As graduation rounds the corner, I have been reflecting a lot on what I have learned in my last few quarters of college, and the new changes that are occurring in my life. I thought I would take this chance to share with you some of the things that have come up for me, in hopes they may help you in your reflection on your own journey to, through, and after college.
One of the biggest lessons I am learning is to begin changing my perspective when it comes to my accomplishments. This is admittedly a huge challenge for me. I can be a very “big picture” thinker. The way I think about things always includes the larger frame of reference in the world, and in my life. With that, the things I want out of life both professionally and personally, are, in a way, big. I have big dreams of an illustrious acting career, the type of work I’ll do, the places I’ll go, the people I’ll meet, the money I’ll make—all of these things are indeed “big.”
However, I have found over the past few months that not everything I do is as “big” as I can imagine. For years I had always imagined myself on a rocket to success come graduation, while in fact, the grind is much slower than I had once thought. There is a lot of hard work and a lot of challenges and failures that will occur on my road to the success I seek – and that’s okay. I have started to realize that the things I once thought about as “small” are actually victories, and for my own mental well-being, I should honor them as such. For example, I may not be on Broadway yet, but I am understudying at a great theatre company in the fall. While in my mind there are more amazing things I desire, I have to recognize that this is actually a great accomplishment, that will lead to other opportunities in the future. And while I do not have a talent agent before graduation, I am still auditioning and booking work to do post-grad. These are wins, and I am learning to find satisfaction and pride in these things, that help me keep my spirits up as I move forward.
I am learning to be grateful for the challenges I am facing in the transition out of school, because I know they are making me stronger and more resilient in the long run. I’m also learning that the seemingly small things add up to a big picture that I can call success.
So, to anyone who may be down on themselves when it comes to your accomplishments, be it the schools you did or didn’t get into, the jobs you landed or missed, the opportunities that presented themselves or not, know that even if your successes aren’t as big as you imagined, they are still successes and you should value them as such. You are still working hard, and you are still moving forward, even if the path doesn’t look exactly as you thought it would. Stay strong, be proud, and keep working. From my own experience, I can say with confidence that little steps add up to big moves.
Now that spring quarter has rolled around I am currently working toward the opening of my spring quarter show at The Theatre School. Being that I am getting close to graduating, this is my final show of my undergrad career, making the experience very bittersweet.
The show I am working on is called Cinderella: The Remix
. This play is part of our Playworks series for Families and Young Audiences. This play will be performed at the Merle Reskin Theatre
, DePaul’s performance space in the Loop. This large proscenium theatre will welcome hundreds of young elementary school aged children and families this spring.
I am really lucky to be part of such a fun show for my last production of undergrad. This hilarious play is a new twist on the classic Cinderella story. The play takes place in a fictional land called Hip Hop Hollywood. The protagonist Cinderella wants to be a DJ, but unfortunately in Hip Hop Hollywood, girls are not allowed to DJ. She and her best friend Chin Chilla (yes, you read that right) disguise themselves as boys in order to follow their dreams and DJ for the hottest rapper in town. They encounter challenges and triumphs on their way to empower young girls to follow their passions and realize their potential. The play includes music, dancing, rapping, and is a blast for the whole family. While it is odd to know that this is my last play here, it is heartwarming to go out on a high note.
I play two characters in this show. First, I play Cinderella’s stepmother, named Bad Ma’amajama. She works hard to push her other son, Chocolate Ice, toward success as a DJ, and discourages Cinderella from auditioning for the famous rapper J Prince. I also play the fairy godmother of the story, who comes in the form of a entrepreneurial media queen named Hoperah, loosely based on Oprah
. She shows up to give Cinderella and her bff Chinchilla the confidence they need to overcome obstacles and believe in themselves. I have had a blast creating these larger than life characters, and rapping my way through a story that really means something. This cast is completely made up of minorities, and gives us the chance to represent the populations of young kids who come to see this play who are also from those communities. I really believe it is great to send a message that young girls are smart and capable, and if they believe in themselves, and persevere, they can overcome the odds and be successful. I am proud to be part of a show that can do that for its audiences.
Themes: Fairy Tales; Gender Roles; Girl Power; Hip-Hop; Identity; Pop Culture; Sexism
The cast features Chanell Bell Copeland (Cinderella), Hunter Bryant (Chocolate Ice), Mariana Castro Florez (Chin Chilla), Samantha Newcomb (Bad Mamajama/Hoperah), and Nosakhere Cash-O'Bannon (J Prince).
The production team includes scenic design by Angela McIlvain, costume design by Emilee Orton, lighting design by Richard Latshaw, sound design by Madeline Doyle, dramaturgy by Yasmin Zacaria Mitchel, and stage management by Emily Mills.
This show opens April 20th, and runs Tuesday and Thursday mornings, as well as Saturday afternoons until we close May 27th. If you or a youngster you know if looking for a great way to spend 70 minutes this spring, come check out Cinderella: The Remix! For more information check out our website
As a college student, there are many different organizations that can become an active part of your 4-year experience. Over the past 4 years I have been lucky enough to be a part of a scholarship organization called The Jackie Robinson Foundation. This is a foundation comprised of young students of color at colleges across the country, dedicated to academic excellence and carrying on the legacy of Civil Rights Activist, Jackie Robinson
Each year of the program, the scholars make a trip to New York City for a mentoring and leadership conference. For one weekend we are immersed in workshops, panels, and networking opportunities related to career success. This is supplemented by cultural outings a fun events that make it truly memorable. This year the theme of the conference was Financial Savvy. There were career panels, off the record sessions with industry leaders, a scholar debate, guest speakers and more, and I spent the weekend overwhelmed with information and trying to soak up as much as I could. Being in my last few months of college, it is important to me to be able to best prepare myself for life after school, so I appreciated this conference even more than I did last year, knowing that everything I was learning would be applicable sooner than I think.
Some of the highlights of the weekend included cultural outings. Each class (freshman, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors) goes to a cultural outing in the city, to appreciate another aspect of a well rounded education and life: art. For those who know me, as a theatre maker, this is my jam and therefore one of my favorite parts. I was able to attend a performance of Jitney on Broadway. This is a play written by one of my favorite playwrights, August Wilson. The play was directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson
, an acclaimed director of Wilson’s work, who I met in my time as an apprentice at the Williamstown Theatre Festival two summers ago. Two actors in the show I also met and worked with in my time at WTF, including Andre Holland
, who was recently a part of the academy award winning film Moonlight
(starring previous DePaul student Ashton Sanders). It can be such a small world sometimes, and you are reminded that you are only a few degrees of separation away from your dreams. The play was fabulous and I was so glad I got to see it.
After soaking in the knowledge about Financial Savvy over the weekend, on Monday night came the chance to dance the night away at the Annual Awards Dinner. Andre Holland, above mentioned actor, was the emcee of the night and hosted the award ceremony. We all got dressed in our best black tie attire, and shared in recognizing industry leaders and game changers in their accomplishments both in business and in philanthropy. After a delicious dinner, and some musical entertainment, the scholars were able to dance it up at the scholar after-party.
It truly was a fun filled and informative weekend, and I left with bittersweet feelings. As graduation approaches, I remember that this was my last conference with JRF, and my last year as a scholar. It is a strange feeling to note something that has had such a profound impact on your college experience in coming to a close. I have very fond memories, and will use the knowledge and inspiration I’ve been given here as I move forward and tackle the world post-grad.
One of the coolest things about the 4th year of the acting program at The Theatre School is the sprinkling of really fun and less common classes. By now we no longer have the same quantity of intense acting technique classes, but have a few different classes that give us a taste for other kinds of techniques.
One of these classes is an On Camera acting class taken in the winter quarter. This one-quarter course is taken once a week for 3 hours downtown at Acting Studio Chicago. Our teacher, Rachael Patterson from Acting Studio Chicago, guides the class through audition technique and scene preparation for on camera work, helping us all to become more confident in our ability to tackle that aspect of the industry post-grad.
We began the quarter working on commercial copy. Students would receive various pieces of text from different kinds of commercials and work on preparing them for commercial auditions. From pasta to health insurance we worked on making specific choices to make an impact when you only have a couple sentences, or a couple of words to work with. We then moved on to working on scenes from TV and film, and we learned what it takes to prepare for those. The quarter was topped off with scenes selected from various films and TV shows that we have prepared and will take in to audition for Gray Talent agency
It has been a really interesting to learn about how the on-camera acting and auditioning works. The main focus during this course has been learning how to bring more of your own unique personality to the work. We’ve also been learning how to simplify your choices, and modify your actions to fit the frame of the medium. I am appreciative that at this point, after 3 years of working on transformation in acting, we are coming back to ourselves and bringing ourselves to the party. After taking this class I am really looking forward to working on TV and film work in the future and putting these new skills into practice out in the real world!
As spring quarter rapidly approaches, graduating students are now looking straight ahead at their final quarter of college. Spring quarter will be a whirlwind of changes and mixed emotions. This will be the time when I take my last college classes, participate in the last events of my collegiate experience, and perform in my last show of undergrad. Now, at the end of February, we here at The Theatre School
are in the midst of casting the spring quarter productions, which are the final shows of the year, and for me, the final shows of my time here at TTS.
Today I arrived on campus, highlighted scenes in hand, ready to audition for the last round of shows of my undergraduate experience. The audition process for the casting pool was the same as usual. Each member of the acting company split up into groups, and sent into three different rooms to audition with scenes from our three main stage productions. We were greeted in each room by the smiling faces of students and faculty working on each of the shows, and were encouraged to have fun auditioning for each role we read. While the day had a familiar feel, putting it in those term s- the “last time”, really took me aback.
This is the last time I’ll go online to DePaul’s Backstage domain to check out the audition sides. This is the last time I’ll find a partner in the hallway who would be willing to read with me in the audition room. The last time I will walk into the room full of my classmates, colleagues, and cohorts, to audition for a play that I will help to create within this learning environment.
Along with my final set of TTS auditions comes the realization that this spring will be my last TTS show. With this in mind, it makes me determined the make the most of whatever process I am in for the next few short months. I want to be able to learn as much as I can before I leave, and really enjoy myself in the process. It is also really exciting to think about what lies ahead. If this is my last show of my undergraduate career, the work that waits beyond is many wonderful experiences creating my own work, and working in the professional world! While it may feel a bit strange to know that this last show means something is coming to an end, it also means a very beautiful beginning to a chapter of life that I’ve been thinking and preparing for for a long time. Finally I can say I’m almost there, and finally I can say I’m ready. Here’s hoping I’ll break a leg!
The last show to open on the mainstage this winter was a unique and impactful play with a title to match the description. We Are Proud To Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, from the German Sudwestafrika, Between the years 1884-1915
was the last show to hit the Fullerton Stage this quarter.
This contemporary piece written by Jackie Sibblies Drury, is an intense and thought-provoking play within a play that challenges topics of race, identity, violence, and storytelling. What stories do we tell? Who has the right to tell them? How do the complexities of our own identities influence these stories and how we fit in them. The characters of this play, a group of young passionate artists, wrestle with these questions, coming in and out of the world of their own presentation, until the lines between reality and the story their inhabit become blurred.
The TTS website describes this play:
“An ensemble of eager, well-meaning young actors devises a play about a nearly forgotten African genocide. When their artistic director suggests they should not read the German letters that make up the core of their presentation, the group must come to terms with the fact that they can't tell a new story until they have unearthed the original one.”
To give you a little insight into how this play operates, the list of characters gives us a hint. The 6 character cast includes characters named Black Woman, White Man, Black Man, Another White Man, Another Black Man and Sarah (played by a white woman). These characters are played by actors who fit those descriptions. I was lucky enough to see this play on opening weekend, and was insanely proud of the students who came together to create this play. A play that deals so personally with such tough topics and images requires a huge amount of bravery from each of the artists involved. This is an extremely relevant and well-acted play that punches you in the gut and forces you to face the realities of your actions and your history.
The cast features Ayanna Bria Bakari (Actor 6/Black Woman), Tuckie White (Actor 5/Sarah), Keith Illidge (Actor 4/Another Black Man), Michael Morrow (Actor 2/Black Man), Sam Straley (Actor 1/White Man), and Arie Thompson (Actor 3/Another White Man).
The production team includes scenic design by Jessica Olson, costume design by Olivia Engobor, lighting design by Joseph Clavell, sound design by Haley Feiler, dramaturgy by Hampton Cade and Lauren Quinlan, and stage management by Erin Collins.
Big news has hit the halls of The Theatre School, in the form of the 2017-2018 Main Stage Season. The announcement was shared with the TTS community at an event in the Merle Reskin lobby of the new theatre school building on Fullerton and Racine.
A large crowd of students and faculty gather around with attentive ears to hear which shows had been selected for next school year. There was a general buzz of excitement from the students who will in the casting pool next year, each thinking about what the future holds for them and where they will end up. Over the past couple of years, it has become a new tradition for each director of the upcoming shows to present the show they are directing at a special event. They share with the community their reason for choosing the show, their thoughts and concepts about the production, and why it matters to our community. Each show chosen for the upcoming season was chosen because of how relevant it can be to the current social and political time we live in, and how the story may matter to our community and the world at large.
It is a very special time to see how our school is recognizing the current atmosphere and responding with art that fits in with our thoughts, feelings, and actions of the moment. As a school, we still have not completed our current season of kick-ass shows, but we all have much to look forward to next year. Honestly, as a soon-to-be graduate, it was a little surreal to talk about the upcoming season knowing that I will not be a part of it. I will be moving on to a world of unknown things, but will no doubt come back to visit and see what they do with this new season of shows. It’s all so exciting!
SO, without further ado, I am pleased to share with you all, the 2017-2018 season:
ON THE FULLERTON STAGE
Into the Woods
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim * book by James Lapine
Directed by Barry Brunetti * musical direction by Mark Elliott
November 3-13, 2017 (previews 11/1 & 11/2)
By Mary Shelly* adated by Nick Dear
Directed by Micharl E. Burke
Frebruary 9-18, 2018 (previews 2/7 & 2/8)
By Anton Chekhov
Directed by Jacob Janssen
April 13-22, 2018 (previews 4/11 &4/12)
New Playwright Series
Title, Playwright, and Director TBD
May 18-26, 2018 (previews 5/16 & 5/17)
IN THE HEALY THEATRE
Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England
By Madeleine George
Directed by April Cleveland
October 20-29, 2017 (previews 10/18 & 10/19)
Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play
By Anne Washburn
Music by Micharl Friedman * directed by Jeremy Aluma
January 26-February 4, 2018 (previews 1/24 & 1/25)
MFA18, Title TBD
An emsemble performance created by MFA III actors, directed by Dexter Bullard
May 4-13, 2018 (previews 5/2 & 5/3)
CHICAGO PLAYWORKS FOR FAMILIES AND YOUNG AUDIENCES
Augusta and Noble
By Carlos Murillo * directed by Lisa Portes
October 5-November 11, 2017
Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook
By Allison Gregory * adapted from the book series by Barbara Park
Directed by Krissy Vanderwarker
January 11-February 17, 2018
The Cat in the Hat
By Dr. Seuss
Directed by Jeff Mills
April 19-May 26, 2018
STUDIO SERIES, Titles/Playwrights/Directors TBD
For those joining the DePaul Community next year, it is already time to get excited about the many good things in store!
Now is the winter of our...Latest show! Get it? That’s a play on the famous opening line of my current production! It’s another round of Shakespeare for me this winter at The Theatre School. This quarter I have been cast in Shakespeare’s Richard III
. I am taking on the powerhouse role of Queen Margaret, a noble woman scorned, as well as rounding out the ensemble of actors as the Lord Mayor of London, and a member of the opposing Army. This is an ensemble driven piece, meaning most cast members are playing multiple roles and helping to create this piece together. Having just finished Romeo and Juliet this past fall, and growing my love for this classical writer, it was exciting to me to try my hand at one of Shakespeare’s fiercest female roles. A mature woman, who had her Kingdom stripped from her uses curses to exact her revenge on the guilty parties involved. It has been a blast to explore this language and my more powerful qualities.
The TTS Website describes our show:
“Richard, Duke of Gloucester, conspires, manipulates, and murders his way onto the English throne, making more than a few enemies along the way. Can Richard rule England? Or will his misdeeds undo him? This Shakespearean classic explores the effects of morality, or lack thereof, in a political state.”
Our show will be produced in the Healy Theatre, our large black box theatre within the TTS building. Tickets are now on sale with the opening of the show January 27th running until February 5th. Directed by second year MFA director Jacob Janssen, the goal has been to bring this politically charged play to our modern American audiences who are also experiencing the transfer of power, and have to deal with the aftermath (current election/inauguration anyone?). The neat thing about our production? The title character of Richard III is being played by a female actress! Yes to untraditional casting!
For those in the Chicago area, come by and see this dramatic and powerful play. As always tickets are only $5 for students and $15 for the rest of the public. For info or tickets visit our website
I am pumped to see how the show turns out, and the reaction from the community. And I am always glad to know that whatever the end result, the process and learning experience is always worth it to me.
Be well DePaulians!
With the start of a new quarter, comes the start of a new round of shows here at The Theatre School. The first to open on the Main Stage in 2017 is an exciting new play, NIGHT RUNNER. This action packed show has generated a lot of buzz for being a brand new play by hot Chicago Playwright Ike Holter. Part of our Playworks series for young audiences, this show is performed for Chicago public school and families downtown at our Merle Reskin Theatre, a space with a history of its own. This play takes place in South in the mid 1800’s, and revolves around a huge part of our nation’s history at that point - slavery. Essentially a thriller about the heroism of Harriet Tubman, the underground railroad, and the path to freedom, this play takes a look at history through the unique lens of a comic book superhero. The Theatre School website describes this impactful tale:
“Join us for the story of Cora, an enslaved 12-year-old, and the Night Runner, the mythic but dark figure who shows her the way. When a cruel slave owner arrives and snatches Cora's brother Marcus in exchange for debt, Cora flees to find him. In steps the legendary Night Runner, a fierce, fast-talking female superhero, who helps Cora escape to freedom and discover her own inner strength.”
This play opens this week, and I will admit I am more than excited to see it. The Theatre School’s program with Chicago Playworks
brings a different children’s show to the students and families of Chicago each season. Hundreds of kids from across the city come and are exposed to the magical world of theatre, and are immersed in a story that asks them to use their imaginations and learn new things. Frequently these students don’t get to go on many field trips, or are new to learning about plays and theatre, and this is what makes it so special to share with them. This is a unique and special moment in their week, and in their lives.
Personally, as a young woman of color, I know how important it is to see yourself represented in the art, literature, and entertainment that surrounds you. Having been in a kids show myself, I have seen the large and diverse audiences with children of many different backgrounds. Many of these students are young people of color, and I see myself in them, 10 years ago. Wide eyed and expectant, they are taking in everything around them, which makes it extremely important to consider what kind of stories you share with these young people. As a young black woman, the reason I am so excited for this show is that it shows my history. OUR history as Americans, in a way that empowers and celebrates the strength of my community. It is important that those hundreds of kids of all colors and backgrounds learn about the horrors of American Slavery, the heroism of Harriet Tubman, and the strength that all people have inside them. By seeing people like them on stage, or seeing their history in this light, we can have a profound impact on the learning, and the empowerment of these young kids. With the incorporation of beautiful new music, and exciting rhythm and dance, a scary and uncomfortable topic transforms throughout the story that will leave audiences cheering as our young heroine makes her way to freedom.
Due to this serious subject matter this play is recommended for audiences 9 years of age and older. To find out more about our shows at TTS, or ticketing ( only $5 for students- yay!) visit our website
Welcome back and here’s to a passionate, and meaningful new year!
For many students in their last year of undergrad, in addition to finishing up their studies, and enjoying the last moments of their college experiences, a lot of time and energy is spent planning the next steps. For some this means making connections, learning about possible career paths, securing jobs and internships, making plans for graduate degrees, travel, and more. As I have mentioned before, the 4th year of the acting program makes a lot of moves to prepare graduating students for the professional world of acting. One way to prepare students for the profession, is preparing them for the real job of an actor - auditioning.
For actors, auditioning is the way to get in the door, get in the room, and get a job in the world of professional theatre. This is a time for you to make an impression with casting directors, directors, producers, and the creative team of a project, or particular theatre. It is of extreme importance to make the most out of your auditions, those few minutes in the room make a big impact on those watching. For those watching, ideally, they get to meet you and get a sense of who you are, see your work, and find out if you might be right for their project or season.
Additionally, it doesn’t always matter if you book the specific role you are auditioning for. What I mean by this is that sometimes those watching may not find you a perfect fit for the project at hand, but if they like your work, and you as a person, they are likely to call you back in the future or recommend you for other projects. You really never know what they can lead to in the future. This is the reason why it is important to work on getting confident and comfortable with auditioning. The best way to do this is through practice, and luckily the 4th year of the acting program gives you the chance to do just that.
In the BFA performance program
, students take multiple quarters of audition classes, to learn how to prepare, practice coming into the room, and presenting material. Over this fall quarter, 4th year students participated in an audition class that took the practice to the next level, by inviting guests to come watch. This class met once a week, for 2.5 hours every Friday. The first few weeks of class were spent searching for monologues that fit your “type” or personality well, and rapid fire working them to presentation readiness. Other classes focused on cold-reading scenes, presenting scenes without much preparation or information. Many times when auditioning for a role, you will be sent ‘sides’, or short scenes to prepare to bring in. The goal is to come in with strong choices, even under a time crunch. Later in the quarter, guests were invited to come in and watch our auditions and give feedback. Professionals from various theatres around Chicago, including Timeline Theatre
, Writers Theatre
, Oak Park Festival Theatre
, and more, watched us all perform our monologues and gave their honest feedback to help up reach our best potential. Then they sat down with us and spoke with us about the industry, auditioning in the future, and shared some tips and stories about their experiences working in Chicago theatre, and more. This was extremely informative and it was helpful to get an outside perspective on our work so far, and get some really helpful advice moving forward. This is a great way for us to learn, but also to make connections with professionals in the city, that we may be auditioning for in the future. Classes like this make me look forward to getting more experience and practice over the next quarter, and then taking on the real world!
Midterms have come and gone, and life in my little part of campus is just as busy as ever! The last couple of weeks have been a blur running from here to there, rehearsal to tech to performances, juggling class work, homework and just plain life work. But at the end of this very crazy workweek, the community at The Theatre School
was rewarded by seeing another work of art come to life on stage. This past weekend marked the opening of yet another TTS Mainstage production, this time in our versatile Healy black box theatre, located inside the new Theatre School building on Fullerton and Racine. Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl
, was the second of three Mainstage productions to open this Fall quarter at DePaul. I was able to attend opening night of this gorgeous show, and while it took a lot of hard work to put up for all involved, it certainly was something to be proud of.
Eurydice is a modern play with a twist on the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice; it is a beautifully written and poetic story of love, everlasting bonds, and the mysteries of the afterlife. Our website describes the tale:
“Eurydice and Orpheus are young and in love. On their wedding night, Eurydice meets a man who claims to have a letter from her deceased father. She pursues the letter but dies in the effort. Orpheus descends into the Underworld to save her, and Eurydice must choose between a life with her husband and the certainty of her father's unconditional love”
This play is one that I have seen many times and know very well. For me, this is unusual, as I typically see a lot of plays I have never read or do not have any preconceived ideas about. I have seen this play 3 times in the last few years, and even performed in it myself during my high school years of acting competitions and festivals. The lovely thing about Friday night’s performance, was that I was able to see the play in a new and exciting way, seeing my ideas of the characters and the (under) world they inhabit in a fresh way that may have challenged how I thought about them before. The design of the show was stellar in my opinion, and created really striking memorable and moving moments, that I am still thinking about. Especially for myself, as a very visual person, the images I witnessed in the show were quite striking. I was so proud of the work I saw on stage that night, and really impressed to see the growth by many of the artists involved.
The production team includes scenic design by Joy Ahn, costume design by Emilee Orton, lighting design by Simean Carpenter, and sound design by Connor Ciesil.
The cast features Edward Hall (Big Stone), Keith Ilidge (Orpheus), Sarah Serebian (Little Stone), Kiah Stern (Loud Stone), Michael Stock (Father), Sam Straley (Man/Child), and Sola Thompson (Eurydice), all directed by MFA director Michael Burke.
To any and all around the Lincoln Park area, looking to see an unusual, and undoubtedly gorgeous piece of theatre, I encourage you to come see Eurydice now through the end of October at The Theatre School at DePaul. Student tickets are always $5. For more information about our season visit our website
and stay tuned for info on the last mainstage of the Fall season, Romeo and Juliet, coming next week. As always, stay great DePaulians!
The Theatre School mainstage season has officially begun with this week’s opening of the Chicago Playworks production, The Kid Who Ran for President. The Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences series is a wonderful DePaul tradition.
These shows are fully produced each quarter just as our other mainstage productions, with a team of dedicated student actors, dramaturgs
, designers and technicians for the lighting, set, sound and costumes, and often headed by a faculty director. These shows take place downtown at the historic Merle Reskin Theatre, now a venue specifically used for these children’s shows. The stories told on this stage are often adaptations of well-known books for kids, or spins on popular characters and important figures, creating a mixture of classic and new material. Chicago schools and families are then invited to join us for 90 minutes in the magic of theatre.
This election season is kicked off rather appropriately with The Kid Who Ran for President by Jeremiah Clay Neal, and directed by Chicago Playworks
Artistic Director, Ernie Nolan. This is a stage musical adaptation of the children’s book by the same name written by Dan Gutman. Here is a short description of the play:
“When sixth grader Judson Moon runs for President of the United States under the guidance of his campaign manager and best friend Lane, the campaign trail is turned upside down. Can Judson deliver on his promises once he is elected? This musical comedy full of hope and song
brings some common sense and a rockin' pizza party to the White House,
if only for a few days.”
This play hopes to engage its young audience in the conversation about our upcoming presidential election, the importance of good leadership, the power of privilege, and will explore what would happen if indeed a kid ran for president. Throughout the show, the kids in the audience are asked to be a part of the action by voicing their own political opinions, cheering along, and by seeing other “kids” engage in politics on stage, we hope to show them that they can in fact, change the world.
With its catchy songs, and interesting characters, audience members young and old are in for a wacky and rather relevant morning of theatre. I have already heard the songs and cannot wait to see it this weekend! With young characters, a striking parallel to our current election, and both kids and grown ups will appreciate, “Kid Prez”, can be enjoyed by a wide audiences of theatre goers. It is always the goal of our productions to stay current and relevant to the our community in Chicago, and by picking themes that align with a current climate, hoping to draw the most crowds and have the most impact on our audiences.
This show is now open and runs through November 12th, 2016. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10:00am and Saturdays at 2:00pm. There are plenty of chances to see it, so do not miss out!
For more information about this show, our season, ticketing and more visit the TTS Website.
Many have said that as young college students yet to enter the “real world,” that a great unknown lies before us. The world is our oyster, the possibilities are endless, and our whole lives are ahead of us, waiting to unfold in amazing and surprising ways. When you really think about it, it is pretty true. College is the small chunk of time in the transition between adolescence and adulthood where one can explore and learn about the world, themselves, and what they want for the future. Being in my last year of undergrad has made me become very reflective on my true passions and desires, and well as contemplating the many possibilities for what can happen post-grad.
As a 4th year acting student, I am currently taking an audition class, where we learn how best to prepare for the world of auditioning for professional theatre. Within this course we discuss the realities of the business, and ways to be successful. One required text for this course is the book, “The Actor’s Business Plan”, written by former Theatre School
professor and acting coach, Jane Drake Brody. This book guides the reader through preparation for the business of acting, and life. The first assignment I had to complete is creating a list of dreams. This seemingly simple assignment has really had an impact on the way I am examining the possibilities for my future, and has made me reflect on the importance of dreaming big.
In this assignment, you create lists of your biggest, truest dreams in many categories. The dreams are broken down into categories for Career, Personal, Financial, Educational, and Community Service dreams. Your task is simply to begin listing your dreams for each of these areas of your life.
Growing up, we were often told to dream big, but as you get older, there is sometimes a pressure not to admit what your truest, grandest dreams are because they might not be realistic, they might not come true. There is an aspect of practicality that makes it hard to say what would honestly be your dream. This assignment took the pressure off and allowed me to truly evaluate my ultimate dreams for the future. In the days since I completed it, I have been noticing the importance of dreaming big. Before I wrote them all down, I didn’t even realize that some of these things on my list were dreams of mine at all! I believe that the bigger you dream, the greater success you can have. Even if your accomplishments don’t turn out exactly as you had them on paper, it is still important to name the dreams you have. To paraphrase what my audition teacher tells our class, don’t prepare for failure! There will undoubtedly come times when you fail at things in life, but don’t count on that. Count on making these dreams a reality.
I want to encourage all young people to take a good look at your dreams, and write them down. No one else has to see them, but if you are honest with yourself, you set yourself up for the possibility of them coming true with hard work and determination. Be great DePaulians!
Interested in learning more? Check out The Actor’s Business Plan: A Career Guide for the Acting Life by Jane Drake Brody, available on Amazon
Happy fall, DePaulians! For those who don’t know me, my name is Samantha Newcomb, and I am a senior majoring in Acting
at the Theatre School at DePaul
Holy cow, that may be one of the first times I have introduced myself that way (as a senior), and it is blowing my mind just a bit.
School is back in session and I have already experienced a huge milestone. Wednesday was my LAST first day of school! It sounds crazy coming out of my mouth, but now that I am in my senior year of college, this is the last time I will experience the thrills of “back to school” (yes, okay, maybe some day I’ll go to grad school but not right away). Simply remembering that this is my last year of school –ever really puts things into perspective. For the last 17 years I have focused on nothing but school. Putting all my efforts into my studies and getting good grades, all the time and energy spent on getting to middle school, high school, choosing a good college. The time has certainly flown by, and while I consider myself a life-long learner, it really is amazing to me that I am facing my very last year of consecutive study. Next stop, getting my degree!
This year is really unique, because it is focused on the transition from academia to the professional world. For my course of study, this means focusing less on the “how to” of acting itself, and shifting toward the business aspects of the arts industry. Topics include auditioning, compiling good resumes and headshots, getting agents for representation upon graduation and more. Of course as many people put it, we are facing entry into the “real world.” I am both nervous and excited for this process, and hope to share my experiences with you all along the way!
Other things I am looking forward to this fall:
Typical autumn things - changing leaves, fall clothing, warmer beverages and cooler temps
Reuniting with my friends and classmates - 3(ish) months apart is a long time!
My new classes - I am taking a mixture of classes on familiar and new topics including Musical Theatre, Meisner Acting Technique, Movement to Music, Auditioning, and Rehearsal and Performance. Now that I am in my last year, my classes are entirely focused on my major.
My Fall Show - Updates on this to come!
I can say that I am genuinely excited to begin my senior year, and really soak up all I can in my last year at DePaul. I can already tell that it will be an eye opening, challenging, and growth-filled year. I have many goals for myself academically, professionally, and personally, that I hope to accomplish. I want to do well and work hard in class, and on stage, but I am really trying to keep in mind the need to have fun and enjoy it along the way! I know that I can often be too focused on doing the right things or on the goals I have, that I forget that college is supposed to be an enjoyable time to learn, explore, and have FUN! Life is about the journey.
Welcome back to all in the DePaul Community, I hope you are as excited to start Fall Quarter 2016 as I am! Stay tuned as I fill you all in on the happenings at The Theatre School, my life as a senior and more.
Until then, be well and do good!
Being a part of the performance program often limits my view to all the things going on in the performance department at TTS. However, there are so many different majors in The Theatre School, all working hard every day to learn and create in their prospective disciplines. The Design/Tech students make up a great portion of the student population, all studying design and construction in their specialties in lighting, scenic, costume, sound, dramaturgy, directing and more. Now that it is summer, the design/tech students have finished many of their large projects and designs that they have been working on in their classes and MainStage shows all year long.
During finals week, the many students proudly display their work in the lobby and scene shop of The Theatre School building. Each student has their own board displaying their research, concepts, process, and representations of their final product, including photos, drawing, models, and fully constructed items. The school can tend to be very separated, not allowing students of other disciplines to see what their peers have been working on for so long. Being in such an open and accessible area as the Lobby, surrounded by windows and natural light, it is easy for all to view the wonderful creations made by the talented students of DePaul.
Personally, as I walked through the exhibition, I was inspired and in awe of all the work that it takes to bring all of these designs to fruition. I have seen many of the shows and final products on stage, but I find it fascinating to see the process that one goes through before it comes to life. Seeing the mini models of sets I've walked on, or renderings of dresses I've seen in plays really makes me appreciate the talented and hardworking students all working toward one common goal. It reminds me to step outside my little bubble and appreciate what goes on all around.
The first two weeks of June are a much anticipate time at DePaul, as we come to the end of the year it is indeed time for FINALS. There is so much energy both mental and physical that goes into the preparation the of final papers, projects, exams, and more. Here at The Theatre School, we absolutely have tests and papers to complete, but here finals can come in many forms. For the performance classes, given the content of the curriculum, a written paper cannot be enough to show how to the work is applied. This is where final scenes and monologues come into play.
One class that all performance majors (and a few other theatre majors) take is Stage Combat. This is a class to learn the skills of fighting on stage. This includes hand-to-hand skills, like slaps, punches, kicks, and more. We learn Rapier and Dagger as well - yes, sword fighting is required here!
In your second year of the Acting program, you learn all of these techniques in a special class designed to help you learn how to apply all of these to scene work. The point is not to learn how to fake punch someone, or sword fight for fun. The point is to learn how to do these things when they are in service of telling the story in a play. We then know how to safely execute these things, so they look convincing to the audience, to tell the story, but keep all involved safe from actual harm. As an upperclassman, acting students may take Advanced Stage Combat class as an elective. This is to sharpen the skills already learned sophomore year, and to learn new techniques with different kinds of stage weapons.
At the end of the quarter of stage combat class, there is a final scene showing, where the students pick scenes from plays to including hand-to-hand or sword fighting. The goal is really the acting work, the necessary staged fights are not simply a duel for all to watch! The students are tested on the execution of their skills in class, and then have an evening showing that the school is invited to come and watch.
Last night I attended the final combat scene showing and had such a great time! The scenes ranged from silly to scary, featuring very convincing sword thrusts, face slaps, and gut kicks. It is always so fun to come together and celebrate the hard (and sweaty) work of the students as they show their skills in action. It has been over a year since I took that class, and watching the scenes I was wondering if I was getting a little rusty! Overall it is an interesting hour packed with creative, hard work from the students.
While this isn't a 10-page paper or written exam, it takes just as much hard work to learn, practice, and present. These may seem like unusual, cool, or easy finals compared to many other classes or programs, but they are skills that are just as valuable to our careers and our safety in our craft.
The end of the year marked the closing of a very long run of Peter Pan and Wendy, the show I was in during Spring Quarter of this year. This was the closing of my last show of junior year, and it has left me feeling very reflective of my experiences this year, all the things that I have learned, and facing Senior Year (whoa). At TTS only junior and senior actors (as well as 2nd and 3rd year MFA actors) can audition and perform in the many official productions. This time last year I was just thinking about how crazy it felt to finally be facing junior year, and finally be in the casting pool for the MainStage shows. There was so much uncertainty and nervousness and excitement around what it would be like to be an upperclassman, and be in a real show. Now, a year later, I have just finished my third MainStage show, and looking straight in the face of my last year of undergrad, and my last 3 shows. It is an equally exciting and nervous place to be, but for different reasons. I now have an understanding of how the process works and of the work I need to do to be successful.
Here are some things I've learned from the three shows I was in this year, and greatest memories.
Joe Turner's Come and Gone by August Wilson-on
the Fullerton Stage:
What I learned: This was my favorite show experience this year, and will always remain very special to me. A lot of this is due to the fact that it was my very first real production in college, and my first MainStage show. During this process and in exploring the role of Zonia Loomis, an 11 year old living in 1910, I learned to follow my instincts and really have fun in the work. They call it a play for a reason! This show taught me that I can have a truly safe, collaborative, fun, and wonderful experience creating a piece of theatre, when all involved truly love and care about the work in the same way.
My favorite memory: The connections I made with the entire team are so special to me. Also, in the rehearsal process we explored rhythm, singing, and dancing in a way that was improvisational and came from the heart.
In the Blood by Susan-Lori Parks- in the Healy Theatre:
What I learned: In this process I played a young homeless mother of five, struggling to beat the odds and create a better life for her family-but is ultimately destroyed by the forces around her. This role was very challenging to work on, given the size of the role and circumstances of the story. I will admit that I was very scared to work on this role. But after the process I learned that while it is okay to be scared, the only way to get the work done is to face it head on, and proceed step by step. I learned to be an advocate for myself and that I need to work on communicating my needs as an actor in the process. I learned that I can do things I didn't know I was capable of.
Greatest memory: The bond I created with some of the cast members of this show. Also, on opening and closing night, sharing with each other the ways in which we were proud of each other.
Peter Pan and Wendy by J.M. Barrie - in the Merle Reskin Theatre:
What I learned: In this play I had two ensemble roles of the Neverbird and one of Captain Hook's pirates. During this process I was able to apply some of the things that I had been learning in the classroom over the last couple of years in some different ways. The Merle Reskin Theatre, located in The Loop, is the largest stage and theatre that we perform on at TTS. Such a large space and large audience demands you fill it up and send the story up and out so everyone in the audience can receive it. I got to play with my voice work to be heard in such a large space, and play with different voices for a bird, and for a pirate. I got to explore my movement work also in exploring bird-like movement, and playing a scruffy male pirate. Also, I took the acting lesson "Never let yourself get bored" into account and always switched up my point of view or actions on stage as a pirate. Because I was in the background and still serving the story, it was fun to play around with different things, just for myself.
Greatest memory: Wearing awesome costumes made by the students at TTS!
I have learned all of this in process, even more in the classroom and even more outside of the classroom. Being a part of these has taught me about acting, about life, and about myself. I look forward to many new learning experiences in the shows next year!
Now that spring quarter is in its final few weeks, most of the productions at The Theatre School have closed, but the hard work and creativity is still full steam ahead.
It is now the time of year for Wrights of Spring, a special event showcasing new work created by students here at TTS. Playwriting students have been working hard writing and revising new work throughout the year. Wrights of Spring is the moment these writer get to share their work with a larger audience of students, faculty, and guests.
These pieces range from shorter one-acts, to full length plays that are presented in staged readings. The playwrights cast other students from across disciplines in the roles they have created and often team up with student directors to come together to share their stories.
For nearly two weeks there are daily showings of these brand new works. At any of these readings you will see dozens of audience members crowding into classrooms and theatre spaces. Each playwright sets up the space differently, perhaps with suggestive set elements, some with a bare stage, with fully staged action or actors standing behind music stands delivering the playwrights words. However it may be, audiences witness the actors, scripts in hand, present these new works. Often it is the first time the playwright gets to hear their piece outside of their classes. They have been working tirelessly to craft their plays throughout the year, and finally get to see how their play is received by a wider audience. This is a chance to hear what is working, and what is not, so they can continue improve and sharpen their writing. It is also a celebration of the talent we have among us here at TTS. This is a fun, supportive and amazingly creative event, with dozens of new plays showcased during these two weeks.
The culmination of this event is the opening of the New Playwrights Series showcase production. This is when a student playwright’s work is chosen to be fully produced on the MainStage. This season that show is "The Women Eat Chocolate" written by 4th year Caroline Macon, starring BFA III and IV actors, and directed by Heidi Stillman, who among many things is known for her work at Lookingglass Theatre
here in Chicago.
On the TTS website there is a description of this World Premiere play:
"At age 13 Alexandra Appleton is certain she's a poet. Her life spirals out of control when her younger sister, Dot, passes her in the race to womanhood. After a psychedelic trip, Alex struggles to distinguish fantasy from reality. Are the adults in Alex's life out to get her? Is her poetry teacher more than just a friendly mentor? And most importantly, will Alex's body catch up to her brains?"
This is a beautiful written play that I am truly excited to see it on stage.
Spring is undoubtedly the season of growth and here we are see some budding new work!
When spring rolls around students all over the country are going through the same thing: making college decisions. The acceptance letters are in, the financial aid packages have arrived, and now there is one thing left to do: CHOOSE. While I am now in my junior year of my undergraduate career, I remember this time of year vividly, my senior year of high school trying to choose the right college to attend. I've briefly mentioned some of my experience choosing a school, but there is an event coming up at The Theatre School that is has got this on my mind. That event is Admitted Students Weekend
. I remember as a high schooler going on countless college tours, reading endless pamphlets, and surfing around too many college websites. Sometimes these would be an overload of too much information, and sometimes not enough information, but the tours and pamphlets and websites don't always let you know what the student experience is really like at a college or university. Enter Admitted Students Weekend. I remember once I had received my acceptance letter to DePaul, I was beyond excited. But I had a big choice to make whether to attend DePaul, which had been my first choice at the time, or choose one of the many other options I had. A big thing to consider is fit - do I think I can fit here? Will I get not only the education I desire, but also the student experience I want?
The Theatre School at DePaul
hosts an awesome event to allow students to get a taste of just that. Students who have been accepted into one of the many different degree programs at TTS are invited in April to come to campus for Admitted students Weekend. This is a 2 to 3 day event where students who have been admitted get to truly experience the student life of people with their major. These prospective students get to spend the night in the dorms with current students with their same major, seeing for themselves what it is like to live on campus. They get to watch classes attended by current students to see what they are learning, and get to attend a demo class themselves to try out some of the work. This is a chance to meet some of the other students who may attend, meet current students, ask questions and feel the energy of the school. There are panels with current students and panels with alumni, answering any questions, addressing concerns, and sharing their own experiences.
As a girl from the Pacific Northwest
, who had never really been to Chicago other than to tour the schools, it was important to me to know more before making a huge decision to move all the way across the country. Also I knew that the other school I had visited really didn't feel right to me. In April of 2013, I got an invitation to attend Admitted Students Weekend, to come see what it is like to be an Acting Major
at DePaul. I can honestly say that it is one of the best decisions that I made. With some objections from my parents, I found a way to get a ticket to Chicago to visit for the weekend. When I got here, I got to tour the school (this was not the beautiful 73 million dollar facility we have now), meet the students, ask questions and get a feel for it myself. I really had to ask myself, based on what I have seen and heard here, could I see myself here? I think that is a CRUCIAL question to ask yourself when picking a school. There are many factors to think about, for me they were location, cost, curriculum, diversity, and more. To be honest, cost was a huge one for me, coming from a single parent home. But to be even more honest, it was important to me to put the cost aside and ask myself is this where I see myself for the next 4 years? For me, the answer was yes. I loved the idea of conservatory style training paired with a well-rounded liberal arts education. I loved the idea of being in Chicago. I loved what I saw as a collaborative environment with committed students and artists. I loved the values DePaul has regarding service to our community and using the city as your classroom. These appealed to me greatly.
I just received an email today saying that this coming weekend is Admitted Students Weekend at TTS, and to be on the lookout for ways to make the students feel welcome, and help them with their decision. It is crazy to me to be on the other end of the experience this time around, as I have the last few years. I am so grateful that DePaul hosted a weekend like this, as it really helped me make one of the biggest decisions in my life. My advice to anyone currently making their own college decision is to definitely attend any event offered such as the one I have just mentioned. But if you have only experienced the tours, and the photos and paragraphs that are scattered across the website, really ask yourself, "Can I see myself here? Will I get what I want out of my education and my experience?" Answer honestly, and go with your gut. Everything else will work itself out.
This is a very exciting time of year, and I am very excited to see who decides to become a Blue Demon next fall.
Spring quarter is in full swing and it is that time again for me to announce the current show I am working on, and tell you all a little about it! I am currently a part of the company of actors working on Peter Pan and Wendy. Each quarter, among the many shows produced at TTS, we also put up a children's show, or as we call it TYA - Theatre for Young Audiences. These are fully produced shows that are showcased at the Merle Reskin Theatre in the Loop. Before the new state-of-the-art Theatre School building was erected on Fullerton and Racine in 2013, all Main Stage shows were performed at the Merle Reskin Theatre downtown. Now that we have two new stages right here on the DePaul Lincoln Park campus, the Reskin is just for our Chicago Playworks Series, made up of plays for young audiences. Chicago public and private schools are invited to bring their students to see these magical productions as field trips on Tuesday and Thursday mornings throughout the week. In addition to these more formal outings, families across Chicago attend these wonderful plays as well.
Right now we are in the middle of the tech process for Peter Pan and Wendy. This is the point of the rehearsal process where all the pieces come together. This includes lighting, sound, set and props, and costumes, all coming together to elevate the play, and bring it to life. Peter Pan and Wendy is a stage adaptation of the well-known children's book following the story of a young girl and her interaction with a young boy who simply won't grow up, together they take a magical adventure to Neverland, complete with flying, danger, and lessons learned in the process.
While creating the show, the cast and director had the tricky challenge of creating the flying sequence, where Wendy and her siblings fly to Neverland with Peter Pan and his fairy friend Tinkerbell. This involved the whole cast, as we are using our bodies to create the magic illusion of flying. This involves a serious of lifts, and highly choreographed sequences to fly the characters through this magical world. This had been a high energy, exciting - and sweaty - process!
Peter Pan and Wendy opens April 21st and runs through May 28th. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10am, and Saturdays at 2pm. If you are in the Chicago area, take advantage of this brighter weather and make your way downtown to see this magical world come to life at the Merle Reskin Theatre at 60 E Balbo Ave Chicago, IL 60604.
Visit the TTS website
for more information about this show and the others running this Spring.
As a college student, it is important to create networks of people to support you. While I have a wonderful community of people here at DePaul, I also believe in expanding your network.
I currently am a Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar. This is a scholarship foundation created in the legacy of the legendary black baseball player and civil rights activist, Jackie Robinson.
I have been a part of this foundation since I applied for this award before entering college. The Foundation is made up of college students across the country studying various things. Each spring, the scholars attend a Mentoring and Leadership Conference.
This is a four day event in New York City where all the scholars come together with professionals to learn about career readiness, professional skills, networking and more. The weekend is full of guest speakers, workshops and seminars where students get to interact with other students and industry professionals. This conference takes place the first week of March each year, and I have just gotten back from attending my third conference of my college career.
While I was there I attended social justice panels, sessions on interviewing skills, financial planning, networking, being a career focused woman (the men attended a session of their own) and more. These were all so informative and I learned a great deal from listening and practicing these skills.
While I was there I entered the JRF's Got Talent competition with a monologue I had prepared at school, and won 2nd place! I had a great balance of business and pleasure, also getting to attend a black tie formal gala and the ballet during my stay.
While I learned a lot and had great fun, one of my favorite things about attending is simply the people I get to be around. As an ambitious college student of color, it was great to spend time with so many other smart successful and talented students of color. The group of students involved in the Jackie Robinson Foundation are some of the best and brightest young minds in our society, and I am always so grateful for the opportunity to be in their presence and learn from them. What is especially amazing is just how supportive, encouraging, curious, and uplifting they all are. They are all individuals destined for greatness, who want everyone else to be successful in their prospective fields as well. That is the key. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. This is what JRF gives me.
It is essential to your own well-being and your success in whatever you do to have people around who will lift you up, encourage you to strive for more, and inspire you along your journey. As I move closer to the professional world and my adult life, I am learning that there will be some people and places that do not foster the kind of growth you might want. So I am learning to create a network of people near and far that I can learn from, be supported by, and will be interested in my goals regardless of their own success. And I can do this for them.
This past weekend in New York really has given me a breath of new inspiration to keep working toward my goals. I think everyone should create that network, and maintain relationships with people who help you to grow.
On Thursday evening a special event took place in The Theatre School. The Theatre School Student Government Association (TTSSGA) hosted an event to celebrate the announcement of the 2016-2017 Season! In the winter of each year, there is an announcement of the plays we will put on in the coming school year. Now typically this is sent out in the form of a school wide email. This year, however, member of the TTSSGA, wanted to bring the school together as community to announce next year's season of plays.
At 5pm, students from all disciplines filed down the stairs and into the Merle Reskin Lobby of the school. This was the first time ever that there had been a collective event to celebrate the great work and great art we have to look forward to next year. The Dean of the Theatre School, Dean John Culbert, gathered in front of the mass of students along with the artistic directors of our theaters, and directors of next year's shows.
The Dean began with some opening remarks about how we choose the next season of productions. He talked about how the subjects and themes of our Main Stage shows reflect what we as a school are thinking about. These production are how the world knows what is important to us. It was great to hear from the leader of our school, and know that he and the team he works with has us, as students and young artists, in mind, as well as the issues of our current world. I had always wondered who chooses the next season, how they decide and of course, what the shows will be. One by one, the directors of next year's shows got up to the microphone, announced their show, and answered a simple question, "Why here, Why Now?" The directors shared the themes of the shows they had chosen and why they think they are relevant in the community and world we live in.
It was a great event to get the whole school excited about the season, and to be on the same page about our collective goal as a school. I cannot tell you how excited I am for next year’s season, and excited to share it with all of you. Next year's season is as follows:
On the FULLERTON STAGE:
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Cameron Knight
by Jackie Sibblies Drury
directed by Erin Kraft
directed by Nathan Signh
Title, Playwright, and Director TBA
In the HEALY THEATRE
by Sarah Ruhl
directed by Michael Burke
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Jacob Janssen
An ensemble piece to be performed by MFA III actors
CHICAGO PLAYWORKS FOR FAMILIES AND YOUNG AUDIENCES
by Jeremiah Clay Neal
directed by Ernie Nolan
(developed through The Theatre School's Cunningham Commission for Youth Theatre)
by Ike Holter
Directed by Lisa Portes
book and lyrics by Psalmayene 24
music by Nick tha 1Da
directed by Coya Paz
This coming season touches on so many relevant topics, such as election and new leadership, race, sexual orientation, gender roles, violence, family dynamics and more. I am so excited to explore these important topics on these amazing stages next year! Good things ahead!
As I have mentioned before, I am currently in my third year of the acting program here at DePaul. As is true for many programs, there are a string of courses one must take in order to complete the major, and earn your degree. For the acting program, there is a planned out sequence of courses we take in our years of training. The third year of the program is when we get to finally tackle Shakespeare
in our coursework. This class is an acting class for us, meaning it is not simply a literature analysis of Shakespeare’s work, but it is geared toward performance majors and our goals to be able to speak and perform this wonderfully challenging text.
This course has been a two quarter sequence, and lucky for my class, it has been revamped this year. The Theatre School has hired a new faculty member this year, Cameron Knight, who now teaches acting and Shakespeare to the undergraduate and graduate acting students. We began with part one of the sequence in fall quarter of this year. The students in my class were all coming to begin this learning process with various experiences and knowledge of The Bard and his writing. By this I mean that some students came to the class already loving Shakespeare, some hating it, some having read many of his works, some never having read it at all, but we all started from the same place with the work.
The first quarter began with form. Learning all the conventions of Shakespeare’s writing, starting with reading analysis and scansion of the text. We then moved onto speaking the text and clear communication of the text. While analysis is great and essential, as actors we must learn how to be effective and clear in the speaking and communication of the text. We then moved into scene work leading up to our final, which was a presentation of these scenes for the performance faculty. This winter, we began the second part of the sequence. This quarter we jumped right in with scene work, paired with partners to work on different scenes, as well as monologues and group scenes.
I have really loved taking this course and have learned so much. Reading Shakespeare, and preparing it for performance really is like learning a new language, and a new way to approach language of any type. My professor was right when he says, if you can handle this author, you can handle just about any author/playwright. Once you learn the form, you get to "play Jazz" he says. He is truly a great teacher, and has facilitated this learning process in an individualized way. My class has gone from tentative and cautious with this challenging language, to truly understanding, loving, and now playing with these complicated and beautifully written stories. It has changed how I view this author, and how I see my future with this author as well, giving me a sense that I really could, with more work and practice, work confidently and well on Shakespeare and classical text during the rest of my collegiate career, and professionally. I love taking courses that directly apply to the skill set I desire to have for my career and this course has definitely done that.
I am excited to announce the latest show I am working on for The Theatre School. I am currently cast in a play called In the Blood
by Suzan-Lori Parks. This is the second Main Stage production I have acted in during my time in the casting pool and what an experience it has been!
In the Blood is an intense and beautiful story of family, struggle, and triumph in the face of personal and systemic adversity. On The Theatre School website there is a description:
"Hester la Negrita is a homeless single mother of five who dreams of finding beauty and love for her family despite her poverty-stricken life. As she struggles to defy the odds, she runs into a series of harsh and unexpected obstacles.
In this modern day riff on Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks asks who has the right to the American Dream. Directed by Nathan Singh, MFA Directing, Class of 2017.
Is poverty inescapable for individuals already in the cycle? "
The characters of the play include the protagonist, Hester, which is played by one actress. We also meet her five children, Jabber, Bully, Trouble, Beauty, and Baby. The play is written as such that the five actors who play the children also double as five other adults that Hester interacts with, her doctor, reverend, welfare caseworker, her best friend, and her first love. The play explores their relationships and the way these individuals may be in positions to help Hester, but may not help her the way we would hope.
I have been cast as Hester, the mother and main character that this world surrounds. It has been quite a challenging role, and the ultimate test to apply my training to performance. It is a mammoth of a role, and such a deep and important play, I am really lucky to be working on it. It is a beautiful piece of writing written by a black woman, about a black woman's experience with the powers that be, wrestling with race, class, gender, and the system that controls them. While we are getting close to the performance dates, and it is a little nerve wracking, I am excited to see how it turns out!
The show opens January 22, and runs through January 31, 2016. I encourage anyone to come see this important work of art! Student Tickets are $5, and $15 for the general public. The cast, crew, and design and technical team are all made up of current BFA, and MFA students here at DePaul, with the assistance of TTS staff.
Please come see In the Blood and support the art of students like you, and as always, be well.
As a Theatre major, life can prove to be extremely busy. While all college students have a lot on their plates, juggling classes and work and enjoying the social life of college, theatre students at DePaul seem to have a unique kind of schedule and academic experience. Lately I have been running from classes to rehearsals to study sessions, not really finding a moment to take a breath. However I have really been loving the projects I am working on at the moment. I thought I would take the opportunity to tell you all about the show I am currently working on here at The Theatre School.
As an acting major, you are required to perform in various productions during your time here, and are even evaluated for a grade. The goal is to gain experience performing, learn from these experiences, and also apply what we have been learning in acting classes to actual performance. Junior year is the first time that we have the opportunity to audition for the mainstage productions. I am so excited to be working on my first Mainstage here at TTS, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone!
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone by August Wilson is an American drama set in 1911 Pittsburgh. Written by legendary African American playwright, August Wilson, this story is one of a cycle of plays Wilson wrote to catalog the black experience in America in each decade of the 20th century. The action takes place in a boarding house in Pittsburgh, and we see the interactions of the various characters who meet there, on their journey through life in America post-slavery. It is an intense story about finding each other, and finding ourselves as a culture and as individuals.
This show has been so fun to work on, and not to mention so rewarding and inspiring. The production is a rarity for The Theatre School, as there is a nearly all black cast, performing in a show written by an amazing black playwright, directed by the only black female performance faculty member, with stage management and design teams who also include POC. Diversity and representation in schools and in the arts is so important, and as a woman of color, it is such a gift to me to be able to be a part of a show that is exploring, celebrating and showcasing my own culture and the complexity of human life. I am currently sharing the stage with many MFA (graduate student) actors, as well as other BFA (undergraduate) actors as well. And it has been such a learning experience just watching my peers work as well.
This show opens November 6th and runs until November 15th. Student tickets are only $5 for any show. If you’re already a student at DePaul, or are in the area I highly recommend seeing this show! For more information about this show, tickets, or our 2 other mainstages currently in performance, Esperanza Rising in the Merle Reskin Theatre downtown, and The Lady from the Sea in the Healy Theatre on campus, please visit The Theatre School website.