This is how we do it: Building a Set

Now that we’ve got a terrific opening weekend under our belt, we present another glimpse into the making of our productions…

Our productive relationship with Pomona College has given us a beautiful playing space in the Sontag Greek Theater. Our challenge in putting up Macbeth and The Merry Wives of Windsor became: how do we build a beautiful, atmospheric set that can easily be changed from night to night to keep up with our repertory schedule? Here’s the answer: a photographic documentation of our Merry Wives set construction!

First, our wonderful Scenic Designer, Dave Ward, plans out what the set will look like, collaborating with the director; Ward will help build the set as well, sticking around until its finished.

Now that we have plans, we build up and paint our platforms, where the cast will spend most of the performance. Those pieces, including flat stage, ramps, and stairs, fit together like a jigsaw. As a whole unit, the platforms are pushed up against the cement stage at the back of the space.

The platforms are then painted a color that matches the foundation of the theater, so that we create a neutral space in which the worlds of Macbeth and Merry Wives can both exist. 

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Here, we load in the extra pieces for our opening night of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

After establishing the basic set, we construct and paint the pieces specific to each show.

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The Merry Wives set pieces are readied for installment.

Those smaller “flats”, or two-dimensional set pieces, are broken into smaller pieces and moved into the theater to be reconstructed, as shown below.

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Pieces of our Merry Wives flats are reassembled on the Sontag stage.

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The set pieces are completed

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Bit by bit, putting it together.

The pieces are set into pegs attached to the basic platform, and tightened into place: this insures a quick and simple transfer of the Merry Wives set for the Macbeth set.

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Our Merry Wives set is now ready for opening night.

Finally, we light the set by night to get just the right effect for performance!


The Merry Wives cast performs on our brand new set


Macbeth tonight at 8 PM!

The gates of the Sontag Greek Theater open at 6pm to give you plenty of time to picnic and enjoy today’s activities:

For tickets to Macbeth & directions to the Sontag visit Tickets can also be bought or picked up at will call at the Box Office, located in the Seaver Theater Complex on the Pomona College campus in Claremont.


Costuming Intern Megan Bush enjoys last night’s pre-show activities

Come leap with us!

Announcing the Midsummer Shakespeare Festival Line-up!

Come enjoy fine picnicking, music, and activities at the Sontag Greek Theater this Saturday & Sunday! Our Shakespeare Festival begins at 6 PM each evening, preceding our productions of The Merry Wives of Windsor on 7/19 and Macbeth on 7/20.

On Saturday 7/19 our Festival will feature:

  • Folk musician Mark Thompson & singer Jonathan Mack
  • The Historical European Martial Arts Alliance
  • our face-painting troupe
  • poetry writing
  • costuming history

On Sunday 7/20 our Festival will feature:

  • Folk singers Ashley Romero & Brian Mangino
  • our face-painting troupe
  • poetry writing
  • costuming history

As a teaser for next weekend, look forward to Celtic musical troupe Sportive Tricks, and more from Mark Thompson & Jonathan Mack!


The Merry Wives of Windsor opening tomorrow night!

Two merry wives, a bumbling would-be lothario, and a whole hilarious cast of characters is gearing up to greet you at the Sontag this Thursday night!


The cast, rehearsing in all their glory…

Ophelia’s Jump invites you to arrive at 7 PM to enjoy our 7:30 pre-show, featuring The Mechanicals and their special brand of Shakespearean improv comedy. We strongly encourage you to bring cushions and blankets, as our Greek style amphitheater is composed of stone benches. We also strongly encourage the bringing of fun beverages and foods to enjoy picnic style. The Euro Cafe and the Last Drop Cafe will be providing boxed meals for the event. These are available to pick up at their locations in Claremont Village.

For more information on our location, and tickets to the show, visit Join us for a frivolous night of classic comic fun…

A little night mischief

Through the gracious cooperation of the Pomona College Department of Theater and Dance, we’ve been sharing one of their stages for our two summer productions. This means that occasionally we have to make way for other activities, as we did on Friday July 11th, when we moved our set out, under cover of darkness.

Enjoy this little interlude, featuring the cast and crew of Ophelia’s Jump…

Director as Actress: Beatrice Casagran in Macbeth

After speaking with  Shakespeare’s dark and daring Macbeth (see my earlier interview with Judd Johnson), I decided to take a look at the great woman behind the great man. Beatrice Casagran, Founding Artistic Director of Ophelia’s Jump Productions, talked with me about her experience playing the notorious Lady Macbeth. 

RM: This is a legendary role in drama. How do you think you’ll bring your own spin to it?

BC: It is a role that is on almost every actress’s bucket list and I’m very excited to have the opportunity to bring her to life.It is challenging partly because she seems so strong and then suddenly so weak. I think a successful portrayal of Lady M has to provide a believable characterization that lets the audition follow and understand her arc. I try not to enter a role with any hard and fast ideas about the character, and stay open to making discoveries and decisions about the character with the director in the rehearsal process. However, I hope I can bring dimension to her so that her story is clear and makes sense to the audience.

RM: Lady Macbeth is a woman with very intense motivation that causes her to eventually lose her mind. What do you feel is the core of that drive in the play? 

BC: She is very ambitious and I think she loves her husband. Her only avenue to fulfill her own ambitions is his success. She supports him and says what she thinks is necessary to give him the conviction he needs to make the prophecies happen. However, she never really has it in her to kill anyone, though she tells her husband that she would. Though she’s determined to help her husband to the throne even if it means she becomes the instigator of a political assassination, she starts to falter right away once the act is done.

Then as Macbeth’s own ambition grows and leads him to start killing bystanders, friends, and then women and children, she cannot live with her guilt anymore. As the spiral of death deepens and Macbeth spins out of control, she also loses her husband, her one ally. She becomes almost irrelevant to him and unable to reach him. If she had become completely amoral, I don’t think she would have gone mad.


Casagran (center) at a full cast read through for Macbeth, a preliminary step in the rehearsal process

RM: Macbeth is one of the most infamous plays in Shakespeare’s canon, connected to all sorts of legends and ghost stories. How do you prepare for work that comes with all that? 

BC: Well, as Artistic Director for the company, I started some of the work necessary to act in the play when I chose the season and as Kevin and I developed and discussed our metaphors and concepts for the Midsummer Shakespeare Festival. [We chose to set our shows] in the late 60s…I am a child of the 60s and 70s, so some of the work involved looking at old family pictures, but also thinking about the role of women then and the challenges and barriers that they faced.

RM: You are directing The Merry Wives of Windsor as you rehearse for Macbeth. How are you finding balance in those two undertakings? 

BC: In most cases, because of the Art Direction process I just described, I’ve approached the two plays as one project. However, it is definitely a huge time commitment and not something I could pull off during the school year when I’m teaching. The festival and Ophelia’s Jump are taking all my time right now. Luckily it is work that I love and feel passionate about. A particular challenge is memorizing lines for Lady M. It takes a different type of concentration from other tasks, and I will need to set time aside each day, since it is very important to me that I meet memorization deadlines. I don’t want to drag the rehearsal process down.


Casagran rehearses on the Sontag stage

RM: What are you looking forward to about putting up this show and playing this role? 

BC: So many things: creating moving, challenging theater for our audiences; starting what I hope will be an annual summer event involving most of the Claremont business community; and of course, continuing to build Ophelia’s Jump with my family and our growing group of talented board members, actors, designers, and interns. I’m working with these people on a project I’m passionate about. I could not ask for more.

Casagran will appear alongside Judd Johnson and the talented OJP company in Macbeth, running from July 18th-26th at the Sontag Greek Theater in Claremont. Buy tickets and ask questions at  or over the phone at 909.624.1464. Directions to the Sontag Greek Theater can be found at or on the back of your tickets!


Bud Harte is the infamous Falstaff

As my profiling of the Macbeth and The Merry Wives of Windsor rehearsals continues, I knew I had to get a few words in from Bud Harte, who will be taking the famous and quintessentially Shakespearean role of Sir John Falstaff in the latter production. I asked him what it was like to reawaken a centuries old character. 

RM: Falstaff is one of the most iconic figures in classic English theater. What has it been like for you, bringing such a classic archetype to life in a contemporary context? 

BH: The beauty of archetypes is that they transcend time periods. Falstaff (and many of the characters in Merry Wives) borrow heavily from the Commedia [dell’Arte] tradition. Falstaff is a great example of the blustering Il Capitano– who believes the stories he tells about himself and his exploits. As such, he is a joy to play and easily transitions to any period.

RM: This show has some very dark concepts, jealousy, greed, vengeance. How do you find the comedy in all that, particularly given that you play both antagonist and fool?

BH: Comedy has shades, just as tragedy does. The difference is that characters in comedy learn their lesson. Comedy reinforces the human spirit because everyone feels like they can improve if given the chance, and these characters improve; Ford learns to trust his wife, and Falstaff learns…. well, he learns that if there is enough distraction, all will be forgiven in the end.


Harte gamely greets a photographer while rehearsing onstage at the Sontag

RM: Do you feel like the 60’s setting has affected your own character choices? If so, how?

BH: I think the period setting will be enjoyable, but the archetypal nature of the role makes it easy to adapt to any era. I found the idea to be thematically much clearer than many other “resets” of Shakespeare. I once sat through a four hour Kabuki Macbeth. I still don’t know why they thought that was a good idea. Certainly the “Summer of Love” theme works well with this play.

RM: How do you deal with such a huge role that has a following and so much dialogue? 

BH: I’ve done the role before in a Cal Poly Production that was performed at the Globe Theater in Los Angeles. It was an amazing opportunity to perform Shakespeare in a half-sized authentic interior reproduction of Shakespeare’s original Globe. I’m primarily concerned with being as authentic as possible. I can’t worry about the tradition and impact of the role. I do my best to bring the character to life. Then nothing else matters, for I will have done all I can to continue the tradition and live up to the expectations.

Tradition is alive and well as Merry Wives goes up July 17th-27th at the Sontag Greek Theater in Claremont. For tickets and more information, visit

A Midsummer Shakespeare Festival

OJP knows what makes the experience of producing live theater truly special–our audience! We invite our lovely attendees to join us for our Midsummer Shakespeare Festival. The event will begin at 6:00 pm prior to each of our Saturday and Sunday productions (July 19th & 20th and 26th & 27th).

The soon-to-be-annual festival will feature local artisans and live music, along with interactive activities. You’ll find this free and exciting event set up on the lawn of the Sontag Greek Theater. Feel free to bring favorite foods and beverages for a picnic!

Find more information and buy tickets to our productions of Macbeth and The Merry Wives of Windsor at or by phone at 909.624.1464. Directions to the Sontag Greek Theater can be found at or on the back of your tickets. Hope to see you there!


Honestly listening, honestly reacting: Leah Trank as a Merry Wife

Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor explores the schemes and triumphs of both men and women in OJP’s delightful romp through the 60’s. Leah Trank, who is crafting the role of clever Mistress Page, talked with us about the tricks and secrets of playing for laughs. 

RM: Director Beatrice Casagran has stated that the most important facet of this production is telling Shakespeare’s story truthfully. How do you and your fellow cast members balance truthful acting with a comedic bent?

LTI think the trick to finding that balance is just being honest. Being honest in your emotion, being honest in how you relate to every person you meet in that world, honestly listening and honestly reacting. When everyone starts playing and heightening and stylizing what they’re doing, if you’re in the moment- you will inevitably change. The style comes with the world that we create together, so all we can do from there is be honest and let the story shine.

RM: What are the toughest and the most enjoyable parts of rehearsing this role, respectively? 

LT: The toughest part is probably navigating my role as both a schemer and a mother (especially since the actress playing my daughter is the exact same age as me). And the most fun is definitely getting to plan and orchestrate mischeif with Mistress Ford, my partner in crime. Our friendship truly allows us to enjoy our plots to the fullest. We bend the rules of society but we never break them; testing out how far [our characters] can go has been a blast.

RM: Given the 60’s setting, have you found that you needed to update Mistress Page in anyway, or does that contemporary tone already exist in the text? 

LT: I honestly don’t feel the need to change or update anything. The era affects my acting and the way I approach the character, but Mistress Page herself is as modern a woman as Shakespeare could have written at the time. Rather than being an affluent woman in the English countryside, I see Mistress Page as the PTA president who never doubts herself, knows everybody’s business and inevitably gets into trouble with her best friend. It’s a simple mental adjustment that you make from the very start and everything else falls into place during the rehearsal process.

RM: Several people involved in this production have brought up their excitement about such powerful female characters, a rarity in most plays of the Elizabethan era. How do you feel about taking on one of those roles? 

LT: I love playing strong women and Mistress Page is certainly no exception.   She’s crafty, confident, sassy, and affectionate. She and her husband have arguably the strongest and most stable relationship in the show because he trusts her and gives her the freedom to be herself, which considering the era this play was written in is incredibly progressive. She’s a timeless character who transcends any era. Plus, she makes fun of men a lot, which I get a particular kick out of.

Merry Wives will run July 17th through July 27th at the Sontag Greek Theater in Claremont. Buy tickets and get more information at 

This summer, a new world for old words

As Ophelia’s Jump rehearses in anticipation for July’s Midsummer Shakespeare Festival, I spoke with Beatrice Casagran, Founding Artistic Director of OJP, and director of The Merry Wives of Windsor, to dig into the choices and concepts behind the comic counterweight which will be presented in repertory with Macbeth.

RM: This play is pretty far from the darkness of Macbeth. What inspired you to contrast the two?

BC: Exactly that difference. I wanted the audience to have the opportunity to see two very different plays. When I chose the season and as (Macbeth director) Kevin Slay and I developed and discussed our metaphors and concepts for the summer Shakespeare Festival, our concept of the dichotomies in the shows led us to look for eras with similar differences. We zeroed in on the late 60’s and finally on 1969. While we’ve chosen a unifying chronological concept, the audience will experience two wholly different theatrical performances that nevertheless express different aspects of the era we’ve set the plays in.

RM: Merry Wives is less performed than other pieces like Twelfth Night or A Midsummer Night’s Dream. How do you think audiences will respond to a play that many may not be familiar with?

BC: I think Merry Wives is hilarious and very accessible. It is a good example of the situation comedy that audiences know well and love. Just like audiences still laugh at the antics of Lucy and Ethel from 60 years ago, the Merry Wives zany revenge plots, big wacky characters, and comic treatment of potentially tragic themes like jealousy, greed, and adversity in love still speak to audiences. At the heart of every comedy is a tragedy. Comedy comes from our need to survive tragedy. So juxtaposing these two plays makes sense to me. Moreover, these are characters that we identify with and through them we can laugh at ourselves. Even [suspicious husband] Ford, who is crotchety, unreasonably jealous, and sexist ends up learning his lesson, and if played well, is more lovable than damnable. The play moves along quickly and includes lots of physical comedy that makes it a fun romp and the perfect foil for Macbeth’s dark violence.

RM: How are you zeroing in on the 60’s concept, on what exemplifies that era?

BC: The emphasis is on telling the funny story that Shakespeare wrote. It is important to me, as a director, that the “concept” serve rather than overtake the story. That being said, we are setting it in the late 60’s because I think it sits well there. These wives…do not let themselves be victimized by men and they teach both the grifting Falstaff and the hot-headed, jealous Ford lessons that each is not likely to forget. So there are undercurrents in the story that fit with the changes brought about by the 2nd wave feminism of the 60’s. However, historically the middle classes had embraced the prevailing mores of society. Just like Mistress Ford and Mistress Page seem to accept society’s insistence on the chastity of women, middle class American women of the 60’s by and large did not burn their bras and join communes.

The story of [Merry Wives’ lovers] Anne and Fenton, who defy the wishes of the older generation to set their own course also resonates in the 60’s. Young people began to chart their own paths and became much more independent of their parents. The reactions of Master and Mistress Page to their daughter’s elopement is very modern in its acceptance and understanding. In today’s ever diversifying society, where the roles of parents and children are constantly evolving, audiences can identify with both the wish of the Pages to try to ensure what they think is a safe, secure future for their daughter and with their love and acceptance when she chooses her own path.

There is even a character, Slender, who is arguably gay. As I read the play several times, it became more and more obvious that this character was ready to be outed. It’s all there in the words Shakespeare wrote. All we are doing is interpreting the situation more openly in a way that, I think, clarifies the story and makes it evident why Slender must never marry Anne. The choice works for the growing awareness and acknowledgement of homosexuality in the 60’s and is definitely communicative to today’s audiences. Lastly, Merry Wives tells the story of average yet diverse people we all know. It is a city play, which means its subjects are us. It is not about the adventures of the rich and famous, but about the characters that inhabit the world down below where most of us live. The play reveals how colorful and entertaining those characters can be.

Whatever the outcome of this match of wits and romances, Ophelia’s Jump will deliver on vivid characters and hysterical situations. The show will open July 17th at the Sontag Greek Theater in Claremont. Buy tickets at or over the phone at 909-624-1464.