Organizing a 10-Minute Shakespeare Festival
Dr. Joem Antonio
A script is no good unless it gets staged. 10-Minute Shakespeare is no exception. As the whole project is mainly a pedagogical tool to help students develop a theatrical imagination, the context of this discussion is within pedagogy. Although some ideas to be raised may be applicable outside a learning context, much of the discussion will fall under the premise that the performers are fairly new to the performing arts.
As with many projects, the key to the plan is to have a clear objective and a clear starting point. The difference between the two are the sub-objectives necessary for the completion of the project.
In the case of the 10-Minute Shakespeare Festival, the pedagogical goal is to make the students conscious of Shakespeare's theatricality and its implementations in reading a drama.
The starting point is a general profile of the students before the start of the preparations: many have little to no experience of either Shakespeare or theatre. Very few, if at all, would have experience in both. Also, since the 10-Minute Shakespeare Festival is only an introduction, not a substitute for the actual plays, the preparation should not take longer than a month.
My personal circumstances, in the University I work under, allow me under 90 minutes twice a week with the students. This parameter is my primary consideration: to optimize six sessions to prepare the students for the festival.
Prior to the six-session prep, I first make sure that the students are ensured of a performance venue. At the very beginning of the semester, I already reserve the venue for both performance dates and the final rehearsal.
I then ensure that all the 10-Minute Shakespeare scripts are readily available to the students. Nowadays I refer them to this website.
Then the six-session prep begins.
On the first session, there are three tasks at hand: to divide the class into two groups, assign them plays, and brief them on the deliverables and timeline of the project.
I divide the class by having them choose two directors. The two directors then begin to draft pick classmates for their respective groups, beginning with the stage manager, then the design team, then the actors.
After the groups are formed, the plays are drawn by lot.
The groups are then shown the timeline and the rubrics in grading the different job designations.
As all this usually take around 40-50 minutes, the remaining time is optimized by having the stage manager lead the actors in a read-through of the script, while I prepare the directors and designers for deliverables for the second session: casting and vision.
The class is given a Time Capsule exercise. They write down their ideas and views on Shakespeare's language, on what makes a good play, and on what role to a script has in a production. I then keep their answers to be returned after their final performance.
The Stage Manager continues to drill the cast with reading rehearsals while the Director and Designers pitch to me their vision. I provide feedback, and then lecture the Directors on blocking and the Designers on Design.
Afterwards, the Designers and Directors are given new assignments: Directors should start blocking rehearsal while the Designers present their studies for the posters by Session Three.
I provide feedback on the posters and then proceed to watch the rehearsals. At this point, I do not expect the students to be fully memorized; nor do I expect the blocking to be complete.
The purpose of the session is to manage the Director's expectations of the cast as well as to guide the Director's quality in giving instructions.
I begin to focus on how both the Cast and the Directors understand the lines and the dramatic action.
I also allow the Designers to plan out and consult the costume and props necessary.
By this time, the blocking is complete and the actors are familiar with the lines and actions of the play as well as the posters circulating online.
The plays should be complete and I finally teach the students about stage fights, as Shakespeare abounds in those. After a brief demo, I watch the groups, clock their runs, and give them pointers to fine tune their plays to fit 10-Minutes.
I brief the class about the timetable during the performance dates. This is also when they are told in what order the plays will be presented. Afterwards I view their plays one more time and give them further points for consideration. As this session happens in the performance venue itself, I tend to make sure that they don't rely on blackouts to change scenes.
The students are instructed to go to the performance venue 3-4 hours before the performance time. Each group chooses an area where they can stow away their bags, costumes, and props. Afterwards, everyone is compelled to prepare the venue. The risers, seats, stage and lights have to be prepared and the venue has to be kept clean first before anyone is allowed to wear their costumes and rehearse.
30 minutes before the doors open, everything has to be ready. The first group already occupy the stage.
I give a brief introduction and the plays begin. Halfway we have a 10-Minute intermission. After all the performances I encourage former 10-Minute Shakespeare participants to give the performers some encouraging words. When the audience leaves, the students clean up the auditorium. All notes for improvement are given during class time.
The Time Capsule exercise sheets are returned to the students. They are instructed to attach their sheets to their Notes of Experience, to be submitted the following session.
The video documentation is submitted via YouTube links and a production diary is submitted in PDF format.
This way, the students not only learn but leave a legacy for future 10-Minute Shakespeare participants.