In May of 2009 I participated for the first time in the Catholic Marian Devotion known as the Rosary. As a long standing lapsed Catholic, my only knowledge of the Rosary came from making the prayer-beads in grade-school Catechism and a kind of instinctual certainty that there was no more boring or torturous way to spend half-an-hour than actually praying the Rosary itself.
Many years later, at the unfortunate memorial visitation for my late cousin, I had an opportunity to really experience a Rosary for the first time. The funeral home was quiet like any other; calm and sedate. Suddenly it was stormed by seven Knights of Columbus, who produced from their suit pockets individual Rosary beads and began the prayer, leading us all in the devotion. Truly, It was more chant and meditation than dull Devotion. The rhythm of the prayer, ever driving and pounding, uplifted all those in attendance, regardless of belief, to a different plane. I’ll never forget it.
Later that same year, I was presented with an opportunity to once again join Benjamin Karl and American Firelight in an impromptu short film. He told me the location this time was a vintage auditorium from an old high school. My brain began to flood with memories of my time as a theatre student, memories of my beloved professor who first turned me on to the craft of theatre, and memories of the different styles and areas of expertise of my contemporaries. Auditions were held. Among the numerous talented actors to show up was a fellow graduate of my theatre school which only furthered the journey through my past on and around the stage.
Karl asked me to write and direct an original screenplay around this location. It was too perfect and I knew I had to find a way to incorporate the drama of the Rosary that I’d seen earlier in the year into this film. Pre- production meetings with Karl left us both believing that this would be the story of a beloved, shepherding professor whose untimely death would leave the students adrift and trying to figure out how to go on without him. We had only one day to shoot and the night before that day I suddenly had a different set of ideas. What if the professor was hated by his students? What if he had done something horrible to all of them? What if his death was something they had all been wishing for? What if he was murdered? Finally, what if he was such a horrible man that he knew he would eventually be murdered by one of them?
Staged is a film about ritual and theatrical tradition. It is about guilt and responsibility. It is about the lengths one would go in order to no longer suffer a horrible person.
It is with deepest admiration and respect that I congratulate the immensely talented cast and crew that helped bring Staged to life. The finished script was delivered to everyone just a few short hours before the only possible day of principal photography and everyone rose to the Herculean task. The actors performed as if we’d rehearsed the material for weeks. The photographers and sound recordists came up with endlessly creative ways to solve tactical problems. The editors put in many sleepless nights to deliver on time. The composer gave me exactly what I was hearing in my head. And the producers made it all happen. In the hands of a lesser group of artists and storytellers, Staged would have forever been relegated to my dreams. Instead, it lives and breathes.
-Joseph Johnston Director, Staged August 2009
standing, left to right: Michael Sneed (Grady), Alice Gandee (Alex), Molly Logue (Michelle), Giles Key (Shemansky), Theodore Hoelter (Thaddeus), James Kuhl (Jack), Kristy Weaver (LeAnne), Benjamin Karl (Producer, Director of Photography, Editor) seated, left to right: Jane Westmore (Producer), Joseph Johnston (Writer/Director), Nathan Wilson (2nd Camera), Drew Bare (Boom Operator, Sound Recordist)