Story by Lauren Baker
Drake University’s J-term students performed an original adaptation of “West Side Story” and “Romeo and Juliet” called “Bernstein and the Bard.”
Drake professors Karla Kash and Andrew Ryker used various scenes from “Romeo and Juliet” and juxtaposed them with the music from “West Side Story.”
The 35 cast members in “Bernstein and the Bard” went through an intensive two-and-a-half weeks of rehearsals.
On average, the class rehearsed for nine hours, five days a week and Saturday as needed.
“I don’t think this is necessarily for the faint of heart,” said first-year Stuart Kofron of his experience.
All student actors had to have their lines and songs memorized before the first rehearsal.
The directors taught everything in the script in just four and a half days. After the cast learned everything in the script, they rehearsed intensely for one-and-a-half weeks.
This experience helped give Drake theater students crucial real-life experience. Professional theater companies rehearse for two weeks before they perform.
“This is one of the most imperative scenarios for our students,” Kash said.
This is also not an experience student receive during the spring or fall semesters.
The average musical at Drake takes about eight weeks of rehearsal before it is ready to perform.
The first day of J-term was cancelled due to the cold and set the production off to a rough start. An entire scene had to be cut from the musical to save time.
Different parts of the production kept changing as the rehearsals continued. This includes the choreography to the song “America,” which kept changing up until opening night.
“The Bernstein and the Bard” was not part of the main stage production series that the theatre department puts on each year.
This production had no budget. Everything came out of the director’s pockets.
They recruited set designers and costume designers from the Des Moines area to help out.
The project was collaborative. A senior student created all of the choreography for “West Side Story,” and another student did all of the dialect work.
All but four of the actors in the show played two characters.
“There were a few instances where people (underclassmen) would start to get a little freaked out because things were moving along super fast, and they weren’t used to it,” said senior Katie Hahn, who played Juliet Capulet. “We would just talk about it and say that this are how things are in the real world and don’t freak-out because it all works out in the end.”
Kash was very proud of how far the seniors have come.
“We have a dynamic senior class,” said Kash, “It is a huge class and they have so much talent and large personalities.”
“Bernstein and the Bard” was Drake’s second J-Term production.
A rapid paced production like this is one reason that makes Drake such a good place to major in theater.
At the end of J-Term the class performed the musical three times in front of an audience.
“I had such a great time with it, that when I got done it was the awareness that I accomplished something I never thought I could do,” Kofron said, “That accomplishment of it commencing, it was like crossing the finish line. I felt like I conquered a mountain.”