Festival Employees Share Personal Experiences Regarding Believe Campaign
Believe (verb): To embrace a conviction with the heart and mind, drawing certainty from personal experience or intuition
To inspire connectivity this 2023 season and beyond, the Utah Shakespeare Festival excitedly launched the Believe Campaign. With this campaign, the Festival is asking beloved patrons to believe in the organization and the transformative power of live theatre.
However, the campaign doesn’t just appeal to patrons, but to Festival employees as well. Directors Jessica Kubzansky and Valerie Rachelle share their experiences with the power of theatre, and Scenic Designer Jason Lajka describes his experience designing the set for Jane Austen’s Emma the Musical.
Director Valerie Rachelle on Believing in the Power of Theatre
Director Valerie Rachelle’s experience with the power of theatre began at a young age.
“I have believed in theatre and performing arts since I was a child,” Rachelle said. “My parents were professional magicians, so I grew up seeing how performing could not just entertain, but lift the hearts of an audience.”
In 2011, Rachelle had an incredible experience that further cemented her love for theatre.
“I was in a production of Chicago in Los Angeles, and the woman playing Velma had just returned to performing after seven years,” Rachelle said. “We were backstage talking, and she was expressing how thankful she was to get back onstage.”
“It was a production she saw in Solvang of Les Miserables that gave her the courage to try again. She said the woman who played Fantine made her cry and inspired her to perform again,” Rachelle said. “I looked at her in disbelief, because I was that performer who played Fantine in Solvang.”
It is that same transformative experience that Rachelle had that she hopes audience members experience from the show she directed this season, Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical.
In an early interview, Rachelle explained that she hoped by the end of the show, the audience members would be uplifted, hug their spouse, hold hands with a loved one, or say “I love you” to someone they care about.
“After our first preview had ended for Emma, there was a couple sitting in front of me. The wife looked at her husband and asked, ‘Are you crying?’” Rachelle said. “The man didn’t say anything, he just hugged her. And that was my goal for Emma––that the power of theatre would inspire the audience to spread pure joy and love to others.”
Egeus’ Transformation in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Director Jessica Kubzansky
In an exclusive 2023 season interview, Director Jessica Kubzansky encouraged patrons to look for Egeus’s transformation in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Through the power of theatre, Egeus realizes the error of his ways and comes to a startling realization regarding his daughter.
Kubzansky explains the transformation below:
“Nathan Hosner, playing Egeus, made a gorgeous discovery for the character and the story. Egeus is the one person that doesn’t go through the woods at night, and he’s insisting his daughter marry someone she doesn’t want to. He shows up the next day [but the Duke] overrrules him.
“When he ends up at the celebration of the nuptials of the couples, the mechanicals’ perform the play Pyramus and Thisbe, a star-crossed lover’s story very much like Romeo and Juliet, which is particularly fitting, given the Festival’s current season.
“Egeus watches that play and suddenly realizes that what happened to Thisbe could have been what happened to his daughter, if the Duke hadn’t overruled him. He discovers the power of theatre. . .and perhaps now he’s going to have a happier and more fulfilled life.”
Jason Lajka on the Set Design Process of Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical
Much of Lajka’s job as a set designer is believing that the choices he makes will connect with an audience, months before the audience is even in the theatre.
The process of designing Emma started last August with initial design meetings––ten months before the show opened.
Some of the questions during these brainstorming sessions included: What story are we trying to tell? What emotions are we trying to evoke? Would the story be best told on a square/angular set, or a circular/organic set? How much story does the scenery need to tell in relation to time and location?
From there, Lajka makes “a bit of a leap of faith.”
“I then design the set. I put down on paper what I think is going to fulfill the discussed needs,” Lajka said.
From there, Lajka met with directors, designers, and production staff often, pushing and pulling the design to align with their intentions.
Then, the audience arrives.
“We’ve been working in a bubble for so long up until this moment––now it’s opening night, and we’re sitting in the audience not only as creators of the immersive experience, but now as members of a connected group.”
Sitting in that audience, Lajka and other Festival staff members ask themselves: “Will what we decided to do in the design process resonate? Will the audience believe?”
It is at this moment that the designers’ hope in their own work is handed over to audience members, giving patrons the ultimate control to believe in the power of theatre for themselves.
For more information or to purchase tickets for the 2023 season, visit bard.org or call 800-PLAYTIX.