During the first semester of this year, WGHS English teacher Mrs. Bohlman introduced Mr.Schaefer to a local actress with a project that needed to be produced... and the rest is history. Lakeetha was invited to speak to the Adv Drama Class about working as porfessional actor in St Louis, her past projects and what she hoped to do in the future. This lead to a discussion about a script she had been developing for the stage that was based on historical events in America's past.
Mr.Schaefer set up a meeting to read the script and discuss the possibilities of the show being given it's first showing at Webster HS and the deal was set.
Redeeming History Theatricals
was officially born and the script that Lakeetha had been working on for years was finally given it's chance to be staged and presented for a live audience of students and adults. In the two days at Webster in Feb 2014, Lakeetha performed the show six times for over 350 people.
It was a huge success!
It was a thrilling journey into new work and Mr. Schaefer served as the producer/director and tech director on this exciting new theatrical project. The task was ultimately very simple; design and build a show that can travel and have the ability to be presented in many different locations depending on the space or tech provided by that location.
The tech theater classes read the script outloud in class and drew up some initial designs that were used to inspire the final look of the show. Mr. Schaefer ended up designing the final set, and with some real ingenuity he created a set that folded up like a puzzle and fit into the actress's small four door car.
It was to resemble a small slave shake on the edge of a southern plantation, and it had the bare essentials to help move the story forward. We made sure we had some items on the set that would help keep the action consistent and give Jenn things to do during the telling of the story.
To see the video of the strike visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6rdOvFa2rQ
(Designed and photographed by Todd Schaefer)
Things like a clothesline, a small fence to keep the chickens, some baskets, a bucket, a laundry basket, some steps, a doorway into the house and a small kitchen shelf allowed the audience to see through the house and allowed the audiences imagination to fill in the rest of the world.
Every performance had some fresh produce in it and Jenn would work through snapping beans or peas while sitting on steps talking to us. She would also have a basket of carrots she was to be prepping for dinner. We added some texture to the design with pieces of colorful African inspired fabric on the clothesline for her to be hanging or folding.
Jenn was always doing something, and Lucy too.
A special lighting effect for Jenn's rendition of "Steal Away to Jesus"
The props were kept to a minimum for the most part to help the show travel easily and to make packing the show quick.
We spent several months putting the show together. It was written in the form of one long monolgue and the script didn't originally have much stage direction or staging notations. Mr. Schaefer and Lakeetha worked through each moment of the story Jenn was telling and they broke the monologue into beats that allowed the tech to evolve a bit and help break up the show with subtle audio and visual elements. (ie sound effects of farm animals, horse and wagon noises, crickets sounds for the night scenes, etc)
Jenn walks us through several different periods of her journey and we used lighting quite a bit to help break up the moments. The technicinas at WG Drama created a lot of really nice moments that allowed Lakeetha to transition the story into Jenn's past and then back into her present. The show had some very emotional sections that needed the mood to shift and change accordingly.
We also had a young actress by the name of Autumn Bloom join us to play the part of young Lucy, a girl who was brought to Jenn by the master, and ended up staying with her as her daughter.
Jenn is pregnant during the play and Lucy is to be about 10-11 years old. The young Autumn was great and she brought a certain relief to the parts of the play that got very heavy and tough for Jenn and the audience to bear.
The chemistry was really nice between the actresses and they worked together well!
Lakeetha had many songs sung in the show. They were all performed live by the actress and they all had a haunting edge to them that created a definite atmosphere reflecting her struggle as a black woman of that time. The songs were mostly "code" songs from the past that the slaves used to communicate, and to add something new she even had a song that a relative of hers had written for the show called "It/Freedom Belong to Me"
St Louis Elite Dance http://stledance.org/ joined us for the evening performances and we had the opportunity to add yet another element of theatrics to the show. The dancers started the show with a wonderful performance of contemporary movement to the song "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" and they were amazing. The four dancers wowed the audiences with there precision and beautiful choreography.
Then we added them to various parts of the show, and when the character of Jenn went through a moment of loss we brought the dancers back out to help sell the moment even more.
This was a true labor of love for Lakeetha and we are so thrilled we got to be a part of the journey she is now on to become the local theater company producing original historical productions that shed light on American history and the untold richness of black culture. She is currently touring this show to high schools, various churches and hope to get picked up by the MO History Museum or libraries in the area.
To get a hold of Lakeetha's company REDEEMING HISTORY THEATRICALS or to contact them, BOOK A SHOW or to see more info about what she's got coming up!
Visit the following link.
To see a montage of "SWEET JENN: A Living Exhibit"
Visit the following link: