (someone to push the “go” button for sound and lights), and a stage manager (someone in charge of coordinating all of it before, during, and after the show, but who is not backstage). All these people report to the tech director (Dr. Bezio), who will help them with these jobs, and the producer (Dr. Soderlund). One of these people will be in charge of introducing each act (to be determined).
“Tech Week” is the week before the show, when the play is run in the space and with all technical cues, music, costumes, props, and lighting. We will not have a lot of tech for this show (unless people volunteer to help out), so this should not be a major concern. There are some things that you will still need to do…
- Give Any Tech to the Tech Director (Dr. Bezio). That means emailing me music files or handing me a CD, giving me a box of props (you can store these things in my office if you need to), and so on the week before the show. Give me a list of everything you have and/or need well before then. I will have Master Lists of all props, etc. I will also need copies of your scripts to put together a full “show script” for the production itself (photocopies with notes on them preferred).
- Prep the Cast. Explain to the cast how things are going to be different in a “real” theater (more space, lights, audience, etc.). Prepare them for the fact that there will be people in the audience who want to see them do well, and people who care about them and are rooting for them to succeed. Begin to calm them down, as this is when stage fright sets in. Go over the “plan” for the show repeatedly and often.
- Tech Crew Check. Each member of the tech crew will need to make sure they have everything they need to do their job during the show itself. Make lists, mark scripts, coordinate with each other and the actors so that everyone knows who is in charge of what. Report all this to your stage manager and tech director (Dr. Bezio).
- Quadruple-Check EVERYTHING. Check prop lists. Have extra copies of the script (the actors do not have to memorize their lines). Have a plan for what to do if someone is sick or missing. Check that you have all your props and music.
- Load-in. Get all your props, lists, scripts, tech, and necessary equipment into the theater space. Times for this will be given to you closer to the show date.
- Tech call. When you as the crew need to arrive. Dr. Bezio will be there with you, at whatever time you deem necessary, to help set up for your production. Everyone will need to coordinate together to make sure that they can get their props, etc., set up TOGETHER (all groups). There will be a short break between sections to switch up the casts, with an announcement of where they are from.
- Cast call. When the actors arrive and begin to get ready. We will provide small amounts of stage makeup (which Dr. Bezio can help with, if need be), and will assist the cast with costuming, checking props, finding scripts, and so on.
- House Open. When guests arrive. Some guests may be coming with the actors, and will be allowed to mingle in the lobby. House open means when the doors open to the theater and people can start sitting in the seats. This means the cast needs to be backstage and mostly quiet.
- Curtain. Showtime. Once it starts, it must go on. Just keep everyone going, and don’t stress any mistakes. Live theater is an experience, and something will always go wrong.
- Curtain Call. The actors will all come out together and take a bow as a group. Then you can join them and bow with them for the second time (if you wish). After the show, the actors and you can mingle and greet the audience, answer questions, and feel an enormous sense of relief. You did it!
- Strike. The crew never sleeps. Sometimes literally. You will all be responsible for gathering up props, costumes, and other equipment and making sure that the actors take home what’s theirs (and no one else’s). We’ll gather up our stuff, clean up, and drop props, etc., in Dr. Bezio’s office before being fed and then heading home for the night. (Yes, food will be provided for you.)
- Rest. Get some sleep. Have a small party. Get some more sleep. Shows are draining beyond belief, and you’ll need a little recovery time. Take it, you earned it.
- Reclaim Your Stuff. If you left anything of yours in Dr. Bezio’s office, come get it back. Return things you borrowed.
- Finish the Group Paper. If you’ve kept up with your journal and been taking notes as you go, this actually shouldn’t be too hard. Remember to let Dr. Bezio know whether you’re being graded as a group or by sections. The paper due in its final version on the date listed on the syllabus.
- Last Production Blog Post. Add your final thoughts to your production journal (one last wrap-up post).
- Fill Out the Peer-Review Form. Dr. Bezio will send out a link to a Peer-Review survey. Fill it out honestly and completely, or you might lose the points for Peer-Review.