Archive for October 25th, 2017


Who Are They? Portland Stage – Part 5

October 25, 2017

In-Theater Program

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.

Photo by Aaron Flacke

Our In-Theater programming is particularly close to my heart because of the students who come back year after year and class after class, taking in every Portland Stage experience that they can find. This is my third season at Portland Stage and even in that small amount of time, I have been able to see the students grow as actors, collaborators, and creators. We offer classes and intensives for middle and high school students, vacation and summer camps for all ages, and dramatic readings and workshops of children’s books for ages 4-10.

At Portland Stage, we take After School to a whole new level. We devise haunting pieces for our All Hallows Eve Conservatory in the fall and tackle the humor and drama of Shakespeare in the spring. Our students are delightfully outspoken, endlessly creative, and admirably dedicated. What I enjoy most about working with these young people, however, is how much they make me laugh. Their quirky uniqueness never fails to create an eventful class each week. For example, when we brainstormed our company name in last season’s All Hallows Eve Conservatory, some of the suggestions they came up with included: “The Tell-Tale Kidneys”, “Trainwreck”, “The HallowTWEEN Company”, “The Ghosts of the Purple Floor” (our Theater for Kids space has a bright purple floor), and, the name they ended up selecting, “The Democratic Grim Society of Hauntedness”. On day one of our spring Shakespeare Conservatory last season, we asked the students what they loved most about Shakespeare and storytelling. Of course, their first answer was “the intensity and the mass death scenes”. Armed with that information, we created a Shakespeare mash-up of the utmost intensity that ended in a mass death scene where each student dramatically died not once, but TWICE.

Photo by Aaron Flacke

This past summer, we ran 13 summer camps and welcomed nearly 200 students into our building. All of our camps are based on a book or play, so we got to play with spectacular stories such as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Macbeth, and Ramona Quimby. Each student picks which characters they want to explore and then are given a scene and a speech to work on throughout the week. The students become an ensemble of actors who work together to tell stories, solve problems, and create theater. At the end of the week, we invite family and friends into our space to share what we have been working on. The bravery these students exhibit by stepping up in front of other people to share their work and the pride they have in each other creates for a beautiful end to many fantastic weeks of camp.

Our Play Me a Story program (PMAS) is a dramatic reading series that takes place on Saturday mornings. Professional actors perform picture books and poems for an audience of 4-10 year-olds. After the reading, teaching artists lead the students in an active workshop where the students become the actors. They explore their actor’s tools (voice, body, and imagination) through games, activities, and performance. This program is an absolute blast for our actors and teachers, as well as the kids! One element of our job in the education office is reading tons of picture books in order to select books for both PMAS and our PLAY In Schools program. Julianne and I are what you might call picture book aficionados. Any time someone in the office needs a smile or a pick-me-up, we will get out one of our favorite picture books and do an impromptu reading. In fact, on the new education interns’ first day, we all read one of our favorites (Drew Daywalt’s Legend of The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors, highly recommended!) in a circle and it was absolutely magical. Moral of the story is: we love this program and picture books and all of the joy they bring to both adults and children.

At Portland Stage, I have met a wide array of students who teach me more than I could ever teach them. They teach me to be brave with my creativity, fearless in the face of any challenge or prompt. They teach me to be kind and supportive of one another, reinforcing each other’s successes and courageous attempts. They make me laugh uncontrollably and cry unapologetically. Most importantly, they remind me of the importance of theater education and the agency, confidence, and independence that it can give to young people.

Interested in learning more about this program? Email or call 207-774-1043 ext. 104

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