My Honors Thesis was the research and direction of the musical Godspell at the University of Maine. Godspell was first produced in 1970. It is based on the book of Matthew which follows the parables taught by Jesus Christ. The cast, production team, and crew will be UMaine students or recent alums. I wanted to direct this show in order to have the experience in my undergraduate career and prove a student run musical can be done here. Although there have been multiple student productions produced by the theater club Maine Masque at UMaine, there has never been a full scale musical. With this project, I not only completed the usual directorial duties (such as analyze the script, cast the show etc.), but also created my own distinct interpretation of the show and applied all that I have learned in my career as a theater student at UMaine.
Experience in directing a musical is the cumulative peak of my artistic and academic career. As a theater student, I have been taught both technical theater skills, as well as performance skills. Directing blends all aspects of theater. The director is responsible for helping the cast tell the story and working with the production team to present a unified vision.
I chose to direct Godspell because it gave me the opportunity to blend theater and history (my two majors) and to better learn to create an ensemble. In order to integrate both majors, I set Godspell in 1968. I chose this year because it was the turning point of the 1960s in America both socially (with many college protests as well as the death of Martin Luther King Jr.) and politically (with the election of Nixon and the decline of support for the Vietnam War). 1968 was a time of radical citizens and conservative politicians creating the tension necessary for the actors to create their characters in Godspell and thus created a context that serves the play.
Godspell can be set in any turbulent era because the story is transcendent. Though the text is based on biblical verse, the show itself is about overcoming differences and coming together as a community much more than about religion or politics. This is what drew me to the text initially and why Godspell was so important for the School of Performing Arts. It is very rare that the dance minors, music majors (both vocal and instrumental) and theater majors all work on the same project. However, the most important component about working creatively with other people is the development of an ensemble. Godspell is unique in its dependence on improvisation making it primarily ensemble driven. The show is not about the journey of one character, like most stories, but rather the journey of the group through music, dance and text. As a result, music, dance and theater students all bring a unique perspective to the rehearsal process. In this way, Godspell is not only a great opportunity for me to expand and conclude my undergraduate career, but also a chance for the cast, crew and production team to learn more about collaboration and the value of a process where everyone is essential.
In the following thesis, I explore the directorial theatrical process from auditions to closing as well as the impact of this show at UMaine. This was a long and often difficult journey, but the end product was well worth the effort. Through these writings, I wish to explain how directing a student show works as well as give feedback about this unique experience from my point of view and the view of the student production team and cast.
Kelly, Nellie M., "Directing "Godspell"" (2015). Honors College. 217.