Imagine the responsibility of handling different weapons, learning new dialects, and developing an innovative skill set every day.
That’s what costume major and assistant stage manager Shelby Page does for Romeo and Juliet. Each time she gets involved in a new production at Weber State University, she must gain a new vision to help create the upcoming theater performances. Page said she wouldn’t change anything, because she adores the theater and can’t wait to participate in the plays this semester.
With the help of seasoned student veterans like Page, the performing arts department is focused on preparing for two main plays during the Fall 2011 semester, the first of which is Romeo and Juliet. Twenty three students are participating in the play, and they have less than a month to get everything completed.
“The costume design isn’t just about historic reproduction of the Shakespearean era,” said theater professor and costume designer Catherine Zublin. “It’s about tweaking it and making it a work of art.”
The set design has a medieval Elizabethan theme with a few modern accents to create the feeling of a cathedral. The actors’ costumes for Romeo and Juliet are being hand-made with Elizabethan and modern influences.
“I’m creating clothing for real people who are playing imaginary characters, so that’s a blast,” Zublin said. “I get to create these characters that people read literature about, but now I get to make them look real. So, you might already have an image of a character, but I get to help create that too.”
After Romeo and Juliet finished, students will prepare for Xanadu, a satiric Broadway musical version of the movie.
“This semester, I’m really excited for Xanadu,” Page said. “It’s a musical about roller skating and Greek gods. There’s a centaur and minotaur. It’s fun and it’s going to be a spectacle.”
With both major productions this semester, a variety of talent is needed. Jim Christian, WSU’s resident expert playwright and director of musical studies said the casting process doesn’t have anything to do with entitlement or seniority. He said his goal is always to assemble the best cast for the best possible production.
“Sometimes the most talented person may not fit any of the roles in a show and they walk away empty-handed,” Christian said. “But, it teaches them how to cope and appreciate the situation.”
The theater tries to pick a variety of genres of shows for students to participate in during their four year experience at WSU. The plays range from classics, contemporary work, large-cast shows and small-cast shows. Doing so gives students a variety of experiences on stage and behind the scenes. One of the biggest influences on which shows to perform in a semester is the talent pool of the incoming students.
“If we see we’re coming up on a lot of strong dancers, we’ll do a dance show or we’ll do something that involves stage combat,” Christian said. “We really just want to do work that will meet the needs of the students in the department.”
Other things the faculty looks for when choosing plays are stories that are considered strong literature.
“You can’t rescue bad writing,” Christian said. “If something’s not written well then there’s always going to be a snag in the performance, so I think that’s one of the largest criteria we look at.”
He also said a live performance has a different dynamic than being a passive participant while watching television or a movie.
“In live theater, you’re part of the event,” Christian said. “Your laughter, your breathing, your applause, your attention absolutely fuels the outcome of that event for the evening. It’s a dynamic process and is always changing.”
Information about the performances:
Romeo and Juliet begins Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the Allred Theater.
Xanadu begins Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the Eccles Theater.