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new full-length archival adaptation with music

Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, October 2021

"What if we’ve dug something up and we can’t put it back?"


On a cool fall evening, a group of people gather at a community center in a rural town with plans to rehearse their staging of Shakespeare's RICHARD II. They have troubles. They have tightly-held beliefs. As they grapple with questions of authenticity and power, the lines between performance and reality rapidly begin to blur, exposing a world that is stranger than they could have imagined. Quilting together classic and contemporary text, American political archives, live music, dreams, and drug trips, POWER/TRIP puts an old story about authority and belief on display in a critical context, radically reworking it to examine faith, ecstasy, and cycles of control in the contemporary United States.

Show poster. Grayscale photo of a suited man. Red marker covers his face. The title, Power/Trip, is painted in large black letters around the photo. Show dates Oct 12 to 16.

Written and Directed by Anne Cecelia DeMelo
Music Composition/Arrangement/Direction by Tucker Helms
Dramaturgy by Sabrina Zanello Jackson

Scenic Design - Evan Frank
Costume Design - Lily Cunicelli
Sound Design - Erik Cereghino
Lighting Design - Matthew J. Weisgable
Media Design - Julian Kelley
Stage Management - Christopher Chase
Production Management - Sarah Bauch


BRENDA - Ayana Williams

NAOMI - Cassiel Eatock-Winnik

JOSEPH - Chattan Johnson

EDEN - Emily Chang

RICHARD - Jonathan Champion

ELI - Nicholas Biddle

THE MUSICIANS - Aaron Morrison, Hikari Harrison, and James O'Malley Gorbea

Poster Design - Anne Cecelia DeMelo

Photography - Louis Stein

The process was a blend of new play and production dramaturgy. Working closely with the playwright-director for nearly two years, I supported the process of adapting the Shakespearean source text, shaping the framed narrative, and incorporating archival text and media. As the dramaturg, this meant becoming intimately familiar with Richard II, as well as the mythic, structural, and social implications of the relationship between church and state in the modern U.S., and providing this information in an accessible format for the creative team and cast. Explore some of my research by visiting my dramaturgical casebook for the production below. 

As we approached opening night, I shifted focus to audience engagement. During technical rehearsals, I examined the story from the lens of an audience member to identify where to sharpen the storytelling and inform what to include in supplementary audience materials. I also created a content advisory and a sensory advisory for the performance and facilitated their distribution to audiences. View my program note and lobby display design below.

After the Saturday matinee performance, I led a talkback with the creative team, cast, and audience. It was attended by roughly 30 people and lasted 30 minutes.

The creative team and cast, all masked, sit in a line onstage. Sabrina holds a microphone, leading the talkback.

Photo courtesy of Moses Garcia.


Each image below shows one side of the 5-by-7-foot glass case in which I set up the lobby display. Before the show, on the inside of the glass, red curtains were drawn to conceal the inner display. On the outside of each pane of glass was a question to which audience members were invited to respond on yellow sticky notes. After the show, audience members reentered the lobby to find the red curtains pulled back, revealing a collection of archival newspaper clippings, photographs, books, paintings, statistics, and QR codes linking to videos-- all relating to the founding mythologies, historical policies, and public perceptions of the relationship between religion and politics in the United States. Audience members could also respond to the posted questions again, this time on blue sticky notes, to share how their beliefs may have changed after the performance.

Scroll over each "pre-show" image below to see the "post-show" reveal.

"Who deserves POWER?" 

post-show, left side

Curtained case. A sign reads "Who deserves power?". 20 sticky notes cover the glass.

"Who deserves POWER?" 

pre-show, left side

"Power" side of the display case with curtains opened. Archival media cover 5 pedestals inside it.

"Where, or in what, do you find FAITH?"

post-show, front side

"Faith" side of the display case with curtains opened. Archival media cover 5 pedestals inside it.

"Where, or in what, do you find FAITH?"

pre-show, front side

Curtained case. A sign reads "Where or in what do you find faith?". 60 sticky notes cover the glass.

"What's necessary for REVOLUTION?

post-show, right side

Curtained case. A sign reads "What's necessary for revolution?". 25 sticky notes cover the glass.

"What's necessary for REVOLUTION?

pre-show, right side

"Revolution" side of the display case with open curtains. Archival media cover 5 pedestals inside it
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