Last week I had the honor of bringing the high school Drama Club and S.L.A.M.! students to the Northeast Thespian, Maine Educational Theatre Conference at the University of Maine, Orono. From an art educator’s point of view it was exciting to join theater educators in supporting Theatre Education and our students’ artistic development and growth. Since each student had a unique experience, they have collaborated, each sharing their voice, to reflect on the overall impact of this experience.
Friday, October 28, was the Maine Educational Theatre Conference at the University of Maine, Orono. I awoke (if you can call that being awake) at the ripe hour of 3:00 AM. We all gathered at our high school and hit the road, in the school van, at 4:15. Admittedly, I was very nervous. There were so many talented kids there just like me, and I didn’t really know what to expect from the day. The program started in Hauk Auditorium with speakers, Dawn McAndrews, the Artistic Director at the Theater at Monmouth and Beth Lambert. Mrs. Lambert, the Visual and Performing Arts Specialist from the Department of Education (and theatre teacher extraordinaire) gave a genuinely inspiring speech,
“Your theatre education will serve you for the rest of your life. So stand up for theatre education. Never forget that the arts are worth fighting for in your community, and you are not alone in this fight. Artists are not simply storytellers and creators of beautiful images and sounds. The arts dignify the human spirit. Artists challenge everyone within our society to see one another honestly and without fear. Artists build communities in a fragmented and sometimes frightening world.
Artists are visionaries by nature, and as a young artist, you are called to lead, to question, to provoke, and to reform.
I sincerely wish you all the best and hope that no matter where the road takes you that you will always have theatre in your life and always remember how it shaped, not only your ability to perform, but your character as well.”
After this assembly, we each went to our first workshop. I had signed up for Objects of Playwriting Desire with Travis Baker. Mr. Baker, a very seasoned playwright, gave us a great lecture on the field. I learned a lot about the stage and what writers can do with it. We got into small groups and did miniature scenes that we came up with. Overall, it was a très informative session.
The next seminar after lunch (great ravioli, by the way) was on stage combat, Slaps, Punches and Slashes: The First Steps of Sensible Stage Violence was taught by, Arthur Morison. I honestly didn’t expect to become good at sword fighting, but I’m now confident in my skill to survive in the Middle Ages. It was extremely entertaining.
My final seminar was Video Projection, held by Brave Williams. Holograms have always fascinated me. Miraculously, I got everything to work, and I even made a little layered animation that I projected into the room. Even the eight-hour drive was worth it. It was a great, informative, inspiring day, and though I was nervous, I would love to do it again.
My favorite workshop was Costume Design vs. Fashion Design, taught by Kevin Jacob Koski. He focused on the differences between costumes and fashion and to illustrate his point, he shared his work. He highlighted the functionality of costumes and how they need to be engineered to help create illusions on the stage. Koski emphasized that costume designers must consult many people when designing, including the actors. The actor knows the character best so you have to make sure you respect their ideas about him or her. The costumes must help to convey the characters attributes as well as provide for movement & comfort. Lighting is a critical part of the overall production. The lighting person needs to be part of the costume design process. The color of the fabric must work with the color and staging of the lights. And, the director’s point of view must be considered to make sure it is in sync with his or her overall vision.
My favorite workshop was hip-hop dance. It was the best one that I went to and the most fun. Now, that was a workout! The fact that we learned a new dance routine in one hour was amazing. It made me felt like I was in a true dance class. It was really fun and the dance is still engraved in my brain (4 days later).
The trip down to Orono was incredible. S.L.A.M.!’s Drama Division got to talk with Beth Lambert, and hear her amazing speech. The performance done by Orono’s college kids, the snippet of their play, was done very well. I enjoyed it. People aside, the lessons were fabulous. They really were helpful, and it was really fun. I personally did the dance, observed acting, and observed singing. The tips were amazing, and the dance was vigorous and fun. I had a really good time there. It’s very unsurprising that another S.L.A.M.! trip was educational and fun.
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect when my drama instructor asked me about attending the theatre conference held at the University of Maine at Orono last week. I have been to many art related festivals and workshops before, but none like this one.
To summarize, the thespian theater conference was a gathering of high school theatre students from around the state of Maine. Honestly it was one of the best festivals I’ve ever attended. For starters they did a really good job letting the kids find their own way around campus. This was really cool because it gave the kids a shorthand experience of college; and, I didn’t feel as if I was forced to go from one place to another like at other festivals/school related events.
The second thing that I really loved about the festival were the workshops! There were different kinds of workshops available and the chance to watch live auditions for “Best of Fest,” a group of competitions among actors and singers. There were three categories: monologues, and two different singing portions. I personally had a chance to watch the monologue event and all I have to say is, “Wow!” We were in the Black Box Theatre, a small practice/ small performance room in the Collins Center for the Arts. It was raining that day and amid the silence and patient waiting for the next performers, one could hear the rain beating upon the roof. What an accidental way to set the perfect ambience. The actors were amazing, and I had no idea that such talent existed among fellow high school peers. I have to say, this was my favorite workshop. I had such an amazing day at the thespian theatre conference! And, I would definitely go again… if I wasn’t a Senior.