Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Giving Thanks in Shakespeare's Plays

            My name is Samantha Smith, and I am delighted to join the Atlanta Shakespeare Company as the Education and Development Coordinator.  I first became a Shakespeare fan when I was eleven and saw Macbeth at Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach and since then my love of seeing Shakespeare’s plays performed has taken me from Stratford, Canada to Stratford-upon-Avon, England.  I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing nineteen separate Shakespeare plays performed, and I’m thrilled that I will have a chance to see many more performed on the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse stage.  Although I have spent most of my life in Memphis, Tennessee, I am coming to Atlanta from London, where I earned my master’s degree in Shakespeare Studies from University College London.  I am passionate about encouraging students to investigate and enjoy Shakespeare’s plays through watching and participating in performances, so I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the work of the Education Department here at the Atlanta Shakespeare Company.

            Gratitude is a common theme around Thanksgiving so in the spirit of the holiday I investigated how Shakespeare’s characters express thanks.  Characters give thanks to the heavens and to other characters quite frequently in Shakespeare’s canon; variations on the word “thank” appear a whopping 489 times in the plays (Open Source Shakespeare).  Often, the characters expressing gratitude speak much as we do now, saying “thanks” (All’s Well That Ends Well 2.3.77), “I thank you” (Cymbeline 4.4.33), and, in a more Elizabethan phrase, “I thank ye” (Henry VIII 5.5.70).  Sometimes, they illustrate their thanks more simply, commenting that they “humbly thank” someone (All’s Well That Ends Well 3.5.97) and offering “a thousand thanks” (The Taming of the Shrew 2.3.84).   Perhaps the prettiest expression of thanks comes from Sebastian, speaking to Antonio in Twelfth Night:  “I can no other answer make but thanks,/And thanks; and ever thanks” (3.3.14-15).  We at the Atlanta Shakespeare Company would like to say “ever thanks” to our patrons, donors, and many students who investigate and celebrate Shakespeare’s plays with us.  Happy Thanksgiving! 

Works Cited
Bevington, David, ed.  The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  London: Longman Publishing,
2004. Print.

Open Source Shakespeare.  George Mason University.  2015.  Web.  19 November 2015.   

Submitted by Samantha Smith, Education and Development Coordinator

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Visit to The American Shakespeare Center in Virginia

Education and Training Programs Coordinator Andrew Houchins spent some time visiting the American Shakespeare Center in Virginia recently.  While he was there, he was able to experience the differences and the similarities of how another company produces Shakespeare's works.  Enjoy!

         As a company member of ten years with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, I’ve often wondered what other Shakespeare theatres and festivals around the world do. The Shakespeare Theatre Association boasts more than 100 participating members; that’s a lot of viewpoints and ideas on how to most effectively interpret and present the works of history’s most produced playwright. And aside from an annual conference and a few interpersonal relationships, I am unaware of any serious working partnerships from company to company. I’ve always wanted to find out how I would work with a theatre that dives head first into creating conceptual theatre with Shakespeare’s plays, or reimagines them in a more contemporary setting. What about the other way around? How would someone who deals solely in the world of fourth-wall realism manage working with us, a group dedicated to acknowledging the audience and everything else in the room? If I, as a director, took our style to a theatre that is known for reinterpreting the text, how would that cast and audience respond?
At times, I have felt slightly insulated from the world of other Shakespeare practitioners. I don’t get the opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas and opinions with other artists who have a whole different set of experiences with these magnificent plays. I want to understand more about how other Shakespeare company mission statements were developed and how those missions are realized.
      For a few days this July, I had the opportunity to visit the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA. I had reached out to Sarah Enloe, their Director of Education, about working together to learn a little more about each other’s respective companies. I knew that we each had a high school summer camp, that we had (on paper, at least) similar approaches to how to most effectively perform the works of William Shakespeare, and we have a fledgling touring production program that could certainly learn a lot from the experiences of the company formerly known as Shenandoah Shakespeare Express. But I wanted a more first-hand experience with their performance style in order to have a more comprehensive understanding of how the American Shakespeare Center and the Atlanta Shakespeare Company are alike and how we are different.
(Author’s note: In order to save some space and prevent too much confusion for the rest of this article, I will be referring to the American Shakespeare Center as ASCVA and the Atlanta Shakespeare Company as ASCATL.)

      On my visit, I got to watch ASCVA’s production of Antony and Cleopatra, a show in which I have performed twice in two different roles. I was fascinated by the differences in how our two companies put similar concepts into practice. While we use what we call “Original Practices,” ASCVA follows what they call “Shakespeare’s Rehearsal Conditions.” The ideas are very similar at their core: we attempt to present Shakespeare’s works in a manner that is as close to the Elizabethan experience as possible, and doing so in a modern world with all of its advancements, both positive and negative. Our companies are both attempting an approach at imagining what seeing a play in Shakespeare’s time was like, and replicating that as much as possible in this era without becoming a museum piece. We are very similar in a few areas:

DIRECT AUDIENCE ADDRESS: The idea of “fourth-wall realism” in theatre is a relatively new concept. For Shakespeare’s actors, there was no “fourth wall.” They performed in open acknowledgement of the audience in the room. Both ASCs make this concept a keystone of our performance aesthetics, with actors engaging the audience as fellow scene partners, eliciting responses when needed, and drawing them into the action of the play as participants rather than passive observers.

SETS: Both ASCs eschew the contemporary set design, instead performing in spaces designed to replicate the setting of Shakespeare’s playhouses; three doors on-stage, a playable balcony, and some trapdoors to allow us entrance from below the stage.

GENDER: While ASCATL doesn’t make it a huge practice to have actors play characters of opposite genders, we certainly haven’t shied away from it, i.e. having a man play the kitchen wench in The Comedy of Errors, or having women fighting as male soldiers in any play that features combat. ASCVA also makes extensive use of gender swapping on stage, a natural result of casting no more than 15 actors in any given Shakespeare play….even if that play has more than 40 or 50 parts.
The differences in how we approach our production aesthetics are what truly fascinated me:

LIGHTING: Since both companies make extensive use of the audience, it stands to reason that the audience needs to be visible! ASCATL uses modern stage lights in conjunction with the instruments that illuminate the audience so that the actors can still see the crowd. Night scenes will be darker, day scenes will be brighter, and both the stage lights and the house lights will reflect that. The lighting in ASCVA remains bright throughout the production, keeping the performance space and the audience in the same light together for the entire running time. Also, ASCVA doesn’t use theatrical lighting instruments, but instead uses lots and LOTS of electric candles throughout the room, along the walls and in beautiful wooden chandeliers hanging over the stage and the lower portion of the audience.

MUSIC: ASCATL approaches the music in Shakespeare’s plays with an Elizabethan ear. Much of our music is composed by Bo Gaiason, who is gifted a creating melodies and harmonies that make strong use of fiddle, recorder, guitar, and small percussion instruments. The sound is a familiar one to anyone who has been to a Renaissance Faire. We do this as a way of trying to reconnect with the sonic reality of Elizabethan England. ASCVA creates a musical soundscape that is more akin to the popular music of today. As a matter of fact, for thirty minutes prior to a show’s advertised start time, the cast performs familiar contemporary songs as the audience filters in to find their seats (I heard Todd Rundgren and Taylor Swift during my visit). They also make use of any instruments in which the players are gifted, including banjo, accordion, and a full drum-kit backstage. For me, this created a fun, festival-like atmosphere and a heightened sense of excitement for the show to come, which I imagine would have been similar to the experiences of the groundlings in Shakespeare’s time.

COSTUMES: ASCATL costumes, for the most part, represent the time period in which the plays are set; characters in the Roman plays tend to wear togas, the Greeks wear tunics, etc. Doublets are also frequently seen on the Tavern stage since that was the fashion for Elizabethans. The production of Antony and Cleopatra that I saw in Virginia featured actors wearing Elizabethan garb adorned with hints of the Roman attire when necessary. This keeps in line with what Shakespeare’s actors did. The quick turnaround to produce a new play did not allow enough time to create a wealth of costuming options that would most fully represent a particular time period, so Elizabethan actors would traditionally wear the dress of their own time and embellish with wraps, drapes, and accessories that reflected the time and place in which the play was set. Audiences frequently saw combinations of Roman and Elizabethan clothes on the playhouse stages.

      Although both of our companies intend the same goal of producing Shakespeare plays in a manner that reflects what his audiences saw (and what he originally intended), the interpretation of that goal and the method for producing a product to reach that goal can be amazingly different. And both theories can be equally effective and entertaining. I walked away from my field trip astounded at how seemingly small aesthetic alterations such as lights and costumes can have a massive impact on the “feel” of a performance, and still be just as familiar as if I had worked with them for years. To be honest, almost a month later, I’m still processing a lot of what I experienced in Virginia and its relationship to what we do in Atlanta… and that’s a good thing.

Written by Andrew Houchins
Submitted by Amanda Lindsey McDonald in Education

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A summer with The Atlanta Shakespeare Company

The Atlanta Shakespeare Company hires three interns every summer to help out with administrative duties during the summer education programs.  Here are some of their experiences and what they learned.
Katherine Carey

      In true Atlanta Shakespeare Company style, I’d like to begin this reflection with a “Check In/Check Out.” At the beginning of this summer, despite the anxiety-inducing prospect of my first internship and first summer away from home, I felt excited, honored, anxious, and eager. Now, in reflecting on my time at the Tavern, I still feel honored to have had this opportunity, but the overwhelming emotions are gratitude and pride.

      From the first day of summer training, I was impressed and inspired by the professional and positive attitudes shown by the team of teaching artists with whom I would be working this summer, and by the end of training I felt not like an outsider or a newbie, but like part of a team. That feeling of camaraderie, I’m happy to say, continued throughout the summer in each element of my internship, from administration to education.

      My internship began with a month of administrative assistance in the Education Office and teaching at the South Bend summer camp. In the office, I really enjoyed the opportunity to see what happens behind-behind the scenes, and I loved the jobs I was given that mixed the administrative and the artistic, like creating the e-vite for the June Shakespeare Intensive for Teens’ final performance of…the Scottish Play.

      At South Bend, my Tavern training was certainly put to the test with campers who had never before interacted with Shakespeare or, for some, theatre, but I was fortunate to be part of a wonderful team of teachers who handled the challenge beautifully. Moreover, though working with the kids at South Bend was one of the most chaotic experiences and greatest challenges that this summer presented, the moments of “Eureka!” for the kids and breakthrough for the teachers were incredibly gratifying. Without a doubt, however, my most gratifying experience this summer was the opportunity to assist the July session of SIT, SIT’s first production of King Lear.

      Going into the intensive, I really didn’t know what to expect, or what would be expected of me, and felt ready for anything. What I wasn’t ready for was how amazing, talented, and dedicated all thirteen of our students were. I truly couldn’t be prouder of the hard work they put into their production and what they accomplished for themselves as performers and, more importantly, people.  Their dedication, boldness, and heart impressed and inspired me every day even more than the day before, and I consider it a privilege to have gotten to know and to work with them.

      As I told the cast in our final Check In, after commuting through Atlanta traffic every morning and being furious with everyone on the road, it was so refreshing to walk into work and be reminded that there are such good people in this world, and that I get to work with them. (Granted, half of them can’t drive yet, so…I’m kidding!) I know that they each taught me so much about our shared craft and about myself, and I hope they learned half as much from SIT and I as I did from them.

      I am also incredibly grateful to have had such wonderful directors in Mary Ruth Ralston and Chris Rushing. As directing partners, they complemented each other so well and were excellent examples and leaders for the students and for me. As my “lead dogs,” they were the most encouraging and positive people to work with and learn from. I never felt as though I was less important or that my contributions and thoughts were less valuable. I felt like part of the team, and I am truly appreciative of them for that.

      Overall my time at the Tavern was both familiar and challenging, a happy medium that allowed me the time to both consider my work and experience with an eye toward the future, and to enjoy and appreciate the wonderful opportunity that I was offered. I’m a bit sad to be leaving this internship and all the unique and fabulous people I’ve worked with, and I don’t know exactly what will come next, but I do know that I will carry the Tavern and all the relationships I have made with me, wherever I go. “I can no other answer make but thanks, And thanks” (Twelfth Night).
Abigail Fralix

      My time as an education intern at the Shakespeare Tavern has helped to stretch and expand the way that I think of the profession of the teaching artist. I came to the Tavern hoping to get my feet wet and see how an educational theater operates, but what I am leaving with is more than that.

      The opportunity to get to work with a staff so dedicated to bringing Shakespeare’s words to life for a new generation has inspired me to continue to find ways to share my passions with those around me. Watching the kids as they play and hone their craft has challenged me to sharpen my own skill set.

      The lessons I have learned this summer will continue with me, just as I know that they will continue on with every student that comes through the Tavern doors.

Lydia Flock

      “It’s a very ancient saying, but a true and honest thought, that if you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taught” —“Getting to Know You” (Anna, The King and I)

      Having grown up in a Rogers and Hammerstein loving family, I am no stranger to this line from The King and I. But Anna was never a character I tended to relate to until I became an intern with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company. 

      I’ve always had an interest in teaching; all through elementary school I said I wanted to be a teacher, even though I had no idea what that really meant. I just knew I liked my teachers and looked up to them, so of course I wanted to be exactly like them! I’ve always had a feeling I’d be a teacher one way or another. 

      Although I was eager to meet my students for ASC’s Shakespeare Superheroes program, I didn’t have a clue what to expect from these kids. I couldn’t imagine being able to recite (and act  out!) Shakespeare at age seven. I definitely didn’t expect a nine year old to give one of the most passionate “to-morrow” speeches from Macbeth I’ve ever seen. 

      What surprised me most about these children was how easy they were able to grasp the concept of playing “make believe” onstage. So often throughout the developmental stages in life, we can become quickly inhibited, afraid of looking silly or making a mistake. Many of the children at Superheroes were already inhibited, but fortunately still able to access (with lots of encouragement) the freedom that is their imagination. 

      One of the phrases I commonly said to my students was to “fail forward”. These kids really put their heart and soul into our abridged productions of Macbeth and Comedy of Errors, so when someone missed their cue or messed up a step in the dance, I loved how quickly (and how comedically) they were able to pick themselves back up with a huge grin on their face and keep going. The mantra “fail forward” is something I say to myself on a daily basis, but seeing it manifest itself in these child actors took my positive affirmation to a new level. 

      I did not expect to be in awe of how intelligent, creative, and passionate students ages 7-15 could be. I have such an appreciation for the kind of experiential education the Atlanta Shakespeare Company has created. It was a heart-warming experience.

I now identify with Anna. By my superheroes, I was taught.

Submitted by Amanda Lindsey McDonald in Education

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Shakespeare Superheroes need your help!

Do you have surplus craft supplies, fabric, trim, kids scissors, tempura paint, scrapbooking supplies, card stock, stamp kits, any crafty type materials at all that are taking up space in your storage areas, garage or closet?  Would you love to donate them to a worthy cause? Then the Tavern Education Department would love to take those items off your hands!!!

Every year Shakespeare Superheroes Summer Camp (for kids 4 years to 14 years) needs craft supplies- lots of them- to create the props, sets, costumes, flowers, cauldrons, masks or fairy wings we make as part of a well rounded and artistic two-week camp experience.

Just bring your bagged or boxed items to an evening show (or drop them off during business hours) and leave them, along with your name and email, in the box in the upper lobby.  We will email you a receipt for your estimated value of the items, along with a picture of the adorable crafts the kids will be making
 Submitted by Amanda Lindsey McDonald in Education

Monday, June 29, 2015

Atlanta Shakespeare Company awarded National Endowment for the Arts/ Arts Midwest Grant!

Atlanta Shakespeare company awarded National Endowment for the Arts/Arts Midwest
Grant will bring professional performances to schools and students across the state!

The National Endowment of the Arts and ArtsShakespeare in American Communities.  This will mark the thirteenth year that Shakespeare in American Communities and The National Endowment for the Arts have provided this grant.
Midwest will disperse $1 million in grants to 40 nonprofit professional companies across the nation, including The Atlanta Shakespeare Company (ASC) this coming year. This grant will allow companies to perform William Shakespeare’s work for students this coming year through

 In a press release from Arts Midwest, Susan Chandler, Vice President of Arts Midwest, states “Shakespeare in American Communities’ goals of introducing students to the art form of theatre and to Shakespeare’s timeless themes of love, ambition, jealousy, courage and betrayal will be brilliantly executed by these theaters.”

Through this grant, the Atlanta Shakespeare Company will present productions of Shakespeare’s work to at least 10 schools /2500 students along with workshops before and question and answer sessions after the performances.  Shakespeare in American Communities provides an introduction to William Shakespeare’s work to middle and high school students in a way that was simply not possible before.  With this grant, ASC will be touring their production of Romeo and Juliet Abridged to schools across the state of Georgia with special outreach to rural counties with little or no access to professional theatre performances. This past year, the production reached over 1100 students in metro Atlanta and NE Georgia and neighboring states.

Arts Midwest and the National Endowment for the Arts have created a website to provide more information for Shakespeare in American Communities. 

About Arts Midwest Arts Midwest promotes creativity, nurtures cultural leadership, and engages people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six nonprofit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, visit www.artsmidwest.org.

About the National Endowment for the Arts Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit www.arts.gov

About the Atlanta Shakespeare Company at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse The Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s Education programs provide opportunities for students, educators and parents throughout Georgia and the Southeast to experience the power of Shakespeare’s language and dramatic vision through the play, passion, poetry, active participation and performance using dynamic, language based methods.  ASC Education serves students from K-12 grades in 54 Georgia counties and six southern states with matinees in Atlanta, touring productions, workshops, residencies and other classroom programs as well as offering professional training to emerging artists at The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse. The Tavern is Atlanta’s only professional Equity theatre company producing the works of William Shakespeare and select classic modern plays throughout the year, in an Elizabethan Globe-inspired playhouse on Peachtree St. in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.  This past year ASC/The Tavern reached a total of over 20,000 students and 30,000 adults.
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If you would like more information please contact Laura Cole by email at laura@shakespearetavern.com and visit www.shakespearetavern.com

Submitted by Amanda Lindsey McDonald in Education

Monday, August 11, 2014

My Summer at the ASC

ASC Intern Blog Post

            It amazes me that I’m sitting back at home after finishing the internship I’ve been preparing for since last December. My relationship with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company began on a drive home from holiday festivities at my grandfather’s house when my older sister asked me what my plans were for the coming summer. I had none. But I knew I wanted to find a summer position teaching or working with a theater company, and after a quick search on her iPhone my sister found an opportunity that afforded both experiences. Best of all, the opportunity was at the Atlanta Shakespeare Company. As a member of the Wellesley College Shakespeare Society, I knew this would be the place for me. I was fortunate enough that the people at the ASC thought so too (perhaps because I had to do my Skype interview in costume for a performance due to scheduling constraints). I was eating sushi with my sister a few weeks later when I got the email that I’d been offered the internship in the ASC’s education department. I knew I’d been afforded an incredible opportunity, but only time would show me what a watershed moment this summer would be.
            My first month at the ASC was spent in the education office learning the ropes of administration. I was truly impressed by the efforts my supervisors made to ensure my fellow interns and I were exposed to all aspects of life in the company, giving the perspective and range of skills necessary for young professionals in an artistic field. We observed rehearsals, learned the computer program used for box office transactions, and practiced writing grant proposals. My favorite project was writing a study guide for a lesson on A Midsummer Night’s Dream that the ASC will bring to elementary schools next year. But in the midst of organizing lesson plans and costume closets, there was still time for play during text classes. These workshops were a chance for us interns to work with ASC teaching artists on monologues and scenes that we eventually presented in a mock audition and a final performance the last night of our internship. In addition, we were offered advice on headshots, resumes and cover letters. The ASC was truly invested in our development as young professionals and as artists, and I’ve come away from it with a clearer idea of what it means to be in a company and what I can do to contribute to the people and the work there.

            If the administrative portion of my internship revealed how I go about a career in the arts, my time assisting the Shakespeare Intensive for Teens program reminded me why I’m pursuing a future in theater. The passion of these students was overwhelming, something I recognized from when I was younger.  I now had an opportunity to help them cultivate their talent and creativity as others have helped me.  One afternoon my administrative duties brought me into the SIT students’ rehearsal of Hamlet. I’ll never forget standing transfixed as these high-schoolers performed a glorious arrangement of “Come Away Death,” a poignant beginning to a remarkable production. It was a glimpse of what awaited me during the second half of my internship, which I would spend working with the next group of SIT students on a production of Othello. My students were smart, hardworking, and delightful to watch on stage. They were exceptionally open and honest with their thoughts and feelings, whether handling an emotionally challenging scene during rehearsal or sharing their opinions on Weird Al Yankovic over lunch. Almost instantaneously, I felt connected to each of these young actors. Barriers of self-consciousness broke down and we all were our freest selves. Our best selves. Through the collective endeavor of storytelling, we learned and shared for four short weeks. It was an inspiring, joyful, humbling experience. All too soon, Othello was over and I prepared to head home for the remainder of my summer. My last day at the theater, I found myself lingering in the green room backstage, not wanting to leave. I realized what a home I’d found at the ASC. Though parting is such sweet sorrow, I’m thankful for my summer at the ASC and go forward confident in my path as an actress and teaching artist. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

“…Go not till I set you up a glass”: An Intern’s Reflection

What a whirlwind of a month! After our final SIT performance of Hamlet last night and thinking all the way back to orientation and seeing The Comedy of Errors during our first night together, it is truly overwhelming to think of all that has occurred in between. I met one of the most unique, humble, and cohesive casts I have ever worked with, worked alongside truly wonderful and passionate artists, and felt a new level of personal growth and satisfaction that I do not believe I would have achieved if I had chosen to spend my summer working at any other theatre.
Our first day began with our check-in process, a way we would begin and end each camp day that helped to establish a judgment-free, safe and open environment that was less about the rest of the cast hearing about each other’s feelings and more of giving each student a chance to self-discover and sort through what they were bringing in and leaving with each day. I struggled with this process for a few reasons. To begin with, in this day and age, with how bombarded I judge most of us are with all manner of stimuli and responsibilities, I know that I find it difficult to find time to be with just me, in a quiet space, and reflect on how I’m doing that day and how what has happened to me that day has affected me. I also struggled with wanting to be the perfect role model for the students and what that meant to me, which turned out to be that I felt I had to simply claim to be happy all of the time and then I was done. And I wasn’t being dishonest; I am usually quite an optimistic, hopeful, and content person. However, I also needed to recognize that I’m human, struggle and go through hard times too, but more importantly, I had to realize that it was okay for these kids to see that too. It would give them permission to also open up and admit that they weren’t always a bright and bubbly, box-stepping and jazz-handing theatre student. By the end of the month, and definitely for our final check-in (during which I was able to remain relatively dry-eyed until it was the directors’ turns), I was a lot more comfortable with admitting to how I felt, honestly, and expecting nothing more than a listening ear in return.
I almost just began to recall ‘the most challenging part of the past month was…,’ but truthfully, ‘challenge’ tends to have more of a negative connotation, I judge, than what I’d like to convey about a particular part of the camp. I was invited at the beginning of the month to consider what sort of class I might like to teach the students. I had a whole plethora of ideas and had no idea how to narrow it down to one concentrated class. So I didn’t. I observed that we were spending a lot of (extremely valuable) time working text, whether it was from the show or not, and thinking about choices, relationships, motives, tactics, etc. I decided it would also be beneficial for the students to expand on those concepts by working on how best to convey them on the stage, by way of projecting one’s voice, hitting the consonants that would help communicate emotion, letting the sound of the vowels resonate throughout one’s body, breathing correctly, releasing tension in one’s body, and furthermore, exploring different ways one’s body can move. I consulted one of my acting professors from DeSales University to brush up on my Linklater technique and she guided me through some breathing, neutralizing, and vocal exercises. I also consulted my notes from a movement class taken a few years ago that focused on a fun and explorative animal exercise. Finally, after having taken three years of classes in Zumba at college and absolutely adoring it, I put together a few of my favorite routines for a short dance/exercise session. I had an absolute blast sharing this particular passion with the students and was so excited when a few of them would request songs or even ordered their own Zumba workout kits. I also did my best to reinforce the Linklater technique with a fun lyric-inspired exercise we did a few times per week. I mostly just wanted to get the students up and moving and experiencing the text they were working with as much as they were thinking about and analyzing it. Based on the moving and committed performances given by all, the feedback from my directors, and the hint of self-satisfaction I had, I would like to think the class was a success.
Working with the other directors was also an absolute blast. I had taken a directing class at school and while I enjoyed it thoroughly, I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue at great lengths. However, working alongside my set of directors this summer and sitting in the metaphorical passenger seat of the directing process, I was able to step back and see how I could apply the ‘directing by asking questions’ technique to my own acting experiences. This technique, I judged, gave the students permission to make bold choices, explore on their own, and sometimes come up with something original that perhaps wasn’t in the director’s initial blocking or notes. Based on these observations, I predict that I will better be able to challenge myself during my own performance work and not be afraid to “just try it!”
My time spent with the SIT students and directors this June was certainly an experience that has had one of the most memorable impacts on me so far. I respected and learned from every single person I had the pleasure to work with and it is so hard to accept that few of us may see each other again in the near future. Yet one thing that will connect us all, no matter where life takes us, is this single lesson that I hope we will all continue to carry close to our hearts: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

-Emily Wisniewski