Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Forty Years of George Street

A Completely Original Musical in Four Weeks

The day begins at 9 a.m.

Twenty-five students begin warming up their bodies, voices, and imaginations by playing theatre games like Tree Chop. One student raises his arms up, making himself tall like a tree, while letting out a guttural “hah.” Two students on either side of him echo the sound while making a chopping motion. This action is repeated as it is passed across and around the circle. It’s simple, fast-paced and a lot of fun.

After these high-energy warm-ups, students dive headfirst into their work: creating, rehearsing, designing, and performing an original musical in only four weeks. This is the inherently ambitious and seemingly impossible task of Young M Company,
George Street Playhouse Summer Theatre Academy’s four-week class for teens.

Every year, this creation and development process begins with introducing studentsto source material, which serves as the springboard for their script. This year, they

are using poems from Shel Silverstein’s book of poetry, Where the Sidewalk Ends.Giant sheets of white paper line a wall of the rehearsal space. One sheet is titled“The Editing Room Floor” and it is covered in different colored sticky notes, each one an idea for an element of the play. Another sheet is focused on the process of musical theater creation, and it has three questions written on it: “How can music

help us tell this story?” “What are all the various ways we can use music?” and“What can music help us achieve that we couldn’t achieve otherwise?” The students have worked on their own, in small groups, and as an ensemble to turn the ideas they’ve generated into a foundational outline for their story.

Today, Milo, Eowyn, Diane, and Richard are on their feet, embodying characters and improvising actions and dialogue. This small group is expanding what was written earlier in the week into a cohesive scene. They stop only for a moment to write it all down and review what they have produced so far. Rachel and Kayla, two longtime Academy students, sit in the corner together poring over their work. Rachel is diligently writing and rewriting lyrics as Kayla plays her guitar, plucking her way to the perfect melody. Every few minutes you can hear them singing quietly together, trying out the new lyrics and finding harmonies. Everyone is devoting all of their energy to the telling of their original story: the tale of one girl, her notebook, and the

Just before they break for lunch, each small group presents what they have been working on to the ensemble. New characters and scenes are shared, and Rachel and Kayla introduce their song. The song is met with thunderous applause. There is an instant and collective understanding that it will be a highlight of the play. While the students know there will be much more to do after lunch, the room is buzzing with excitement. The play is finally taking shape.

Over the next few weeks, the new scenes will be staged, the songs will be fine tuned, and everything will be rehearsed. Students will also meet with the design team to discuss lighting, sets, costumes, and props. In one of the writing groups, students have been working on a scene involving a mythical creature. Eowyn is sure that this creature must to be a puppet, but what it looks like and how it operates is still under great debate. The design meetings will be the time to solve this problem. The entire process - creation, rehearsal, design, and performance - is founded in collaboration, compromise, and communication. These young artists not only learn to work and create together, but to support and respect one another, and build their greater
collective imagination.

On the last day of Summer Theatre Academy, family and friends stream into the theater to watch the culmination of the students’ hard work and dedication. The lights dim and a hush falls over the crowd as the ensemble anxiously waits backstage for their cue. The moment everyone has been working toward is here...
lights up on Girl With Epic Notebook.

posted by Christa Cillaroto, Manager of School Based Programs

Tony Nominated Play Opens 2014 Season

The first show of our season here at George Street Playhouse is a play about love. But this particular theatrical romance isn’t your typical love story.

John Patrick Shanley, who received a Tony Award nomination this past season for Outside Mullingar, is writer of the Oscar-winning screenplay for the romantic comedy Moonstruck, as well as the multi award-winning (including the Pulitzer Prize) Doubt, presented on the George Street stage seven years ago.

Reminiscent of Moonstruck, Shanley has provided us with a love story with punches of laughter and a healthy dose of Irish farm life, grit and mysticism instead of hearts and flowers. Artistic Director David Saint, explains why he chose to start the season with this not- so-sentimental story. “I like to begin the season with something very ‘up,’ whether it’s a big comedy or a musical or a love story.”

In addition to his trademark comedic techniques utilizing the humor of everyday life, Shanley goes back to his personal ethnic roots and employs mystical elements of folklore to further the unique quality of this modern day romance.

Saint elaborates - “He delves into the land of the mystical like many Irish poets or Irish writers… It is the element of the supernatural that has been a part of Irish culture for centuries. I was just knocked out by the combination of the wit and the lyricism and the fairytale quality to it and the notion that there is always hope for love in someone’s life.”

The pervasive feeling of Celtic mysticism and humble whimsy touches audiences on a fundamental level where our childlike wonder still resides, even if buried deeply.

“Any great story, like a great fairytale, is universal to all cultures,” Saint asserts. The story is not limited to a particular culture or location or even time period, “…it takes place anywhere where the imagination is ripe enough for a writer to concoct a tale.”

When you really think about it, isn’t every love story actually a fairly tale? The fact that two compatible people out of the estimated seven billion in this great wide world could find each other and fall in love is really quite magical. Outside Mullingar teaches all of us that there is hope that love can, and, most assuredly, will happen. “Keep your heart open to love at any age.” This is what Saint feels is the fundamental theme of the play. It’s never too late to fall in love. It’s a beautiful lesson of hope and perseverance for the sake of joy.

Continues Saint, “I think this play [makes] people leave the theatre feeling great about life and that is a great way to start the season”