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Shakespeare in Yosemite: Scott Gediman

By Cymbeline Anthropocene on Oct 27, 2021 at 12:38 AM in Project News

While filming Imogen in the Wild, Shakespeare in Yosemite’s research assistant Monica Perales interviewed the cast and crew about their experience adapting Cymbeline. This final interview presents Monica in conversation with Scott Gediman of Yosemite National Park’s Public Affairs Office. 

MP: What does it mean to be in public affairs for a national park? How do you see the Public Affairs Office connecting to ecological preservation? 

SG: With my partner, Jamie Richards, we are park spokespeople for Yosemite. We are in charge of making big announcements for the park. We give interviews for TV and news releases, some elected officials and tourism work, partnership stuff with UCM and Yosemite, conservancy environmental groups, and special events for the park. 

I’ve been in the National Park Service for over 31 years now, and it’s our role to communicate the park’s message and to ensure that the parks are preserved for future generations. Our role is to communicate the importance of its preservation (things like floods, fires, rockfall, reconfiguring campgrounds). We are the voice for the park.

MP: What has been your involvement in this production? 

SG: I’ve played in probably four or five roles. We’ve had Shakespeare in the park for five or six years now as part of the Earth Day Celebration. Jessica Rivas and more have been in it, and we do it in different venues in the park, and it’s something we’ve enjoyed. This year, Katie and her crew decided to make the film. Jamie and I work in the superintendent’s office, so we have our first role as liaison between UCM and the park, including logistics and production.

The second role is in production assistance - locations, schedules, where to shoot, how to get vehicles in and all of that coordination. The third role is in acting -  we had a ranger scene, which was super fun. And the fourth role is in post-production. Special events will be getting a screening in the park and events. We are working with UCM and the information team on publicity - we will be jointly promoting it. This is an example of the partnership between Yosemite and UCM. 

MP: How do you see this partnership tying in with your current efforts in Yosemite? 

SG: I think of this analogy of the Home Improvement show. This ticks all of the boxes on a big picture scale. I remember when UCM was going to be up on the hill, and the park and UCM had a partnership before it existed. It’s been fun to see it grow - the relationship between the university and the park will continue. With Katie Brokaw, and Jessica Rivas now working for National Park Services, this is a practical partnership. We have student interns and this year specifically, Katie and Paul have written the script and another person has been writing music. We’ve had rangers like Shelton Johnson involved, and this shows us strengthening this partnership, and it’s a practical project. 

MP: There has been a history of performances in the park. What does having theatre in Yosemite mean for the public? Why theatre in the park? 

SG: Live theatre has been a tradition in Yosemite, and it’s been great the last few years with live performances in the park that are open to all visitors. Visitors could experience live theatre, and it’s been really cool for our staff to be involved and local schools that would go see performances. This is an opportunity to bring arts and culture into our mountain community. 

MP: What has been a highlight of having this partnership and of your involvement with this  particular production? 

SG: I have a few highlights. Katie has been phenomenal to work with, it’s been fun to get to know her and all of the staff. Katie is the star, but all the staff has been great, all of the students, it’s been a highlight to be able to meet and work with all of these folks.

We chose some of these sites to have in the film, and to say this film was filmed in Yosemite and to have some of these sites in this production will have this film stand out from the other productions happening. This is a feather in our cap, especially during a pandemic. We did all social distancing and mask wearing, the crew size was smaller, which posed a challenge, but it worked out. We did some Zoom meetings; overall it was a great collaboration.

MP: How do you think ecotheatrical productions can impact environmental consciousness in the public? 

SG: It is really important when people see them. I have 31 years as a ranger, and one thing I like to tell people is that people come to Yosemite and appreciate it, but sometimes we take the parks for granted and it’s important for people to realize that preservation in national parks is not permanent and anything we can do as a ranger - like talking to college students, giving an interview, I teach at Fresno state - live theatre incorporating environmental themes is another way of expressing true art and the importance of conservation and places like Yosemite, they are an important part of our society, and this gets this message out.

MP: How does Shakespeare in Yosemite fit in with the park's goals for ecological education? Can you speak about those goals? 

SG: For us, ecological education happens in a lot of different ways. There are programs, it used to be Every Kid in a Park program, now it’s Every Kid Outdoors where every 4th grader gets in the park and gets a free visit. In Merced, kids are often the children of immigrants and for a lot this is their first time in the park. We have formal and informal programs, like ranger walks and talks that try to educate and promote environmental awareness. With the pandemic, we haven’t been able to do it, but during Earth Day we set up booths, and environmental biologists talk about their work, and we try to do this on a lot of different levels. Shakespeare in Yosemite, through theatre and Shakespeare, they were able to weave a lot of those themes into the production and that helps amplify our message. 

MP: What do you hope viewers will take away from this performance? 

SG: I hope they will enjoy it but also hope they get the message that this is talking about preservation and the beauty of Yosemite as well as the people and students working on it. I’m excited to see how it all comes together.

MP: Any other thoughts? 

SG: Overall, this has been a great experience and a unique one, which we haven’t talked about. I do everything from news to filming with a lot of groups, and I am very lucky and blessed to do this everyday. This one was interesting, and I’ve never been a huge fan of Shakespeare. We helped with location scouting, and made sure we found a cave for the scene that needs a cave. 

MP: How was it navigating the filming of Shakespeare and using your love of Yosemite to find the right filming areas, especially when it comes to hiking with actors and getting dirty while filming?

SG: It was fun on-camera stuff and trying to pick iconic spots with a waterfall, mirror lake, or Half Dome in the background. Not understanding Shakespeare a lot and then having Katie sharing her vision and then matching her vision was rewarding. We hiked a little bit, and some of the actors had to roll around in the dirt. There was a moment where one of the actors had to look dirtier, so it was a fun challenge for me. This crew was pretty nimble - not a ton of equipment, and with equipment there’s always considerations - it was fun to take Katie’s vision and pick some epic locations. We were making movie magic.