In November, we made our annual trip to the American Shakespeare Center to see As You Like It. Meanwhile, our students have been involved in shows all around the community including Sweeney Todd (Wayne Theatre), Carrie The Musical (Blue Ridge Community College), Mamma Mia (ShenanArts), and The Nutcracker (Staunton Academy of Ballet). In addition, we’d like to congratulate all of our students from Robert E. Lee High School who advanced to the state finals of the VHSL one-act competition: Alice Cormier, Grace Daughtrey, and Mary Elam (Best Actress Award).
Sense and Sensibility, by Kate Hamill, based on the novel by Jane Austen, relates the tale of the Dashwood sisters Marianne and Elinor as they attempt to find love under the ever-watchful eyes of their Regency-era society. Gossip, heartbreak, scandal, and romance ensue as the ladies attempt to satisfy both their desires for happiness and the expectations of their peers.
Silent Sky, by Lauren Gunderson, tells the true story of Henrietta Leavitt, who isn’t allowed to touch a telescope or express an original idea when she begins work at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900’s. Instead, she joins a group of women “computers,” charting the stars for a renowned astronomer. This inspiring script follows Henrietta as she attempts to measure the light and distance of stars while trying to balance her dedication to science with family obligations and the possibility of love.
Performances: Sense and Sensibility – Jan. 17 and 19 at 7:00 PM; Silent Sky – Jan. 18 at 7:00 PM and Jan. 20 at 3:00 PM
The juniors explored an acting technique called the Viewpoints by creating a performance art piece set to poetry. They performed monologues in mid-October and then read new plays in preparation for their final exam monologues
The Studio I class began the year building up their focus, concentration, and imagination. Then they selected new monologues and started to investigate different ways of using their bodies and voices to convey character and tell a story. They have explored a variety of class exercises including visualization, movement work, creative writing, and text analysis. They have also worked with partners to critique each other’s work and offer constructive feedback. They will synthesize all these skills in their upcoming monologue performances.
The seniors worked hard to apply the Guideposts they’ve studied to scene study performances in November and their final exam. We worked through various exercises and techniques in class, but ultimately the students were responsible for the direction of their own scenes. The students also studied various acting styles including Shakespeare, comedy of manners, and Chekhov (in conjunction with plays they studied in Theory & Crit).
Our actors have been using Michael Shurtleff’s Audition as a guide (a common college text often referred to as the Bible for working actors) to delve more deeply into character creation and scene/monologue analysis. They have practiced using the Audition Guideposts in class study scenes and are now applying them to longer undirected scene performances. They have explored techniques and theories of such acting practitioners as Viola Spolin, Constantin Stanislavski, and Lee Strasberg. In conjunction with our Theory & Criticism class readings, the seniors have experimented with the Shakespearean acting style by learning how to handle the language and physicalize their text.
Intro to Theatre
We have journeyed through bloody Scotland with Macbeth, witty Victorian England in The Importance of Being Earnest, and a path to self-discovery in A Doll’s House. Our interactive and creative projects have included blood-making, creating modern interpretations of the characters from Macbeth, hosting a traditional Victorian tea party, and writing children’s books and how-to guides on Victorian etiquette
The juniors began the year with a bit of absurdism (The Bald Soprano) before moving on to the Ancient Greeks and Antigone. We began exploring Shakespeare by examining his theatrical environment and how his texts may have evolved. We read and discussed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the students had the opportunity to create Shakespearean cue scripts and stage a scene from the play. Now we’re delving in to the dark and bloody tragedy, Macbeth.
Theory & Criticism
We moved quickly through French Neoclassicism and the English Restoration and then examined the historical and social changes that brought theatre artists into realism. We wound down the semester by studying Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and considering how this new style of playwriting influenced Stanislavski and the acting method that he ultimately created. The students also created original Readers Theatre scripts to review theatre history prior to our exam. Throughout the semester, each student worked through a creative project which involved reading a classical play, analyzing it, comparing it to a movie adaptation, and then creating their own short film interpretation.
The seniors are working through the history of great dramatic literature. They began the year with Ancient Greece and Oedipus Rex. Then they examined some samples of medieval mystery and morality plays before moving on to English Renaissance. They recently finished Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus and are now in the midst of what is possibly the world’s most famous play, Hamlet. Creative explorations of our texts include word clouds, image work, character resumes, and writing in role. The students also chose a Shakespeare play to read and analyze on their own as the first step in a larger creative project.
The juniors and seniors are combined for Craft & Skills, which gives students the choice between two guest artists and allows all our actors to work more closely together.
The juniors wrapped up their stage makeup workshops by designing and executing a look for a circus or carnival “freak.” In their physical theatre class, the seniors explored ensemble exercises, improvisation, mask work, and stage combat.
For the first round, some students studied audition preparation with Mary Evans Lott and Kathy Lafon to select and polish monologues and songs for future auditions. This class culminated in a mock audition in front of the guest artists and other theatre practitioners from the community. The other students worked with professional storyteller Barbara Spillman Lawson to create an original piece of children’s theatre. The actors came up with the concept, wrote the script, found the props & costumes, and performed for 40 little audience members at Covenant Developmental Preschool in Staunton. They also designed promotional posters and activity packs for the school. The preschoolers were very engaged and their teachers say the kids are still re-enacting the story during their play time. The full video of “Who Stole the Cookie” is available on the SVGS Theatre Facebook page. Now the classes have split as the juniors work with professional stage makeup artist Joe Hurt and the seniors develop their physical acting with Zach Laliberte.
Please visit the SVGS Arts and Humanities page on Facebook or the SVGS Theatre website (svgstheatre.weebly.com) for more information about the shows. Ticketing information will be available at http://www.shenanarts.org.