The juniors worked very hard this semester to expand their skills in text analysis and character creation. As a group, we studied Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, and then the students performed in two-person scenes taken from the play. They integrated classroom exercises and information from their Acting Is Believing textbooks to explore the ideas of physical action, objectives, tactics and characterization. They then turned to two-person undirected scene studies, which they performed for their final exams. They took on some challenging roles and scenes, and they most definitely rose to the challenge with their talent and hard work.
The seniors started off the semester by directing each other in scenes from material that we’ve read in other classes. The student directors chose some difficult material, and the actors turned in impressive performances. We moved on to working on some larger group scenes, each comprising 4-5 actors. Finally the seniors chose their own partners and material to prepare for their final exam scene studies. Along the way, we worked through techniques and styles from A Practical Handbook for the Actor and Acting With Style.
Introduction to Theatre
In this dual enrollment course, taught by guest artist Mary Evans Lott, the juniors began by exploring stage language and alternative theatre and its spaces. They studied West Side Story as an example of the American Musical and learned about various other contributors to that unique genre. They examined August Wilson’s Fences and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman as examples of modern American drama. Then they explored the roles of various theatre practitioners, researching and presenting on major directors, composers, choreographers and designers. They also completed a design project based on Bertolt Brecht’s Good Woman of Setzuan, which they studied in class.
Theatre Theory and Criticism
The seniors greatly enjoyed their semester of modern and contemporary drama. They studied three greatly influential American pieces: Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, as well as the historical and cultural contexts that influenced these plays. They then examined the absurdist movement through Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. The students researched the purpose of regional theatre and proposed a regional theatre of their own, complete with mission statement, logo, relevance, and inaugural season. The year wound down with a study of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Proof, and then each student created a director’s design concept for one of the plays they’d read.
Theatre Crafts & Skills
There was a lot of action in the Craft & Skills class at the beginning of the semester, as the students were split among four different guest artists. The juniors chose between sound & media editing (specifically with GarageBand) with Richard Adams and stage makeup with Joe Hurt. The seniors either studied directing under Diane Stewart or costume design under Brecken Gaimen (who helped design the PastCoats for Still Life With Iris). The snow gave us some trouble, but the students still came up with some really excellent final projects in these classes. In the latter part of the semester, the juniors studied improvisation with Julia Nelson and the seniors created their own interview-based drama pieces under the guidance of Celi Oliveto. Both women are in the MFA program at Mary Baldwin College.
The seniors closed out the year by presenting and reflecting on their senior projects. We had groups teaching arts curricula at Stump Elementary School, Wilson Elementary School, and Wilson Middle School. One student interned with the children’s theatre program at Blue Ridge Community College, one served as an assistant director at Shelburne Middle School, others created an instructional video on stage makeup application, one wrote a one-act play for her high school, and others tutored or created websites. The juniors spent half of their seminar time learning about the Senior Capstone Project and starting to plan their own project proposal. They also learned how to use iMovie and worked with the art students on an integrated creative film project.
First of all, let me say how proud guest director Diane Stewart and I were of our actors’ performances in Still Life With Iris and Anon(ymous). The students worked very hard to put up two such challenging pieces so quickly, and we were very pleased with the result. Our students are never ones to rest on their laurels, though, and many of them moved on to other productions at their home schools and around the community not long after the SVGS shows closed. Our actors appeared in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (RELHS), Spamalot (BGHS), Little Shop of Horrors (FDHS), Les Misérables – Student Edition (SDHS), Fiddler on the Roof (ShenanArts), Annie (Waynesboro Players), Neverland (Valley Dance Theatre), and Snow White (Staunton Academy of Ballet). We will have several students involved at Oak Grove Theatre this summer, appearing in Our Town and Godspell. Also look for SVGS students, guest artists and instructors on stage and behind the scenes in the regional premiere of Les Misérables at ShenanArts in August.