On July 18, 2020, 100 high school students from the Ventura Unified School district will be treated to a Zoom MacBeth, courtesy of the Rubicon Theatre Company’s Fearless Shakespeare program. The teens are participating in the Library’s Youth Services summer reading program and this partnership with Rubicon is the first of it’s kind.
Working to engage kids outside of the theatre’s summer program has long been a goal of Kirby Ward, head of Rubicon’s youth season. Ward has been running the program since 2018. “The hard work these kids put in during our summer camps is remarkable and intense. It will be wonderful for their peers to see the fruits of their labor.” Originally, the hope had been for the Friends of the Library to bring a full house worth of middle schoolers to see a production from the Musical Theatre Camp. When it became evident that for the foreseeable future no shows would be happening on stage at Rubicon’s Main Street address, Ward switched gears. Rubicon reached out to Charles McDermott who is President of the Friends of the Library and offered the complimentary Zoom codes. “Taking on William Shakespeare’s immortal words is both a challenge and a gift for our students. But the work is for nothing if they can’t share it with an audience. We want the community to see it, and especially young people.”
COVID-19 has shut down Rubicon in the physical sense, but the summer education programs are going strong. Ward has embraced the opportunities presented by Zoom and online learning in general and he’s bringing his staff and the students along for a wild ride. Zoom MacBeth is guided by Director, Joseph Fuqua, who has run the Fearless Shakespeare program for more than a decade. Each morning, the students rehearse for several hours and then self-tape themselves as they work on scenes with their cast-mates. The videos are then sent to RTC’s videographer, Joseph DeMaria, who is compiling then into a Zoom masterpiece. The end result will be a part livestream, part video, part home-studio extravaganza.
Ward is eager to see what the high schoolers participating in the Library Youth Services summer reading program take away from the Zoom MacBeth. Rubicon is providing the Library with Mr. Fuqua’s edited version of the script for comparison to the Bard’s original. Fuqua has always tailored his revision to his audience – young people who may be seeing Shakespeare for the first time. He tries to keep his production’s running time under two hours, that’s including intermission, and he typically places his productions in a contemporary setting. This year’s MacBeth features a a spin on Graphic novels and their popularity with young readers.
Ward, McDermott and Fuqua are expecting this to be an interesting experiment in exploring how live theatre will translate to Zoom. All three are betting the Bard’s words can gain some new (and youthful) fans. “Theatre needs an audience,” says Ward, “this may be an unorthodox way of finding one but we want our students to understand that artists must evolve and respond to the realities around them.”