Well, here it is. Tonight will be the first ever performance of the workshop production of Mansfield Park! After one week in the Mullady, and two brief, rather miraculous days of tech, the Mansfield cast and crew (not to mention it’s dramaturg!) are thrilled to be presenting the play for the first time.
The student design team, supervised by Lee Keenan, had only two days to work their designs into the performance. Because the focus of the production has been a workshop of the script, they had limited resources, but they really pulled together some beautiful designs that complement Director Ann Shanahan’s staging.
Please join us tonight at 7:30, and tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon at 2:00 pm in the Mullady Theatre. Sunday’s performance will be followed by a talkback with the cast, Director, Dr. Verna Foster (an LUC English professor with expertise in the novel Mansfield Park), Dr. Mark Lococo (an LUC Theatre professor), and myself.
My name is Victoria Bain and I am one of the dramaturges for Loyola’s production of Measure for Measure. I am assisting professor Peter Kanelos (an expert on Shakespeare) with acting as a liaison between the play’s text and the director. I will be posting on this blog regularly throughout the production rehearsal process and the touring of the play.
The theatre department is undertaking the challenging task of putting Measure for Measure into production despite its reputation as one of Shakespeare’s “problem” plays. One reason for this label is that the play’s mature and somewhat dark subject matter is not in keeping with the rest of Shakespeare’s comedies. Mark Lococo, director of the production, states that “the play is about absolutes and how absolutes won’t serve us.” Lococo has decided to set the play in 1930s Vienna because he feels that there is a sense of something large about to happen during the play. Setting it in that time period gives the play undertones of the Fascist uprising of the time.
Shakespeare’s plays always present challenges to theatre companies because of their archaic language, settings, and attempts at humor. Performers are always searching for ways to make these 400-year-old works relevant to today’s audience while not sacrificing the integrity of the originals.
Approximately three weeks ago, we held auditions, and eighteen enthusiastic and promising young actors were cast–ten males and eight females. Our first read-through and rehearsal occurred a mere two weeks ago. It has been followed by nightly rehearsals, all of which have been especially concerned with gaining a greater understanding of the text and a more fluid delivery of it. Naturally, the actors have to be very dedicated to immersing themselves in their characters.
Just last Monday, our designers presented their respective ideas to our cast. Each designer brought research and preliminary design elements that will be put into the designs they are supervising the execution of. This gives the actors a good sense of what their characters’ world will be, and what the full production will be like as we move closer to opening night.
As I sat in on a few of last week’s rehearsals, I was struck by the amount of time that must be committed to critical examination of the text. These actors are so committed, and I am looking forward to growing with them and learning from Professors Lococo and Kanelos.
Aaaaaand, We’re back! The Mansfield Park team is rehearsing again after a 10-day break (partially due to Thanksgiving), and what’s more, we’ve moved into the Mullady Theatre, where the production is going to be performed in less than a week’s time. Yesterday was the cast’s first official day on the Mullady Stage (not counting a pizza/get-to-know-the-space party that happened on the Friday before Thanksgiving). The cast got a chance to use many (though not all) of the props that will be used in the production, as well as to start getting used to the feel of a much larger stage and auditorium–many of them for the first time ever.
As it turns out, there are few aspects of performance that do not require an adjustment when placed in a larger space–dances need their staging tweaked; all the staging must be adjusted to take into account the fact that where our rehearsal space had pillars in the middle of the ‘stage,’ the Mullady has none; and all the actors need to adjust their performances in order to be seen and heard in a much larger room, with a potential for a much larger audience than was possible in the Mundelein rehearsal room. What’s more, the cast was working from a newly adjusted script, trying to incorporate these changes into the performances that will be seen on the Mullady stage this coming Saturday and Sunday.
The task is challenging, but certainly not impossible. It has been delightful to watch the cast making these adjustments so readily, and Director Ann Shanahan was quite impressed with the work the cast members had done on their lines during the break. I look forward to watching the progress as the final elements of set, sound, costume and lighting are added.