Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is the world going to end in 2012?

I woke up this morning knowing exactly what I wanted to blog about this month. Was I motivated by last night’s zombie dreams? Or was it the apocalyptic play I watched a couple of days ago? Maybe the looming fears that the Mayans were right? Or was it yesterday’s rehearsal for the show about the hopeless and inevitable collapse of civilization that motivated me? Well, it is probably all of those things a little bit, and then some more…

Is the world going to end in 2012?

I don’t know, and frankly I don’t really think so. The world will change, definitely. But end? And honestly I guess I am less curious about that question and more curious about how that looming thought, idea, and nightmare changes the ways we interact with one another.

Where am I going with this? Okay so I woke up this morning thinking about the goodness of mankind, and the kindness, and these almost revolutionary actions that are springing up from our current political and social climate on a national and international scale. There are grand and obvious actions like the Occupy Movement, but there are also these small ways, in our theater communities, that we are becoming less competitive and more harmonious. Across the country I see individuals and organizations making movements towards a more amicable and sustainable theater environment. The Scenic Co-op is obviously one example of this sort of movement. We share set pieces with companies who can’t afford to purchase everything new. We recycle set pieces so we can make some small difference on the growing landfills. But we are certainly not the only ones taking these revolutionary steps.

Just a couple of examples include: Polly Carl’s HOWLROUND. The HOWLROUND is all about conversation across the nation across budgets, across race, across aesthetic. Because of HOWLROUND our community is talking to each other more than they ever have before. Another example is Vjay Matthews and Jamie Gahlon’s New Play Map, which is a map of the country and all the new work happening across the fifty states. It’s another attempt at keeping us connected and talking to each other, supporting each other. There is also Austin New Works community, a collective of Austin theater makers researching sustainability and community. Instead of fighting for a piece of the pie, lets share the pie. There are really enough slices for everyone. The list of theater makers and artists taking these actions goes on and on with TCG Exchange, The Center for Sustainability in the Arts in LA, Materials for the Arts in New York City, MECCA in Oregon to name a few… I am thrilled by these actions being taken to do away with the idea of “haves and have not’s”. People are questioning hierarchy and actively trying to support each other.

This makes me wonder, if our imminent doom weren’t right around the corner would we be playing nice? I don’t know. I don’t even know if the why matters. My suspicion is, that hard times do drive people to the next best thing. I think these difficult circumstances do motivate beautiful transitions and transformations. It’s thrilling. We are actively researching and instituting these revolutionary ideas that all focus on a “coming together.” It is beautiful, and inspiring, and it gives me hope.

Jenny Larson, Salvage Vanguard Theater/ Austin Scenic Co-op

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Building Confidence Through Mini-Performances

Post By: Kristyn Hegner, Northlight Teaching Artist
It is a delight to return to Fairview South Schoolfor the second year as a “NOC” teaching artist. Currently, we have just finished the first half of our yearlongresidency and are about to hold auditions for Philip Dawkins’s original play, Rodeo.

In our second year, NOC’s programming is continuing toevolve and grow in an effort to best serve Fairview’s students. Prior to our first class, fellow teaching artistMatt Farabee, intern Mara Stern, and myself met with Northlight’s Director ofEducation, Devon de Mayo to assess the strengths and weaknesses of last year’sprogram.

Through this dialogue, wetailored the curriculum, building upon previous experiences. Last year, we felt the students lackedself-confidence. This was demonstratedthrough struggles with projection, articulation and stage presence. WhenMatt and I revamped the curriculum, we decided that by having the students doat least one mini-performance each week we could fortify performance based skillswhile strengthening each student’s overall confidence. Throughout the course of the semester, we didjust that. Weekly, the students wroteand performed original scenes, improvised short plays, and as a culminatingactivity performed a fully memorized monologue. During the weekly classes, students were given the challenge to act aspeer directors, modeling and applying their knowledge and growing skill set inan effort to encourage their fellow students. Throughout each performance, peers were encouraged to watch for specificnotes that were then administered through constructive feedback and reflection.

It has been inspiring to watch our veteran students act asleaders, demonstrating their growing theatricality, and in turn, it is equallyas thrilling to watch our newest members take on new challenges. I am looking forward to working withour students as we embark together on Rodeo. Fairview students are very proud to bemembers of NOC. I know they are readilyawaiting auditions, rehearsals, and finally, sharing the culminatingperformances with their friends and family.

Kristyn Hegner has spent four summers teaching at Northlight’sPerforming Arts Camp. She is in her second year as the lead teachingartist to pilot Northlight On Campus at Fairview South School. Agraduate of Indiana University, Kristyn studied Theatre with minors in Englishand Psychology. Kristyn also teaches with Dream Big Performing ArtsWorkshop, American Theatre Company and has assistant directed and choreographedmultiple children’s productions, and lead several dance and movement intensiveworkshops.