Two acts, two different eras, and Dr. Ralf Remshardt, director and School of Theatre + Dance professor, made them come together harmoniously in Clybourne Park, the school’s second partnership with the Hippodrome (the first was Avenue Q in the summer of 2013).
Remshardt jumped at the chance to lead the production. He saw the play in London and was blown away by the wit and ferocity of the writing.
Designing the set was the most difficult part of process, according to Remshardt. The Hippodrome’s stage layout features a thrust stage, meaning the audience surrounds it on three sides, as opposed to a proscenium stage where the audience is placed on one side of the stage.
Once the set was designed after heavy communication with set designer Mihai Ciupe, Remshardt was able to imagine the staging over the summer, as the show had already been cast.
“Half of directing is casting, which was especially true in this case,” Remshardt says. “You want actors who get it.”
The second act, taking place in 2009, fell into place much quicker than the first, which takes place in 1959. Remshardt says they worked especially hard at making the character transformations clear between the two acts.
The play came together in just over two weeks. The rehearsal process differed from a traditional UF production, as rehearsals for the Hippodrome last six hours during the day, and rehearsals at UF last about four hours in the evenings. Remshardt says he’s found that with longer rehearsals during the day actors are more focused and the work is more concentrated.
Remshardt says he is especially proud of Clybourne Park for how well it shows off UF students. All but one cast member is either a current student or a graduate of the School of Theatre + Dance.
“This was a very good demonstration of [the actors’ bright futures in professional theatre] and gave me the greatest thrill,” Remshardt says.
Clybourne Park tackles difficult topics such as race and real estate. Remshardt says he hopes the production will lead the audience into a “vigorous discussion” when they leave the theatre.
“I hope they’ll do some introspection, but I also hope they’ll have a good time,” he says.
Clybourne Park is on stage at the Hippodrome through Sept. 28, 2014. Tickets can be purchased at tickets.thehipp.org.