Theater class works with the New York Theater Workshop

by Hayley Hoverter | 8/20/15 5:27pm

As part of the Theater 65 class, “Drama in Performance,” enrolled students collaborated with New York Theater Workshop artists on plays in progress.

The NYTW sends various artists to Hanover to participate in a workshop with students and community members. The workshop occurs during the last three weeks of the summer term, during which artists showcase their plays.

Although the plays vary in their stages of development, the aim of the program is to provide the artists with student feedback and have the students partake in the process of theater production.

The NYTW also participated in public brown bag lunch events sponsored by the Hopkins Center for the Arts. At these events, Dartmouth students and community members participated in question and answer sessions with NYTW artists about their backgrounds, and how themes like place and identity figure into their work.

This past Tuesday’s lunch event featured eight NYTW panelists, including Kristina Wong, who wrote a one-woman show titled “The Wong Street Journal” and Byron Au Yong, who wrote the musical “Stuck Elevator.”

Julie Solomon ’17 worked on stage management and design for “Stuck Elevator.”

“Unlike some of the other pieces, this show was pretty much completely created,” she said. “It’s been in the works for five years.”

Solomon said working with NYTW differs from other projects that students work on in Theater 65. She said that students also worked on VoxFest and the Eleanor Frost and Ruth and Loring Dodd Student Play Festival before the NYTW.

“New York Theater Workshop has much more of a ‘sit back and assist these people’ format, whereas VoxFest is focused on the students,” she said. “[With the NYTW] it’s more of, ‘help these people, but they’re in charge.’”

Theater 65 professor Jamie Horton echoed this sentiment.

“Process trumps product always,” Horton said. “It’s about the work and the artists and what they learn about the pieces. This relationship between Dartmouth College and Theater 65 and the New York Theater Workshop is a real gem of our program. It benefits our students and I am confident that it also benefits the artists of the New York Theater Workshop.”

NYTW literary associate Aaron Malkin facilitates the brown bag discussions and the feedback sessions between the artists and students.

“I’m around to be the dramaturgical sounding board and to talk to people as things develop at rehearsals,” Malkin said.

One of the unique aspects of the NYTW is their use of the Liz Lerman method, which is a “four step process that begins with the responders, with what resonates with them,” Malkin said.

“So the artists have an opportunity to get feedback,” he said. “At the end, if there’s interest, people offer their opinions about the characters.”

Solomon said she feels that the method allowed her to give input into the artists’ works, because there is time after every show to reflect on the performance while the artists are present.

Solomon noted that the class influenced her career choice.

“Going into class, I wanted to be a director,” she said. “Now I’m thinking more about design, as opposed to guiding actors along their paths.”

This summer marks the NYTW’s 24th year at Dartmouth. The process of selecting artists who will visit the College is extensive.

“We start with what we call ‘usual suspects,’ which are over 500 writers, directors, choreographers and dramaturgs,” Malkin said. “Once a year, we send out a call for proposals. We received between 80 to 100 proposals for all of our locations this year.”

The NYTW also receives biographies from each of the theater students, who are then assigned to projects based on their interests.

“I feel like I’m making connections,” Solomon said.

Naomi Lazar ’17 worked as an assistant director for “American Pop” a musical by Michael Friedman, which she felt was a positive experience.

“It was absolutely amazing,” she said. “I love historical theater, so for me this was right up my alley. Being able to look into the past and not be afraid to talk about things was great.”

Lazar described working with the artists from the NYTW as an educational experience.

She added that the process has inspired her to potentially pursue a writing career.

“Seeing these projects and talking with these artists is very inspiring and gave me hope again,” Lazar said. “There’s something refreshing about talking to people about new work and seeing it performed because so much of theater that I watch is already finished,” she said.