Archive for October 18th, 2017

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Who Are They? Portland Stage – Part 4

October 18, 2017

Student Matinees

Portland Stage, located in Portland, Maine, offers vital theater arts education to learners ages 4-18 through our In-Theater and In-School programming. All classes and workshops are taught by professionally trained Teaching Artists and focus on literacy, cultural awareness, collaborative play, and creative thinking. Our teaching philosophy highlights process over product, deepening students’ ability to analyze, synthesize, and think critically while making connections to the thoughts and ideas behind the written word. This is one of a series of 6 blog posts outlining who we are and what we do, brought to you by Hannah Cordes, Education Manager, and Julianne Shea, Education Administrator. These posts will appear September 27 through November 1, 2017, on Wednesday’s.

Portland Stage’s Student Matinee Program annually offers students the chance to see our Mainstage productions at a discounted ticket rate during the school day. Prior to the performance, students and teachers receive our educational resource guide, PlayNotes. Created by the Portland Stage Literary and Education departments, these extensive guides present a broad spectrum of information and perspectives on each play in our Mainstage season. These guides are designed to support and further audiences’ experience of each play.

On the day of the performance, students and teachers take over our mainstage theater! For many students that attend these productions, it is their first time in a professional theater. As Jenna Quimby, a fifth grade teacher at Hall Elementary School, said: “So many of our students at Hall do not have the means or opportunity to attend a play. I think that it is so culturally important for students to experience theater.” Pat Fox, the drama teacher at Fryeburg Academy, brings her students to see every show in the season every year. This means that by the end of a student’s senior year, they will have seen 28 productions at Portland Stage! It is a privilege to watch the ownership these students have of the space and listen to them compare the shows in the season.

Following the performance, students participate in a talkback discussion with the cast and crew, which helps them gain a deeper awareness of the creative process in a professional context and encourages them to think critically about the themes and messages of the play. These discussions are often insightful, funny, and delightful. One of my favorite memories from a talkback was the engaging conversation after our production of The Mountaintop by Katori Hall. This play is a theatrical re-imagining of events the night before the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Students and teachers alike were deeply moved by this story. Even after the talkback had ended, and students were leaving the theater, a group of students stayed to continue the conversation with the inspiring actors in this production. They didn’t leave the theater until they had to because the bus was about to drive away!

Another memorable student matinee moment came at the end of our production of Buyer and Cellar by Jonathan Tolins. This play is a one man show about Alex, a struggling actor, who takes the bizarre job of working in a shopping mall that Barbra Streisand has built in the basement of her Malibu home. As students were leaving, one young person stayed behind in order to talk to myself and Hannah Cordes, our education manager. He let us know that he had been skeptical about whether he would like this one person show or not. He had thought this format might be boring, but was instead inspired by the actor’s performance and in awe of his nuance, humor, bravery, and specificity. He told us that he is a basketball player, but that he was interested in delving into more acting experiences in the future. It was lovely to watch this student feel so compelled to share his reaction with us.

We also offer pre- and post-show workshops with our student matinee program. We design these workshops to further deepen the students’ experience with the play. When schools request a workshop, we tailor them to the needs of the students and the content of the play. After a workshop with Deering High School students, educator Kathleen Harris noted that “The fine work of the three Portland Stage educators made the personal, educational and societal experience of attending Disgraced a deeper and more meaningful one for many students. Portland Stage provides a tremendous arts and education…they are a valuable and important asset to our efforts to educate and inspire our youth.”

James Carlise at Waynflete School reached out to us as he was planning his dramaturgy class. Before and after students came to see a production at Portland Stage, our literary manager and the assistant director & dramaturg on the show went into his classroom and talked to students about the play. One student in his class wrote, “Meeting and hearing two actual dramaturgs explain their work and the impact it had on the other members of a production brought a sort of concreteness and tangibility to a role we have studied primarily on paper, and seeing the bar lifted to such a height by professionals has inspired me to look at theater work with a more critical and creatively educated eye, weighing all options and taking the time to look at everything from several angles.”

We are grateful to be a part of exposing young people in Maine to the arts through this program that offers students the chance to see a professional production with their peers.

Please watch the video below to learn hear more about the program!

Interested in learning more? Email education@portlandstage.org or call 207-774-1043 ext. 104

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