Friday, April 29, 2011

These Kids Are Getting It Done!

It has been a great month of developing ideas and writing with the class. After completing The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, we then took some time to act out the story. Taking turns with children exchanging roles, which helped them understand the story in a physical way. This was followed by a brainstorming session about the relevance of The Lorax, in context with their experience or memory of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Out of the brainstorm session came phrases and words related to their memories, and/or experience from one year ago. Once that list was collected they build on those phrases with poems, stories, and song.

It's been a little tough this month with all of the testing that the kids have to prepare for, plus spring break, that has interrupted our process, but we were still able to meet in between those interruptions and get another writing exercise done. Using the words DeepWater / Horizon / Oil Spill, the kids were ask to pick one of the three words/phrases and come up with a list of other words and phrases that rhymed or create an alliteration. We're very excited about the outcome. They developed some entertaining play on words. It will be a great addition to the show we are building.

In May, we bring them to our space at Southern Rep for the duration of the program. We're very excited about that -- with think being in our environment (rather than in their familiar school surroundings) will help them focus as they get their play up on it's feet, and maybe just raise the stakes a bit more. Plus we'll be incorporating more of the marketing, development, directing and design components that are such an important part of our program.

Hard to believe we're down to the final month of our first year of the Pilot Program. Time has been flying by.
- Gamal Chasten, Education Director
& Marieke Gaboury, Managing Director

Thursday, April 28, 2011

from Tanya Saracho (Superlab #5)

April 27, 2011

Dear Maria and Adam,

I’ve been meaning to write you this letter since I drove to the airport right after that amazingly encouraging Superlab reading of Mala Hierba at Playwrights Horizons in March. It’s been on my mind since then, but because of Nogalar, I hadn’t been able to write you and properly express what an extraordinary opportunity the Superlab was for me.

When I find myself thinking about the experience I had that week, I keep going back to this feeling that it was like nothing I’ve been through before. That sounds a little corny but seriously, I’ve been through many a workshop process, of various natures, at theaters big and small, but I have never had a process as supportive and nurturing as the Superlab; putting it into words doesn’t do it justice.

I think the trick was that we didn’t have the pressure of a production and I didn’t have a producer over my shoulder micro-dramaturging and giving notes bent towards some sort of aesthetic or mission statement. It was just about the play.

When does that ever happen? You guys just let the words breathe and would come in periodically to offer gentle dramaturgical advice. The combination of that with making
available a script assistant who kept up with my rewriting rhythm was gold. Absolute gold.

And I can’t tell you how much I laughed. The team we put together was just truly specially. During Superlab I was able to forge a relationship with Jerry which, I can tell, will go on for years. I can feel it. Thank you so much for that and for introducing me to New York in such an intimate way. This Chicago girl could never repay that.


Tanya Saracho

From Madeleine George-- Superlab # 1

April 22, 2011

It's widely acknowledged that American new play development has floundered over the past few decades. There's been a national conversation about the preponderance of timid theatrical institutions that, despite their best intentions, engender tepid plays. But there are a number of smart and scrappy exceptions to this rule, and Clubbed Thumb is one of the smartest and scrappiest. For 15 years Clubbed Thumb has built a dazzling reputation among adventurous theatergoers and theater practitioners as the go-to producer of the most exciting and audacious new American plays. I've been lucky enough to be the beneficiary of their producing energy not once, but twice.

Bold, curious, frank, unfettered by convention or fidelity to what may have worked in the past, interest in plays' for plays' sake—these are the hallmarks of Clubbed Thumb’s approach. The cleverly designed SuperLab series combines this ethos with the resources, reputation and infrastructure of another famously playwright-centered institution, Playwrights’ Horizons. So when Maria Striar invited me to bring my new play SEVEN HOMELESS MAMMOTHS WANDER NEW ENGLAND into the SuperLab series I jumped at the chance.

The development goal of the SuperLab is not to make plays different or "better,” but more of themselves, more fundamentally and fully what they set out to be in the first place. The focus, as with all Clubbed Thumb's work, is on the playwright and her questions about her work. The architecture of time and space are writer directed, from the scheduling of the week as a whole to the pace and purpose of every rehearsal hour. This intense writer focus is something lots of theaters talk about, but Clubbed Thumb actually makes happen in a peerless way.

The result was a huge leap forward for my play. A script that went into the SuperLab week as a promising collection of scenes cohered into a leaner, funnier comedy with the act break in an inspired new place (thanks to Maria Striar's hands-on dramaturgy) and about eight new scenes' worth of material. The intensity and abandon of the writing time made possible by the SuperLab structure was precious to me; the progress I was able to make on the work was crucial to the play's future life. I can only wish the same experience for every other playwright I know.

Yours sincerely,

Madeleine George

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Observations and Goals for Year 2 of Northlight On Campus

As we reflect on and assess the first year of the after-school Northlight On Campus program, we look back at the trends we saw in student engagement throughout the residency.  Here are some bullet point observations, and some goals for next year.

  • Attendance dipped heavily as winter break approached
  • Attracting and retaining boys was incredibly difficult, girls came in droves
  • Student focus was unpredictable, and varied day to day
  • Students self-reflection started out poorly, grew tremendously, but then declined in the end
  • Student preparation was hard to manage as we got closer to the final presentation – the levels of preparation varied greatly student to student (line and blocking memorization, bringing script and pencil, etc.)

 GOALS for Year 2:
  • Recruit more boys and try to maintain their engagement as well as continue to serve the girls in NOC
  •  Work on daily structure, build a tighter sense of routine and better utilize call-and-response cues to control focus
  •  Establish reflection rituals and employ them daily 
  •  Get parents more involved in order to better control levels of preparation among students

Also, as we look at commissioning a script for next year, I think it will be very important to get buy-in from students on a new work.  Choosing a playwright and a play will be a process that starts this summer.  We solicited feedback from this year’s participating students on what they would like to see in the play next year.  Their thoughts are interesting for us to consider. They included:
  • We want production values – costumes, props and a set
  • We want a famous story
  • We want characters who are not like us
  • We want more boys to participate in the play
  • We want more students in the show

We will have to balance these desires with what we can achieve and what we think is best for the students.  I wonder if considering an adaptation (so that we balance new work with a story they know and can see themselves being a part of) might be worth considering.  Also, there’s a balance to strike between creating roles to attract male students, but also making sure that we are taking care of the female students who are passionate about being there.  This is something that will take a lot of consideration moving forward.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Getting ready to launch

We've got one animated piece completed with just a bit of packaging left to do. It'll be the first project for Dad's Garage TV and it'll hopefully be launched in a few days. It's called The Moon and is an excerpt from a show we're touring (and putting into our next season) called The Supervillain Monologues. Here's a review we got from touring it last season: Review

Let me tell you the collaborative tentacles on this project are far reaching. The concept is from Jason VonHinezemeyer an amazing artist pal of ours who works primarily over at the puppetry centre, the script was written by a team of hilarious writers from across Canada and the US, and with a mixture of human/puppet pieces it's performed/puppeteered by two of our ensemble members: Christian Danely and Lucky Yates (also resident puppetry director). Check out Lucky here: Lucky Bio

Two things really came together to make this project logical for our first stab at combining our theatre work with online programming. 1) The pieces are short, fun and the puppetry lends itself well to animation, 2) Christian is a very accomplished animator. Christian Bio

It has been such a rush working with him on this project, not to mention the other amazing family members who contributed their work like Sydney Ellis one of our in-house musicians who composed the theme, and our amazing friends at Doppler Studios who contributed studio time and sound editing.

This is exactly the kind of project that makes sense for the channel because of the intersections between our live work and our digital work. imagine if they got so entangled that it was impossible to identify it as simply a web series or a live show.

It will be exciting to watch the future of The Supervillain Monologues on Dad's Garage TV and how it impacts our live show. Will the favorites online be the favorites live? If something is popular online should we take it out of the live show because it's played out or does it become something people want to see performed live like a band playing their hit?

A beta version of our channel is up now, although it has no content so it's not seeing any traffic. It's just the tip of the iceberg as far as the amazing work our Marketing Director Linnea Frye has done to prepare for the launch of this new project. If you're interested in what it looks like here's the link: Our fledgling channel

Wish us luck as we leap forward into this!

Kevin Gillese