“The Mother Courage Project” brings innovation and creativity to the stage

Posted on May 26th, 2020 by

The three-inch model of the set created by Nicole Meyer '20, complete with propaganda posters and figurines of the actors.

Everything about this year’s Gustavus Adolphus College Department of Theatre and Dance production of Bertolt Brecht’s war-time play Mother Courage is a little unorthodox: 10 directors, a three-inch scale model of the set, and original music recorded by students living thousands of miles away from each other. But through lots of hard work, innovation, and experimentation, the student cast will premiere the online adaption of The Mother Courage Project Wednesday, May 27, at 7:30 p.m. via Google Meet.

This is no small feat. The original plan for this year’s mainstage production was to perform in the brand new Rob and Judy Gardner Laboratory Theatre, which opened this fall. Set designer Nicole Meyer ’20 says she spent several months leading up to the show researching and designing the set as part of her honors theatre project. But, right as they were about to start building, the College moved to online instruction due to COVID-19. 

Meyer says this loss felt devastating. “I was in a weird spot where all the work I could do outside of the scene shop was done,” she says. “I didn’t want so much work to go to waste and not be able to see what could have been.” So, Meyer built her own three-inch scale model of the set in her garage complete with propaganda posters and figures to scale of the actors in the play. The model is used in an important part of the work that will be unveiled Wednesday.

One of the biggest changes to the production was a change in leadership. Professor of Theatre Amy Seham, who is also the show’s director, decided this would be a chance for the students in her beginning directing class to get their hands dirty. Each of the 10 students took over directing a scene, recreating it in their own interpretation and communicating that to their fellow student actors. Some students have chosen to animate their scenes, while others have taken creative approaches to videography. Seham says the juxtaposition of several different styles will only add to the production. “The show will be a montage of innovative solutions to making art under quarantine,” she says. 

Morgan Fuller ’20 as Mother Courage.

Morgan Fuller ’20 had been cast as “Mother Courage” in the final piece of her honors theatre project earlier this year. While her feature role means that she is acting in most of the scenes, she is also directing a couple herself. She says it has been a different kind of challenge that has involved her entire community at home. Fuller’s dad has been behind the camera almost the entire time, while her brother has helped with some of the acting. She even sourced a wagon from a neighboring farm.The theatre department is such an amazing place to learn to be adaptable and creative,” she says. “This situation has allowed me to use those skills in the real world and apply them in a new way.”

Conrad Oddoye ’20 had never been a part of a theatre production before this spring, when he signed on to compose the music for the show. Oddoye is a psychological science major who began playing classical piano as a seven-year old and wrote his first arrangement at age 10. He used the existing text and composed music to go with it. Oddoye then led the cast in recording their parts at home and is producing an album from the recordings. “It’s very difficult to collaborate across distance,” he says. “When you’re collaborating in music—when you’re doing it on the fly—it’s a lot easier. A voice can change in the same day, even the same hour. But for the most part I was able to make it really easy for people to listen and hear how it should sound.”

Through countless emails and Zoom meetings, Fuller says the cast and crew of Mother Courage have collaborated to create a production that they hope speaks to people.  “When the audience watches it, I want them to remember to try—that all we can do is try,” she says. “I hope they see the indomitable spirit of these characters and take a little bit of that with them when they leave the show.”

The Mother Courage Project will air at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 27, via Google Meet.


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