New York Theatre Workshop pairs up with student actors
By Leslie Adkins, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, August 3, 2007
Sophomore summer is a celebratory time for the theater department at Dartmouth as they prepare to welcome two acclaimed theater companies -- the New York Theatre Workshop and The Elevator Repair Service -- to campus this August.
From July 31 until Aug. 18, the NYTW will be in residence, working with Dartmouth students in the theater department's Drama in Performance class.
"This is truly a unique experience for Dartmouth students, or any undergraduate student in general," Peter Hackett '76, chair of the theater department and professor of the theater class, said. "We worked hard to find a way to get students involved in the day to day functions of the workshop."
July 31 marks the sixteenth year of the NYTW's artist residency at Dartmouth and the 25th anniversary of the workshop's creation. The mission of the NYTW is to create opportunities in which emerging and established theater artists can thrive and build lasting relationships. Their goal is to create a conducive environment for creation by offering long-term support to playwrights and directors. Other programs by the NYTW include a summer residency program at Vassar College, the Playwrights Fellowship for minority artists, Studio Productions, and the "Just Add Water Festival," featuring staged works-in-progress.
The students will have the opportunity to work closely with the creative directors and staff of the NYTW. They will take an active part in the work of the company, from assisting in rehearsals to attending and contributing to critique sessions. The students will also get a chance to hear guest speakers from the workshop in class each week.
"As rising juniors deciding what they want to do in theater when they graduate, it is just a creatively invigorating experience," Hackett said.
In addition to working directly with theater students, the NYTW will bring to the campus stage four new works-in-progress written and performed by young playwrights and actors, ranging from portraits of family life to pieces that question race and identity. Of note are the pieces "Liberty City" by Jessica Blank and April Thompson, and "Palestine" by Najia Said.
"Liberty City," directed by Blank, whose credits include the award-winning play "The Exonerated," will show Saturday, Aug. 4, at 5 p.m. and stars Thompson. It weaves a tale of the love and strife suffered by a family in the 1960s in Liberty City, the site of Miami's infamous 1980s riots.
Said's one-woman show, speaks of American and Arab identities, as well as what it means to be aware. Premiering Aug. 11 at 5 p.m., "Palestine" allows the award-winning actor-writer-director to explore the daily struggles of being Middle-Eastern with both humor and truth.
Another set of performances will take place at the end of August, as the actors will be joined by The Elevator Repair Service, an off-Broadway theater company currently collaborating with the NYTW on a stage adaptation of William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury."
Founded in 1991, The Elevator Repair Service has traveled around the world performing theater pieces based on a broad range of subject matter and literary forms. Coming from a range of eclectic influences, each piece is developed over the course of a season and performed as a work-in-progress show in several locations before culminating in an extended run in New York City. The company has been praised by New York Magazine as "the best experimental theater group in town."
While at Dartmouth, both the NYTW and The Elevator Repair Service company will continue to work with theater students in preparation for their presentation of Part I of "The Sound and the Fury," Aug. 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. The production will feature a narrator reading the original text accompanied by actors playing multiple roles in an effort to tell the story of 1920s Mississippi and the conflict of a prominent Southern family. The show hopes to give new life to the treasured American novel.
All performances will be held in the Bentley Theater, with ticket prices at $3 for Dartmouth students.