Monday, December 1, 2014

In the Words of a Student

Do you remember when you first fell in love with theater? If you're reading this, chances are the theater has touched your life in some way. We feel lucky to see its power for building community every week at our open workshops and in the work we do in schools.

For many of the schools we donate programs to, like Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics (MCSM), a public high school in East Harlem, we are the only drama program available at the school.  We asked Shinelle Black, a 9th grader at MCSM, to tell us what theater and drama mean to her.  Here are her words.

The word 'drama' by definition is the art of theater, but to me drama is a mirror of my humanity. A depiction of all the aspects of our real realities and the fictional worlds our imaginations create. Over the course of my life I have spent more than four years taking drama classes and portraying characters. Through these characters I have learned more about myself and the person I wish to become.

I have learned the importance of team work, and gained experience in collaborating with others to achieve a common goal. In the spring of 2012, my middle school put on a main stage production of "The Diary of Ann Frank." Despite the fact that I did not have a role on stage, I helped organize the sets and props. In doing that, you realize how important every aspect of creating the art is and, henceforth, the necessary role of each individual. Opportunities like this promote team spirit which is a great element to the work environment in the future.

Through drama you learn how the smallest things can make a real impact on others. For example, you learn how important text is. How your words could alter the whole mood of the world and could forever change someone for better or worse. You learn how color could change the feelings you get, you gain a real appreciation for the art in the world. Drama teaches you how to pay attention to the smallest details, and how one sound or sight, maybe even smell, could set off a chain of reactions.  

Drama's an important part of my life. Having people to share that passion with makes you know that you will always have a sense of community and comradery.  Since moving to New York, I have had some hard days and I know having something to look forward to every week makes it better. Every student deserves to have access to the same sense of family as I do.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top Ten Reasons to see a performance of Edward IV by Thomas Heywood

#1) The play fictionalizes the exuberance and wanton ways of "The Playboy King". With fifteen plus (alleged) children to his name, you should see this play if only to count the amount of women Edward kisses.

#2) The play’s subtitle reads like a cheap novella. See the play to decide for yourself if the Bastard Falconbridge deserves such small type.

The First And
 Second Partes of King Edward
 The Fourth
His mery pastime with the Tanner of Tamworth
as also his loue to faire Mistrisse Shoare,
her great promotion, fall and miserie,
and lastly the lamentable death
of both her and her hus-

Likewise the besieging of London, by the Bastard
Falconbridge, and the valiant defence of
the same by the Lord Maior and
the Cittizens.

#3) Thomas Heywood penned at least another 219 plays. If you like this one, you'll have a whole new canon of plays to explore.

#4) A crying Executioner? How often are we treated to sights like that in the theatre? Come to experience one of the plays most moving moments as a Headsman grows a conscience.

#5) It has a sequel which has already been written. Unlike "Game of Thrones" you don't have to wait five years to find out what happens next.

#6) Because the sentence "I's quite your gudeness with a bonny nag, sall swum away so deftly as the wind" makes more sense when spoken by an actor than when you have to read it on your own.

#7) Historically, London was indeed besieged by rebels and yet managed to repel them. You need to watch this play to fully grasp the finer points of their defense strategy.

#8) Come and see what Shakespeare's Richard III really means when he says that Edward IV "capers nimbly in a lady's chamber to the lascivious pleasing of a lute".

#9) It is a play which expertly skirts the line between comedy and tragedy.

#10) If none of the above reasons entice, think on this- you might never see it produced anywhere again because it's that obscure.
This might be your very last chance to see Edward IV, Part I.


Sybille Bruun
Executive Director
The Shakespeare Forum

Friday, March 8, 2013

"I Know You All..."

One of our longtime members just gave Prince Hal's speech from Act I Scene 2 Henry IV, part one:

"I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humour of your idleness:
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wonder'd at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work;
But when they seldom come, they wish'd for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So, when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men's hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I'll so offend, to make offence a skill;
Redeeming time when men think least I will."

When we asked him, as we ask almost everyone, why he chose the piece. He said that he chose it because he was twenty years old, and he figured that everyone his age believes that they are going to change the world.

What stuck out wasn't the words, it was the way he said them. He made it clear that this idea was kinda silly, probably delusional. Either because of pessimism, modesty or both, he clearly didn't think that his chances of changing the world were very high.

It got me thinking. Just a little earlier we had a performance from someone who had come to the forum most recently when it was about four people in someone's apartment. She got up and was immediately struck by just how many people were looking back at her: about fifteen or twenty times as many people. A little later we had someone else stand up and give a piece-- the last one he wants to leave us with before he leaves for his home country, where he says he would like to start another forum-like company of his own.

In other words, this little thing that started in someone's apartment with four people is now poised to become something international. We're putting on shows, we're teaching in schools, we're holding multiple weekly classes, and we're growing fast.

And I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure forum's founding members were twenty at one point, and thought they were going to change the world. Seems to me, they're well on their way.

The thing about being a twenty year old convinced that you're going to change the world, is that you just might be right. Doubting yourself may feel like being modest around former 20-year-olds who seemingly haven't changed the world. Maybe it is. But being unapologetically optimistic about it isn't a slight. It's an inspiration.

So, no matter how old you are, if you're planning on changing the world, stick with that dream, actively pursue it with the help of your community, and be patient with the fact that it's probably going to take longer than you expected. Because it can happen. Good luck!

Joel Putnam
Resident Artist
The Shakespeare Forum

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Stay Calm and Get Your Bard On

Over the last four years I have had the privilege of watching an incredible community form in New York City. Artists and lovers of the arts come together in a small room each Tuesday evening to share their work, their ideas, their wants, dreams, and fears. They push and support each other. They help everyone in that room to realize their own potential and give each other the tools to continue to grow.

I started this group four years ago not to become a teacher but to provide a space where we all can continue to blossom and mature at our own rate.

What I'm trying to eventually get at is the room became such a beautiful and fulfilling place that I wanted to figure out how to bring what happens in the room OUT of the room, all the while keeping the integrity of what happens in the the room.


Each post will discuss questions, challenges, successes and/or ideas that "we" may have. Will it always revolve around Shakespeare? Probably not. Ideas founded in Shakespeare are often applicable outside of Shakespeare. Ideas like "Honesty in Comedy", "Truth of Spoken Words", "The Bravery of Failure".

These are all tools we've found useful in our workshop and we hope to be able to discuss them, and more, here. Comments are always welcome. The one rule have, much like in our workshops/classes/rehearsals is a respect of each other and each others views.

Tyler Moss
Artistic Director,
The Shakespeare Forum