Saturday, October 22, 2011

Staged Reading of "Maidenhead" at Brooklyn College

On Friday I had the privilege of reading the role of Angela in Brooklyn College MFA Playwright Kim Davies' new play, Maidenhead. 

In a feudal, alternate-universe United States, high-school prom queen Angela Johnson is a vestal virgin gone rogue, dragging her gay bestie and her father's AmEx to the big bad city and throwing them all into high-stakes crime.  Nothing is sacred when you're sharp, subtle, and a shapely seventeen, and schoolgirl Angela knows how to play for keeps.  If beauty is fleeting and virginity is a woman's treasure, she'll buy low, sell high, and take her payment in unmarked bills.  But even when the future seems most certain, Angela can't escape her past.  In K. Davies's sharp new satire, sex sells, winner takes all, and nobody comes out clean.











Directed by MFA directing alumnus, Welker White, curated by Andy Buck, an MA candidate in Theater History, with design consultation by MFA Design candidate, Tatsuki Nakamura, the cast includes current students and acting alumni Emmanuel Elpenord, Paula Jon deRose, Michael Colby Jones, Jonathon Maldonado, Aaron Mednick, Mervyn Morris, Jeremy Ping, Keelie Sheridan, and Darius Stone. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

William Alfred Reading

The Brooklyn College Library recently announced it's collection of personal letters to and from playwright William Alfred (former Brooklyn College professor), celebrated by a staged reading of several of the letters from Gertrude Stein, Lillian Hellman and others. I was asked to read a letter by Elizabeth Hardwick, a friend of Alfred's going through a difficult divorce. 

The readers and directors at the performance: from L to R Professors Robert Cohen and Judylee Vivier, MFA Actors Jeremy Ping and Aaron Mednick, MFA Director Josh Penzell and MFA Actors Patrick McCormick and myself!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Friar's Foundation Adopt-A-Scholar Reception

So many updates! Here's the first!

Last night I along with several other scholars from NYC arts programs were honored by the Friar's Club as a part of their Adopt-A-Scholar Program. Friar's Club members generously donated scholarship monies to help us finance our studies in our chosen fields, and I am so honored to be one of the recipients! 

Each college had one student perform and one student speak- I was lucky enough to be selected to perform a monologue from my one-woman show, A Woman in Progress. I was STOKED to get to perform in front of such an esteemed audience. I was also mildly terrified...

In the bathroom getting ready to perform. NERVES!

My fellow 1st year MFA, Jonny, was selected to speak on behalf of the Brooklyn College contingency- he was a hit! He expressed his gratitude sincerely and humbly, but not without some chop-busting- it IS the Friar's Club (you know, the ones who throw the Celebrity Roasts)- laughter is important...


And then... it was my turn! My monologue was very well received, and I truly enjoyed performing it!

From the very bottom of my heart, thank you to the Friar's Club for your commitment to helping young artists finance the training they need to hone their skills. Education is truly the most generous gift one can give. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Some love for my fellow multi-hypenates!


Some Actors Work Both Sides of a Script


Robert Wright for The New York Times
AT the end of a 90-minute conversation Jesse Eisenberg announced that what he really would like to do is write a musical. To which Zoe Kazan responded, “That’s the most impressive thing you’ve said this whole time.” Mr. Eisenberg answered back by listing other comments he had made. “Musical theater totally trumps that,” she retorted.
Merrick Morton/Sony — Columbia Pictures
Jesse Eisenberg, left, and Joseph Mazzello in a scene from the film “The Social Network.”
Ms. Kazan, 28, and Mr. Eisenberg, who will be 28 next month, trade barbs in a way that only people who run in the same circles would. These actors have known each other for years. They are both slightly built New Yorkers known for intelligent performances dramatizing eccentric anxiety. Mr. Eisenberg is more famous because of blockbuster movies like “The Social Network,” but Ms. Kazan has more experience onstage, starring most recently in the revival of “Angels in America.” But they both give the impression that they are younger than they are, of being indie even when acting in Hollywood or on Broadway. Now they have something else in common: They have each written a play that has a debut next month.
Ms. Kazan’s “We Live Here,” a dysfunctional-family drama set before a wedding, opens atManhattan Theater Club on Oct. 12, the same day that Mr. Eisenberg’s “Asuncion” begins previews at the Cherry Lane Theater. Mr. Eisenberg stars in his comedy, a Rattlestick Playwrights Theater production, as a naïve blogger whose ideals clash with his life experience. On a recent morning they chatted with Jason Zinoman over coffee. These are excerpts from the conversation.
Q. It’s a cliché for actors to say, “I want to direct,” but less often do I hear them say, “I want to write a play.” Why did you do it?
ZOE KAZAN I always wrote. My parents are writers. It just seemed like something people did. I took a writing class in college, liked it, and my first year out of school I couldn’t get a job, so I wrote a play. I never wanted to be a playwright. I just didn’t say no to any of my interests. I don’t have any hobbies.
JESSE EISENBERG People ask me what my hobbies are in interviews, and I always say biking. But all I bike for is to get to rehearsal more quickly. I have no hobbies either.
KAZAN Way to go. I bet you and I would make fascinating dinner companions.
EISENBERG Pure narcissism. We could have separate dinners alone.
KAZAN I am my own wife.
Q. Jesse, tell me about your play.
EISENBERG It’s about a writer obsessed with big issues but who doesn’t do anything about them. I do what I like to do, explore parts of myself that I am embarrassed by. I grew up in an apolitical household. I never left the country. When I became an adult, I started traveling and became interested in politics, and I probably talked about things in a silly, ignorant way. So I explored this in myself and exaggerated it for comedic effect.
Q. How exaggerated is it? One of the main characters, the one played by you, gets mugged and then sympathizes with his attackers.
EISENBERG I was mugged one night in New York and slammed into a concrete pillar, and I did an interview where I said I completely understand why they attacked me. It was a poor, black neighborhood. Someone sent me an article saying: “You ignorant idiot. It’s more offensive to defend these people. It’s more racist to defend them.” He’s right, and that is the impetus for the first scene.
Q. Jesse’s play deals with a relationship between brothers, while yours is about an equally fraught sibling relationship.
KAZAN I have a sister who I am close to. I was interested in the idea of the sister relationship in general. I wrote a first draft in fall of 2009. MTC commissioned it, and they gave me some money. When I was acting in “A Behanding [in Spokane],” I was going in five hours early and working on it there.
Q. Did Martin McDonagh [the author of “Behanding’] give feedback?
KAZAN He read it.
EISENBERG [Imitating Mr. McDonagh] How come no one gets his head sawed off in this?
KAZAN You don’t know, Jesse, you haven’t read it.
EISENBERG Listen, I read the play, but I think you left out a page where someone gets his tongue cut out and stapled to his eye.
KAZAN I guess I don’t really seek notes from a broad range of people. It’s more like we were becoming friends, and I was going early and he was like: What are you doing?
Q. Jesse, who do you give work to?
EISENBERG If I think my play is bad, I’ll send it to my mother because she only gives me compliments. If I think it’s good, jeez, I don’t know. My mom calls me every 16 minutes, and she says: “That’s great sweetie. You’re my favorite child out of the three of you. Why are you not president?”
Q. Zoe, you grew up with two screenwriters as parents.
KAZAN My parents will sit down at the dining-room table and give notes on each other’s scripts. It’s the worst thing in the world. It’s like the house is burning down. It’s awful for my sister and me.
EISENBERG You should give your script to my mother. She would be real encouraging.
KAZAN I would love that. Then maybe I would be her favorite child.
Q. Which is the biggest challenge for you as a writer: character, plot or language?
EISENBERG Aspects of each. It’s a cop-out of an answer. At each point I come to a problem with a plot point or character, it seems insurmountable. Or is it unsurmountable? Not to be surmounted? So language is my answer.
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Zoe Kazan in a scene from Martin McDonagh's play “A Behanding in Spokane” on Broadway in 2010.
KAZAN I think action should be revealed through character, so if you have a plot problem, it’s probably a character problem. It’s fun and easy to write language, but there were things I loved that I had to get rid of because they are no longer carrying their weight.
Q. Does the fact you are actors have any impact on the amount of trust you have that your cast will find the right subtext in your lines?
KAZAN My rewriting process has been a lot about taking away the explicit and letting the subtext speak for itself. Sam [Gold, who is directing the play] is pushing me to be brave in pursuit of that. I think it’s hard for an actor.
Q. One thing that struck me about both your plays is that in an age when plays are becoming more cinematic in structure, yours are not.
KAZAN We both work in film, so if we are going to write a play, why not write a play?
EISENBERG There’s something strange about theater. My characters consistently demonize elitism, but of course it’s taking place in a theater where only so many people can see it. I’ve been in silly popcorn movies — the kind of thing that as an actor you might feel embarrassed about — but those movies reach many more people. In a play you’re basically performing for rich people.
Q. Broadway was once the ultimate in success for a young dramatist. How do you think of it now?
KAZAN Broadway is different now than in our parents’ generation. The number of straight plays opening there now is so small compared to the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. I see many more plays Off Broadway by dint of ticket price and what’s being produced. If it costs more, it has to reach a larger audience. That’s why there aren’t more risky plays on Broadway.
EISENBERG I don’t consider Broadway for us — as theatergoers. I never even consider going there to see something.
KAZAN I want to see “Book of Mormon,” but for $400? Look, [turning to Mr. Eisenberg] for 60 bucks, 65 bucks I can see your play, right?
EISENBERG $75, actually. Listen I know someone who can get you in.
KAZAN $75? I’m not going to see your play.
EISENBERG Hey, I was in a zombie movie.
Q. Zoe, you also wrote a movie called “He Loves Me” that is supposed to come out next year. What is it about?
KAZAN It’s a magic realist romantic comedy. Paul [Dano, who is her boyfriend] plays a Jonathan Safran Foer-type writer who has writer’s block. He has one big novel and can’t follow it up. He starts to dream about this girl and then magical high jinks ensue. But it’s rooted in reality and comes from my experience. I was in relationships in my late teens with much older men and always felt like a piece of clay. But when I got older, I wasn’t so fluid as a person anymore. My relationships got better but harder. I wanted to write about that.
Q. Jesse, you just finished shooting a Woody Allen movie currently titled “The Bop Decameron.” Why do actors always adopt his mannerisms when starring in his films? Is it because his humor is so influential or is it in the cadences of the lines?
EISENBERG Those two plus a third reason, which is that after each take, he’s giving you notes and his voice is so iconic and funny and specific. Its impossible not to [imitate it]. You also want to indulge fully in being in a Woody Allen movie. He would say, “Don’t be hamstrung by dialogue and say whatever you want.” And I just end up making his jokes. At one point I realized after I did a scene that I made a joke from “Manhattan.”
KAZAN Steal from the best, man.
EISENBERG Just not in front of him. Go down the block first.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

MFA Acting Week 3

Monday 9/12

Improv
Today marked our first improv session and I can tell I am going to love it. This course will serve more as an opportunity to become acquainted with our own unique individual creative processes than to 'teach improv'. We discussed some of the personal obstacles we as actors encounter- doubting and denying impulses and fearing that we aren't enough (original enough, funny enough, clever enough, giving enough...). We often forget to stop and realize how much more energy we expend when we restrain ourselves and restrict our impulses, rather than allowing ourselves to be without judgement. Our professor used a beautiful analogy that resonated deeply with me- if we think of ourselves as houses, our experiences and emotions are stored in different rooms, some of which we allow free access to, others of which are locked and guarded. It's important that we know what is in each room of our house so that we can access and call upon the things that our work demands from us. 

Tuesday 9/13

Speech
We continued working on the production of consonant sounds and had a mini-group quiz. Everyone passed!

Wednesday 9/14

Movement
Our readings for this course gave us background information on the Alexander Technique, including how Alexander himself discovered the principles he would go on to teach. We discussed the startle response- the body's physiological and neurological pre-choreographed response to danger, and how this physically manifests in a species that is constantly living under stress. The righting reflex, which the body naturally does when the danger is removed, manifests in the head and neck leading the spine into length. We also began to discuss the cycle of awareness, inhibition and direction.

Acting
We did a facial mirroring exercise today where we sat across from a partner and conversed with them while taking on any facial manipulations we observed in them- raised eyebrows, wrinkled foreheads, etc. More than imitating, it required a release into our partner which necessitated working with ease. This allowed us to be more open when observing and being observed. We did some more improv work and discussed the impact that place has on our behavior.

Thursday 9/15


Speech
We had a double speech session today as our voice teacher is away working with the RSC. We continued work on our consonant sounds and then played with the power that different sounds have in different words.

Kinetics
Today we discussed the elements of the theatre auditory- sound, tempo, pitch, volume, stress and phrasing. We expiremented with this and then recapped all of the elements- kinetic, auditory and visual, through which we will analyze scenes and characters in the future. We finished up our abstract art/ movement exercise as we began to think of ourselves not only intellectually but also as physical entities with lines, forms, shapes, etc. As actors we are both the sculptor and the sculpture. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Greatest Speech Ever Made

Shared with me by my dear friend, filmmaker Alessio Cappelletti- currently working on a film project entitled For Peace


Sunday, September 11, 2011

MFA Acting Week 2 Redux

HOW have three full weeks already passed? I'm a bit behind- here's a week 2 recap! 

Monday 9/5 
No Classes

Tuesday 9/6
Voice- We focused on the anatomy of the vocal mechanism and had a discussion on the components of an effective vocal warmup and its purpose- to free the instrument and facilitate effective breathing and emotional connection, allowing access to a free, responsible, authentic and connected voice. 
Speech- Consonants! Wahoo! We learned all 26 consonant sounds, where they're made in the mouth, what type of sound they are (stop-plosive, fricative, glide, affricate, nasal or lateral) and the corresponding script and print IPA symbols. 

Wednesday 9/7
Movement- In addition to our continued exploration of the foundation of the Alexander Technique, we did an exercise to discover the true locations of our joints (vs. where we perceive our joints to be). We were asked by our teacher to observe our repertoire of movement patterns without judgment.  
Acting- We shared our experiences from our sensory observation assignment and then did a simple improv exercise. Person A sat on stage while person B left the room. B returned with a relationship and objective, and A was only allowed to respond to B's words and behavior- A was not allowed to contribute any new information. It was interesting to explore simply listening and being affected. 

Thursday 9/8
Voice- We brought our monologues in to workshop from a vocal perspective. My classical piece from Sophocles' Electra is a powerful and emotional piece- unfortunately I have a tendency of holding vocally in heightened situations- releasing this completely changed my monologue in a wonderful way. We also had a short discussion on the idea that nothing in an actor is compartmentalized- it is impossible to allow disconnect and a lack of integration in our training- everything is related (voice, breath, physicality, emotion...). 
Speech- Speech is an essence of identity and is not something training will or should change about someone. We train our speech to be able to make a choice- we increase our range and sharpen our instrument to be able to meet the demands of the text when we are called upon to do so, but there is truly no right or wrong way to speak as an individual, there are only shades of effectiveness- did it work? Did my audience believe me? We also discussed the power of certain sounds found in the English language and the impact they have on the listener. 
Kinetics- This class focused on the elements of the theatre visual, including line, form, mass, color, texture and space. We did some exciting exercises exploring the manipulation of a shape (our bodies) to evoke different reactions in ourselves and our audiences. 


This week was special because in addition to our classes, we had prep (Friday), auditions (Saturday) and callbacks (Sunday) for Eurydice- one of the fall productions that needed to add a few castmembers. (Brooklyn College tries not to cast MFA Actors in their first semester so that we have an opportunity to acclimate- fall shows are usually cast in the spring and then filled in with new students.)

Relaxing on campus with classmates Andrea and Sarah after auditions. 

I also had the opportunity to see an absolutely stunning production of The Little Mermaid by the Glass Bandits Theatre Company in McCarren Park with my classmates Aaron, Patrick, Jeremy and Jeremy's wife Laura. The puppet work was flawless, the a capella vocals were haunting and the piece moved swiftly- every detail was simply and perfectly attended to. And it was free. Awesome!

Stay tuned for Week 3's recap!

In case you missed it, check out Week 1 here

Cheap Improv Classes!




CHEAP IMPROV!
Mind The Art Entertainment proudly offers some of the cheapest and most HIGH QUALITY improv training in the city! Sign up with a friend and you both get 20% off!


Only $93 for 5 sessions, Tuesdays starting 10/11, including an open performance on the 6th week.


-Are you somebody that has seen some improv and thought “Hey, I would like to try some of that there stuff right there.”?

-Are you an acting type person who wants to expand their repertoire of things you’re good at and want to be able to bring to the table to make you more marketable and successful in this the hardest of professions?

-Are you a non-actor who wants to beef-up your confidence level, learn how to relax and just have fun and play with other people?

-Have you wanted to do improv but were scared away by the high sticker price of some of the improv training in the city?

-Are you scared of improv?

Then perhaps these classes are for you. 

LEVEL 1:
For the beginner and those with no formal training. Learn the basics of how to free yourself up and think like an improviser. 

Runs: 5 weeks, culminating in a class show on the sixth week. Tuesday nights starting October 11th

Time: 5:30pm-7:30pm on the aforementioned Tuesdays. 
Class show to be at 7pm on November 15th

LEVEL 2:
For the improviser who wants to rise to the next level. Improve your level of play, listening and understanding. Focus on long-form improv and creating real, believable characters in hilarious circumstances.

Runs: 5 weeks, culminating in a class show on the sixth week. Tuesday nights starting October 11th

Time: 8:00pm-10:00pm on the aforementioned Tuesdays. 
Class show to be at 9pm on November 15th

Register at www.mindtheartentertainment.com



YOUR TEACHER IS JOE KURTZ: Joe is a founding board member of Mind The Art Entertainment and is the director of their Acting Division. He studied improv at iO (formerly Improv Olympic) in Chicago, IL and is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Some of Joe’s teachers include T.J. Jagodowski (T.J. and Dave), Peter Gwinn (writer for The Colbert Report and author of Group Improvisation) and Charna Halpern (author of Truth in Comedy and Art by Committee). Joe has been teaching improv for the past couple of years while appearing in numerous productions through the city. His play, Die, premiered last year at LaMaMa E.T.C.

Testimonials from previous students:

"Joe is such a pleasure to have as an improv coach. He really lets us explore at our own pace, but at the same time, really helps us get away from our usual habits, to explore it in a different way. He makes it such a fun space to work in, and I’m so glad to have him once a week to help me not think and just go crazy and let go. It really helps me with my everyday auditions as well!" – Ashley C. Williams (star of the “The Human Centipede”)

"Joe is a wonderfully creative flexible and patient instructor. He makes his classroom a completely safe space to explore your craft and get back to the basics of acting. His improv workshops are a rare jewel and asset for anyone interested in building theatrical flexibility and confidence."- Ariana Paganetti (Off-Broadway producer)

Auditions in the AM, Audience in the PM


Yesterday AM the MFA and BFA actors (along with a few BA students) auditioned for the remaining roles in one of Brooklyn College's fall productions. Usually, BC casts the fall shows in the spring and tries to avoid casting first semester MFA students (so as not to overload us), but there are a few openings in Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice, so we all went in to show our work and introduce ourself both to the faculty and student directors. 

Auditions went well! Afterwards, I spent some time relaxing on campus with my fellow female 1st year cohorts- Andrea and Sarah! 
 
Last night, I schlepped across Brooklyn (quite the arduous task, as my regular train wasn't running- I DEFINITELY got my workout in for the day) to see the Glass Bandits Theatre Company's production of The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen style, NOT Michael Eisner style). They set up a bare-bones stage in the middle of the park- I brought a blanket and arrived early for a front-row seat!


I was joined by my MFA Acting classmate Jeremy and his beautiful wife, Laura!


And two other classmates- Aaron and Patrick (as seen in my latest beach excursion). 

From L to R- myself, Aaron, Patrick and Jeremy- evidently we can't get enough of each other, as we spend all day, every day, together in class and STILL socialize on the weekends... :)

The Little Mermaid was absolutely breathtaking. A solid ensemble cast provided gorgeous and haunting a capella vocals, mesmerizing puppet work and a heartfelt and honest portrayal of a story that is often watered down to make it less tragic. The choreography was perfection. The lighting (something you wouldn't think you'd notice in a park) was perfection. The direction was... perfection. I adored EVERY detail of this well thought out production, as did all of my cohorts. Bravo! 

And now... I'm off to callbacks from yesterday's auditions for Brooklyn College's production of Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice. They're seeing myself and a few other females to fill in some small parts that weren't cast last fall, but a few of my classmates are up for the male lead! Send good vibes! :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

MFA Acting- Week One Recap

It's here! It's happening! Wait- WHAT? We already finished our first week? Wow. That was fast.

The Brooklyn College MFA Acting Class of 2013- from L to R- Patrick, Jeremy, Jonny, Aaron, myself, Andrea and Sarah. 

As I've said many, many times before, I'm so thrilled, honored and humbled to be here. My classmates are talented, dedicated and very unique. My professors are passionate about their work and committed to our development as performers. The program focuses on our individual development and growth as unique artists with unique voices. 

Week two begins tomorrow! Insane! Here's an incredibly un-detailed and oversimplified recap of week one- hopefully I'll have time to share more specifics in the coming weeks!

Voice
We've begun to study the voice from both an anatomical and a holistic viewpoint. We're starting to learn what components in the body are used to create vocal sounds, what the role of the voice is in an actor's craft and the incredible importance of the breath in vocal production. 

-Actors need discipline to be free. 
-We are our instruments. 
-Our voices are our most intimate expressions of ourselves.

Diction and Dialect
In this course we've begun breaking down what speech is- the use of specific sounds, pitch, inflection and emphasis which we use to communicate. We've begun to develop a warmup which engages all the physical components of speech including our tongues, lips, jaws, soft palates, faces, etc. 

-There is no one proper way to speak, except clearly and effectively. 

Movement/Alexander Technique
Our first class focused a lot on becoming aware of and being present with our bodies while moving. We had the opportunity to move organically while telling a story and then were asked to follow someone else's movements while telling the same story- it was interesting to experience and study a foreign movement pattern while telling a familiar story. 

-Can you observe yourself without judgement?

Acting
Much of our discussion centered around the idea of of being curious and aware but existing comfortably without answers- it's ok to not always know why or how something is in this exact moment, so long as we're aware. We also spoke about the intimate and vulnerable sides of acting, and how important these things are to creativity. Lastly, we focused our attention on a performer's energy and how vital it is to the work we do. 

-The only way you can create is to be open to the energy of other actors. 
-Let yourself be without answers.

Kinetics/ Analysis
Our first class was focused on the idea of the theatre as a living art- the audience is present for both the inspiration and the creation as they exist in live time. 

-The theatre is a place for seeing, an auditorium is a place for hearing, and acting is the doing of a deed (which is where kinetics come into play). 

Improv
 Updates/ Thoughts yet to come- the hurricane and Labor Day have cancelled two Mondays in a row, so we've not yet had an improv class.

Friday, August 26, 2011

MFA Acting Orientation

I'm bracing myself for a weekend of reading, writing and running from Hurricane Irene, but before we're evacuated (true story- I live in the coastal evacuation zone- in a basement), I wanted to share some thoughts from yesterday's orientation at Brooklyn College!

First on the schedule was a meeting with the head of our department. We talked a bit about what to expect on this journey, got our schedules and went over our first assignments. My program is very small- there are seven first year MFA actors (including myself) and 7 second years. The second years came for an informal Q & A and we got to know each other a bit, which was wonderful. They were so kind and welcoming and helped relieve a lot of our anxiety about starting school. I feel very blessed to be a part of such a supportive group!

Next we attended a department-wide orientation (where we got to meet the MFA Directors, Designers, Dramaturgs and Theatre Managment students). It was inspiring and a bit humbling to meet everyone and hear a bit about their story. Our department seems to have students representing every continent, many states, all ages and backgrounds- each of us brought together by our love of and dedication to the theatre. It's a powerful thing to sit amongst so many others and hear what they've been through to get to this point. Additionally, we learned that Brooklyn College's Theatre program has been ranked 14th in the country by the Princeton Review. 

I went out with some of my classmates and fellow theatre department friends last night- it was wonderful to get to know everyone better! 

I'm currently finishing up/ tweaking a few assignments for next week, including a writing piece about the story of my voice and some general assessments of where I am right now as an actor. As soon as I'm happy with them, I'll be sharing pieces of the assignments on this blog. Check back soon!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Orientation...

Tomorrow is Orientation, and then on Friday, I begin my first day of MFA Acting studies at Brooklyn College.

Deep breaths. 

I'm thrilled to get started, but a bit nervous about the unknown. 


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

As One Door Closes...


Box of tissues ready? Check. OK. Here goes....

never, ever wanted to be a teacher. My grandma, father, several cousins and one of my sisters are all teachers. I am genetically pre-dispositioned to shape the minds of young people, but for a very long time, I wanted nothing to do with it. I wanted to break the mold, buck the trend and do what made me happy. And that was (and still is) performing. I've always been an advocate for arts education because I know first-hand how life-changing free, no strings attached arts training can be, but it hadn't really occurred to me that I should be the one teaching it. 


The more I learned about the tragic and sickly state of arts in public education and the huge disparities between high and low-income areas, I felt physically ill. It touches close to home. As a quick recap for those of you who don't know my story, financial struggle was a very large and ever present part of my upbringing- at times affording basic survival necessities was difficult, so spend extra money on arts training was not realistic for our family. I was blessed to have been born into a family that appreciated the value of art, however, and they worked hard to find opportunities for my sisters and I. Through the gracious and generous donation of time and instruction from my very kind dance teacher, we were allowed to attend class even when we couldn't pay for it, and several impactful theatre directors volunteered their personal time and resources to help me grow and prepare for further actor training. I am forever indebted to these individuals who believed in me and more importantly, who believed in the importance and power of art. 


At the end of the day, arts education is NOT about grooming the next generation of artists (that's just an added benefit). Kids need arts education because it provides: 

-permission to be unique
-a positive outlet
-an opportunity to learn about yourself and other people
-a way to look and make sense of the world we live in
-a platform on which to stand and express what's important to you

Being the person to give that to these kids is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. 

And now that I'm weeping hysterically, here's a recap of my final day teaching. 

We did a full run-through in the AM with costumes, props, etc. It went smoothly, so I let the kids enjoy a few hours relaxing before we prepared for the show. 


We played in the gym!


And then we went outside. 

The kids LOVE stealing my iced coffee and then impersonating me. Evidently I stand like this?! 


We played salon (which basically means I let the kids tear out braid my hair until I can't handle the pain any longer). 

And I hung around with some of my favorite boys. 

When we went back inside, the kids had lunch and I fed them THE COOKIES (a huge hit), and then it was time to start makeup!

 In our costume closet super fancy makeup studio.


 I got some much needed help from my awesome co-worker Ivan, who did all of the "old people makeup". 

 EVERYONE in the older grades gets stage makeup. Even the boys. And I think they like it... 

 Haephestus from Pandora's Box, looking old and busted. 

 Sometimes the boys end up looking prettier than me. I try not to be jealous. In my defense, he is  wearing more makeup than I am in this photo. 

 Drama also teaches valuable life skills like NOT twitching when there's a mascara wand up in yo grill. This kid's got it down pat. 

I made a quick transformation (as I was narrating/ emceeing) into one of my favorite Forever 21 dresses I picked up years ago- last worn here, and my wedding shoes!

There are few things better for your confidence than working with kids. I was told I looked like "a princess", "a super model", "a movie star", "a mermaid", "Hannah Montana" (compliment?) and "Princess Peach". I'll take it!

 Getting the show started with one of my handsome co-hosts. :)

 K/1st telling the Cherokee legend of Why The Trees Lose Their Leaves

 2nd/3rd's presentation of the Maori legend of Why The Kiwi Lost It's Wings.

 4th/5th's rendition of Pandora's Box. 


 Watching proudly from the wings. 

 Pandora and Hope. 

 DANCE TIME! K/1st doing a Native American dance. 

 2nd/ 3rd's Polynesian dance. 

 My little divas doing the choreography from our Cardio-Dance elective class. 

4th/ 5th lyrical dance. 


And then it was time to say goodbye. Ooof.

 One of my students gave me the lei they had made for their costume! :)

 I started out smiling...




 But the tears weren't far behind...

 I got to share a few last silly moments with some kids.

 And some more serious ones with others...


 I don't get to interact very much with parents because I don't sign the kids in or out of the program, so it was nice to have the opportunity to tell them how amazingly talented their children are. 

 With a few- of MANY- amazing co-workers. I couldn't do it without these guys.

I snagged all of my teacher swag and headed home to finish packing for HLS and run to the train station. 

I could go on for another six or seven pages, but instead, I'll end on a note of gratitude to my students and the organizations that make the work I do possible. 

Teaching has given me: 

-A true appreciation of unconditional love and adoration.
-A much stronger sense of purpose and self. 
-Gratitude for my parents and former teachers. 
-A clearer idea of what's important to me. 
-An unchangeably galvanized belief in the power and importance of arts education.
-Faith in future generations. 

Thanks for listening to the ramblings of this weepy and emotional girl. It'll be a few years before the next "Miss Keelie" post, but I'm excited to begin my adventures in graduate school, which I'll be blogging about here. Orientation is Thursday!