What is The Classical Studio?
We are a year-long acting intensive in the Department of Drama at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, concentrating largely on the texts of Shakespeare as the basis for our training. Our core faculty:
J. David Brimmer Darci Picoult
Donna Germain Renee Redding-Jones
Shanga Parker Daniel Spector (Studio Director)
Why are there two casts? Did you really shoot everything twice?
It's just the way we do things, even in non-pandemic times when we're making live theater. For Measure for Measure: The Miniseries, the same company of nine actors make up both casts. With one exception (Duke Vincentio), the actors switch roles so they have an opportunity to confront multiple challenges and play off of more of their classmates. Why is there only one Duke? (A) He gets to do enough as it is, and (B) having one Duke allowed for a sort of shared spine throughout the editing process. And yes, we shot everything twice...
How did you work on this?
We rehearsed entirely over Zoom from October until December 2020, as our department was fully remote for that semester. Upon returning in February, we re-rehearsed both in-person and remotely with an eye towards "staging" the play for video recording. Throughout this time, we conceptualized the production and solved a number of creative problems, like:
•How are we going to display the arrested Claudio and Juliet "to the world"?
•How are we going to do the soliloquies (e.g., which characters have access to the audience)?
•Where should the actors direct their gaze at any given moment?
How did you shoot this?
Throughout shooting, the company worked over Zoom so they could act together in real-time. Simultaneously, each actor would record themselves using QuickTime to produce the videos we used to edit the final project. Thus, for each scene, we edited together all of the takes from each actor to create the illusion of a shared, Zoom-like platform. Why this roundabout and utterly time-intensive method instead of just recording on Zoom? Zoom degrades the quality of video and sound, and that quality was non-negotiable. For non-webcam shots, such as the outdoor sequences and Claudio and Juliet's broadcast, we made do with the health and safety protocols set forth by NYU and the State of New York.
Why did you make this?
We knew this was going to be an extraordinary year so, first and foremost, we wanted to make sure we had a time capsule of this unique moment in storytelling. We also wanted to make sure the actors' friends, family, and peers were able to witness their work at a time when in-person performance was prohibited. And, with no rights to worry about, we were not required to stream or perform live.
Why Measure for Measure?
A pandemic context seems to work for this play given the topsy-turvy state of Vienna. So we fused that context with the sexual licentiousness of the town as portrayed in the play. Likewise, the Duke's surveillance of the Viennese citizens seemed to lend itself to a moment in which we are so often communicating via camera. It was important to us that we said "yes" to the so-called limitations of the real-life pandemic rather than having the actors/characters pretend they weren't really communicating through a camera while alone in their room.
To whom do you owe gratitude?
Many people, whom we recognize in the closing credits of each episode. In addition to the stellar efforts of the Classical faculty, here are some of the folks who made this production possible:
Sara Topham - Coaching
Jake Wichansky - Technical Advisor
Fr. Louis Morrone and Sr. Regina Massarotti - Spiritual Guidance
Ryan Parow, Bridin Clements, and Scott Mancha of the Tisch/Drama PRO
Greg Chan - Technical Advisor
John Kemp - Equipment
Therese Bruck - Costume Support
Emily Erickson - Rehearsal Support
Pompey, Froth, and Elbow are my favorite characters in Measure for Measure. How dare you?
We know. There are many gems of the play that we sacrificed in order to better focus our work with the time and means allowed.