Project 38: King Lear from the SDHS Gang

Writer and actor Blake Chapman (right) performing a scene with Kira Perez

Writer and actor Blake Chapman (right) performing a scene with Kira Perez

Blake Chapman, Writer/Actor

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In the past few years, South Dearborn has helped to develop a tradition of excellence in art, theater, and English.  Mr. Simms and Mr. Zimmerman – two English teachers at SD – have led teams of students in Project 38 since 2015. What is Project 38 you may ask? 

Project 38 is an after-school dramatic and performing arts organization centered around studying and performing Shakespeare. Thirty-eight tri-state schools participate in this event that covers all of Shakespeare’s 38 plays in some form of art or theater. Through the fall, winter, and spring, these 38 schools will find and practice creative ways to display their renditions of Shakespearean plays. The event is run through the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and this group selects the play each school will do. Not only that, but the company also assigns a specific actor or actress to aid in the efforts of organizing and perfecting the performance.

This year, I accepted the challenge to not only perform but also adapt the tragedy King Lear, an intriguing tale illustrating the importance of family as a retired king hands over his land to his only 3 daughters. The play I am writing will also be adapted into the text of 1940’s mobsters. We will also include correct outfits for the time but include important quotes from the play itself as well. This year the company has also selected seasoned actor Brent Vimtrup to help in our quest to complete and perform this excellent play. The cast also includes Josh Presley, Carlo Tolentino, Kira Perez, Lydia Bennett, Kaitlynn Crank and Rachel Montes.

As I am writing the play myself, there have been a few issues and speed bumps along the way. I first started off taking notes and deciding what important interactions we must cover to convey the story easily to the audience, while keeping the soul of Shakespeare’s work alive. We did have to cut back on the amount of characters or scenes, but the heart of a brilliant dramatic production is still present. After a weekend or two of taking notes and reading the play itself, I was ready to write. However, the actual scripting of the notes to the page was much more difficult than I previously imagined. There is many dialogue sequences, requiring extra attention for places you may be able to slip in vocabulary from the 40’s. Using correct stage direction and placement is always stringent, too, deciding the best time for a character to exit or enter is very important.  Props are vital, as well.  It takes much back and forth motion from real text, to notes, to new script to create even one line of dialogue. However, this has been a fantastic experience, and I am glad I grasped at the undertaking to create a project as creative as this.

The performance will take place at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati this Thursday, April 20th during the 6-8:30 PM time block.  I hope you do attend and enjoy our rendition of the fantastically brilliant King Lear.

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Project 38: King Lear from the SDHS Gang