Wow! What a night! Last night we hosted our largest New Works/New Communities (NW/NC) event to date. My name is Daunielle Rasmussen and I am, among many other things here at Cal Shakes, the Community Engagement Manager for the NW/NC program. I began fulfilling the responsibilities of this job title last December and have had an amazing year of discovering what our community engagement program is.
In the last week, we have opened the "doors" of our outdoor Bruns Amphitheater to the talented young actors of Oakland Technical High School to prepare for a one-night-only performance of their much celebrated production of Hamlet: Blood in the Brain. Since March, we have become close collaborators; upon hearing that they were selected to take Blood in the Brain (the first work created through NW/NC) to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, we knew we needed to send them off in style.
The company members of OakTechRep first set foot on our grounds last Monday when they came to rehearse in the space. We were immediately blown away by their professionalism and dedication. This is no mere group of teenagers—this is a well-trained team of actors who are giving, fun, and extremely talented. The process of putting on the performance last night went insanely fast. They had one four-hour rehearsal in the theater on Monday, July 19 to reset their blocking to our space. They had to use and work around the set that we currently have on stage for Mrs. Warren’s Profession—a play as different from this one in aesthetic tone as could be.
The second rehearsal was a technical rehearsal wherein we added in sound and light cues. In between the two rehearsals, members of our tech team—composed of interns from Cal Shakes' Professional Immersion Program—and theirs feverishly worked to solidify what cues and lighting design could be done with what was already hung for Mrs. Warren’s. Sunday night, after Mrs. Warren's had ended, we tech'd Blood in the Brain from 7 to 11pm. The kids were released but we kept working on notes and adjusting the lights. Monday (yesterday) the OakTechRep cast showed up at 4pm for a speed-through of the play, took a short break for dinner, and went straight into the show at 7:30pm.
The house was almost full, which felt fantastic! We were so pleased to be able to share this special event with such a large group, many of whom were completely new to our Theater. The only disappointment was the weather. The wind was so bad it was hard to hear the actors from the back of the house, and it was sooooo cold! We were worried that the large standing mirror—one of the few props OakTechRep brought with them—would blow over. I had to run backstage at one point to ask one of the actors to stand behind it during the scene. Overall, though, the show was an amazing success: We raised $1,100 to continue and deepen the residency partnership between Cal Shakes and Oakland Tech.
This group is special, and I feel like I have gained so much just by being in their presence.
Photo of OakTechRep curtain call by Jay Yamada.