Catching a theatre major with some free time this term will be difficult according to junior Riley Nelson. This Winter Term is a Repertory Term, an immersive theatre program held every three years. Instead of taking normal classes, students selected to be part of the program take three theatre classes and work extensively to produce two shows after just 10 weeks of preparations.
“Everybody is working all the time, just on different things. There are people that have to get in front of it, like the set crew and the stage managers,” Nelson said. “[Staying organized] is largely one day at a time and one week at a time. Some days there isn’t even time to catch a breath, but that’s okay, we’re doing what we love.”
The experience is meant to allow students to get an idea of what it would be like to work for a professional theatre company. Each week, the students get emailed a rough schedule of what events and rehearsals will be happening. Senior Olivia Lemke is production manager for Rep Term and works on publicity for the Theatre Advisory Board. She is in charge of sending those emails to the students.
In the morning, students have either a full company meeting, a production meeting or a theatre class. Students are also assigned crews to work with such as lighting, sound and set design.
“1 p.m. to 6 p.m is crew time (everyone is assigned to different crews and usually multiple crews and then they work as scheduled). 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. are rehearsals the two shows alternate nights,” Lemke wrote in a message to TKS.
The two shows being produced this term are “The Laramie Project” by Moiss Kaufman and “Children’s Hour” by Lillian Hellman. Though the students involved with Rep Term didn’t want to reveal exactly how the plays were going to be produced, they shared that each play would feature a large cast of rotating characters.
“The Laramie Project” is a play about a theatre company investigating the reactions of the high-profile 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay man from Wyoming. The play deals with themes of homophobia, hate and violence in small towns.
“The Children’s Hour” is another play that deals with homophobia. The play is about two headmistresses of an all-girl school who are accused of having a sexual relationship by a spurned student.
Senior Van Johnson is one of the actors in “The Children’s Hour.” Though the hours are long, Johnson is glad to be able work with material that challenges him to become better at his craft.
“Those who participate have to work with three different crews. I’m on publicity, the scene crew and the lighting crew. I also chose to act . . . It’s the first time that I’ve been doing acting and crew work at the same time,” Johnson said. “Things are kept very professional so that it’s an immersion process. It’s like ‘If you want to do this for real, this is the amount of work you have to put in.’”
For Johnson, having a mix between doing hands-on work and having classroom time has been crucial. For example, Johnson stated learning things in beginning acting, such as how to rehearse properly by oneself, came in handy for Rep Term.
“When I came to Knox I got really educated about all the stuff I needed to know about theatre and acting, and just performing in general. That really helped me,” Johnson said.
Nelson has also had a huge learning curve since becoming a stage manager for Rep Term, a position he’d never had before.Though having to stay on top of so many moving parts while also preparing for his role in “The Laramie Project” has been tough, he’s glad to have the opportunity. The idea of community that Rep Term fosters has been worth the effort.
“Knowing everyone around you is doing as much work as you … that feeling is hard to put into words. You know that other people want the same thing as you do and it’s [a] near constant motivation,” Nelson said. “These weeks of our lives we’ve devoted to this and that’s an important way to think about [Rep Term].”
‘Children’s Hour’ will run on February 21, 26, 28 & March 2 at 7:30 p.m and February 23 at 2 p.m. The performance will be located at the Harbach Theatre.
‘The Laramie Project’ will run on February 22, 23, 27 & March 1 at 7:30 p.m. and on March 2 at 2 p.m. The performance will be located at The Studio Theatre.