Hamden Hall Country Day School

Educating students in PreSchool through Grade 12

Hamden Hall Goes Hollywood with Theatre Filming

Hamden Hall has gone Hollywood in terms of the number of films currently being produced on campus by our theatre groups.

Both the Upper School fall production and the Middle School play will be movies this year due to COVID-19 challenges. There’s something in the works for Grades 5 and 6 as well.

What would normally be the fall play for Upper School thespians is an original film, according to theater manager and teacher Charlie Alexander. Obviously a topical undertaking, the current working name is:  6 Feet.

“Students have spent the first two months of school creating plot lines, commercials, music videos and more – all starting from a single idea: what fits in the six feet that separates us?” Mr. Alexander said.

Twenty-five students have been meeting in small groups to create storylines that explore the events of the world around us. Mr. Alexander said he started by creating "problems" for the students to solve. For instance, in the second week of rehearsals, students created public service announcements based on some of the themes that were brainstormed. The results? A Zoom Thanksgiving dinner about what you should and shouldn't talk about during the holidays and students struggling with the directional social distance protocols on campus.

“This project has provided students with a venue to poke fun at the extraordinary experience we are all having during the pandemic. At the same time, we have created a safe space in which the students are able to reflect on the experiences and challenges we are facing. Those challenges inform the work, and the playfulness of creating the work brings levity to coping process. I think it’s fair to say that those of us involved are all looking forward to the rehearsal hours every day,” maintained Mr. Alexander.

The entire experience has been different from a typical theater undertaking because students have been devising the plot and story lines together. That requires students to construct a broad topic, create boundaries, and then craft something that works that can be spliced into a larger plotline, according to Mr. Alexander who has had to modify his own interaction in the project.

“I feel like I am facilitating more than directing,” he said. “I provide an environment for creativity and an avenue through which they can take work to the next step. The creation work is on them. The filming we are just getting to. We get to 'go on location'!”

To view a sneak peek of one segment of the film, click here. A mid-December premier is planned for the movie.

In the Middle School, The Bard has never been so hip as the 2020 Hamden Hall movie version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Hiphop and R&B Edition). Theater teacher Karl Gasteyer noted that he is working with students to turn parts of the Shakespeare text into hip hop and R&B songs for the musical comedy. 

“The entire project is being shot in front of a green screen and we will spend parts of December and January editing all the footage down into a movie,” said Mr. Gasteyer. “The language is Shakespeare’s text with sections of dialogues and monologues set to musical arrangements.”

Working alongside Mr. Gasteyer is our new art teacher of Grades 5-8, Kristen Thornton. Ms. Thornton is providing costumes, make-up, and background art for the students who are performing on camera.

Shooting scene by scene, students, about 25 of them, have been working four days a week after school from 3:15 to 5:30 p.m. All recorded footage is filmed outdoors in front of a green screen without sound. Calling the process “much different for a live production,” Mr. Gasteyer said there are many off-camera positions such as camera and boom operators, script supervisors, and film editors.

“The costume, sets, camera, and editing crew are just as much a part of the process as the actors. It’s a work in progress and a huge experiment but we are having a great time making it,” said Mr. Gasteyer.

Scenes are rehearsed for a day or two before filming occurs. Mr. Gasteyer said all filming should be wrapped up by Thanksgiving and that a mid-January online showing of the movie is planned.

“This is a new and unique undertaking here at Hamden Hall, and it is designed so that much of it can be done from home if we have to go back to distance learning and so that students who are currently learning from home can still take part,” he said.
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Hamden Hall Country Day School is a nurturing and inclusive community with a dynamic learning environment that promotes academic excellence by understanding each child and fostering their individual growth.