A long-standing Georgia State College of Law tradition took on a new form this year, as professor Sam Donaldson’s Wills, Trusts & Estates students produced a movie version of "King Lear."
Donaldson’s students typically perform a live version of the William Shakespeare play as one option for their experiential learning portion of the course, but with COVID-19 procedures in place, students were forced to film scenes remotely, over Zoom and while practicing social distancing.
“With the live presentation, with the costuming and props in the front of the room, there’s a lot of eye candy,” Donaldson said. “In these very video-centric few months we’ve had, you don’t just want to give them another video to watch. By that same token, it made for very nice, smooth transitions. It allowed for better performances to come out. There weren’t any significant lags or weak spots. The editing really showed in making it a smooth, tight production.”
The new format of the project allowed students to act and produce without the normal hurdles of a live production while also allowing them to use skills not usually used in law school.
“I have experience editing using a lot of different editing platforms,” principal editor Matthew Chick said. “I took classes on it in college, and I’ve had a YouTube channel and a Twitch channel for a few years. It’s nothing big, but it’s a hobby I do, so I had some experience there. It was just nice to have a chance to use that instead of all the writing I do for all my other classes.”
Besides the substantive content of the play, the practice of organizing and presenting a production provides students a chance to use skills that can also benefit their legal career.
“It was fun,” director Aly Kapper said. “We got to interact with other people in the class in a different way. All the skills you need with working together, learning your lines and actually making the movie can help you.”
The idea to offer students the chance to perform while learning about the potential pitfalls of estate planning originated while Donaldson was teaching at the University of Washington and fellow professor Karen Boxx gave the option to her students.
When Donaldson came to Georgia State in 2012, he offered it to his evening students, and after receiving positive feedback from that non-traditional environment, he kept the tradition going.
“It was always something the students enjoyed doing, so when I started here, I stole the idea,” Donaldson said. “I even reached out to her to ask where she got the script and everything. I went online and got everything and presented it to students. They always seemed to enjoy putting it on, so it’s something we’ve kept doing.”