Adventures in New York (Part Three) or learning everything you can about theater in four short days…

Tuesday opened to a workshop called. “How Do We Know We Are Good Theater Teachers.” This session was taught by Peter Avery who is the Director of Theatre, NYC Department of Education. New York has one of the largest school systems and Peter oversees all aspects of theater education.

Granted I have never taught in the public school system, but I’m wondering if all states are as fortunate. It was a fascinating example of how theater can teach and inspire students. After discussing what theater education looks like in New York. Peter showed us a video of a teacher in action. Here are my take aways:

  1. The entire class was involved.  Together they inspired and motivated each other.
  2. A student was assigned to be a stage manager. He/she would call time to keep the class on track.
  3. At the end of class they break into pairs and communicate the one thing they learned from class that day and the one thing they need more work on. They communicate it to each other not publicly in the class.

I loved how involved everyone was. I loved that the evaluation took place in a way that forced them to repeat what they learned that day. I am thinking about using that technique as we begin rehearsing our next play.

The next session was on Stage Management and was taught by Matt DiCarlo who is the current stage manager for “The Play That Goes Wrong”.

Take Aways:

There are three parts to stage management.

  1. Organizational. This I all ready knew. Having a good stage manager is such a valuable necessary asset. A stage manager takes care of everything from the stage and behind. They organize the set changes, and oversee the choreography of entrances and exits. They make sure everything is in its place. They also usually keep an emergency kit that has everything from band aids, safety pins, batteries, highlighters, breath mints, flashlights, glow tape, aspirin and anything else that the cast might need in an emergency. Stage Managers are in fact, life savers.
  2. Technical. The stage manager sometimes runs scenes, takes the place of the director  if necessary, keeps track of communication and schedules and run times. They also call cues at times during performances.
  3. Artistic. It is the stage managers responsibility to maintain the product. In most theaters once the show opens the director moves on to other shows checking in only occasionally. The stage manager is then in charge of making sure the actors and everyone else stays true to the production the director created.

The stage manager must have an understanding of what everyone does.

Scheduling goals: They rehearse M-F, 10-6 for five weeks. In that five weeks they have two weeks of tech.

Resources: Production Stage Management For Broadway by Peter Lawrence.

Recommended apps: Wanderlist /base camp

Let me just say–I love being a stage manager. If I didn’t direct, I would want to stage manage.

After lunch we had a chance to meet with Diana Rigg. Those of you who are young might not know her, but I LOVED her in the TV show The Avengers. (Not the marvel comic book characters.) She is currently staring in “My Fair Lady.”

Take aways: “I don’t care what your private problem is. Your problem is to see what’s on the page and to get it right.”

” Actors are here to serve the directors, the play and the audience.” (Hmmm perhaps that’s a blog post all in itself)

I loved her directness and witty sense of humor. My favorite moment was when one of the teachers asked her how she kept a performance fresh after performing it night after night. She looked confused and then answered, “I’m a professional!”

That night we went to see ” Mean Girls.” Imagine our delight when Jonalyn Saxer, our dance instructor from day one, as swing played the lead! She was amazing and we loved her.

I did not like the play. It was upbeat and lively and while I knew the main lesson it was trying to teach, I felt that it glamorized the art of being mean rather than the proper way to stand up to bullies. My most disappointing moment was a song that was dedicated to “giving the finger” to those who mistreat you. I just cannot think that’s the message we want a new generation of young girls to shoulder!

Should you see it? My vote would be no. Even though I could teach you the dance moves to the closing number, “I See Stars.”

Have you seen “Mean Girls”? How is theater in the public school system where you are? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Until Next time!

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