What is re-theatre?
In order to generate more campus-wide interaction and interdisciplinary perspectives, the Juniata College Theatre designed a new initiative, based on the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, New York City’s premiere eco-friendly and socially conscious theatre festival. Our first fall production will be dedicated to sustainable theatre practices, community engagement, and inclusivity.
The plan has three components:
- Re-think: The spring show will be an adaptation or inspired by the Juniata College summer reading. Whether we end up using a fiction or non-fiction (in the case that we select two books I would choose one of them), the students will create a new show using ensemble-based practices like Compositions. As director, I would function more like a dramaturgical mentor assisting the students to problem-solve and invest their own creativity into the process. This lateral methodology allows the student to weave in and out of roles like actor, playwright, director, and designer. It also means a deeper reading and re-thinking. By connecting the summer reading to our theatrical season we also find another way to integrate the larger general education to the theatre POE.
- Re-use: All materials used in the production will re-used, recycled, or otherwise repurposed. The goal is to reduce the environmental impact that theatre can cause will ephemeral sets and costumes. We would still hire professional designers who would facilitate that process.
- Re-connect: The spring production will not have an audition process. Instead we will take volunteers from across the campus that will simply sign up for a performance practicum for the spring. In addition to making performance more widely available to the campus, it also encourages interest from those who may not have otherwise considered theatre as an option. This may mean that the spring show has three or 300 actors. Whoever volunteers will constitute the company that spring and together we will create the show based on Juniata’s summer reading. Additionally, the show will partner with a local charity or institution to raise awareness and money around that issue. So, for example, if the summer reading is concerned with food sustainability, we may partner with the Huntingdon Food Bank. Through interdisciplinary and inter-community talkbacks we can continue to raise awareness.
How does the Juniata College Theatre Visiting Guest Artist Collective work?
Each year a new guest artist is brought in to teach major introductory courses as well as a special course, called “Intensive,” within their specialty. Students can take a semester with the artist or the entire year. A required number of Intensive credits will have to be met but it is structured so that students can, to some degree, pick and choose which Intensives to take based on their individual interests.
The Juniata College Theatre says that it is high-impact and student-driven. What does that mean exactly?
Unlike most colleges and universities, the season at Juniata College Theatre is comprised almost entirely of original work developed by students. In classes such as Playwriting and Acting 3:Solos, students create material under the mentorship of faculty that is then rigorously rehearsed for our mainstage. Being able to see a piece from inception to fully produced show means that the student gets to experience the full life of a work. As such, students graduate from Juniata College as fully-realized, holistic theatre makers with pieces ready to stage in the professional market.
What is the value of this model?
Our program model is highlighted in the Colleges That Change Lives book for good reason! Theatre students at Juniata get the benefit of immersion in multiple areas of expertise, and develop personal relationships with many professional artists in major American cities. This model gives our students automatic connections in New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Seattle, Los Angeles, Tucson, Atlanta, and Chicago. Students have real world examples all around them to see that it is possible to have a life in the performing arts, and are given concrete ways to proceed to make their goals a reality. And the guest artists who come here spread the word about us. Juniata is gaining an excellent reputation for having students that are motivated, bright, and fearless, and this is helping to put us on the map nationally in our industry, even though we are a small school that is not located near a major city.
Will the student be exposed to existing plays and playwrights?
Absolutely. In scene work and classes like Script Analysis and Introduction to Theatre, students will be able to delve deeply in canonical works from Classical Greek to Shakespeare. Additionally, it is the prerogative of the student that, in her senior year, she can choose what project she would like to work on for her Senior Capstone. Ideally, this will be predicated on the previous four years of study. So, for example, if a student is interested in working more deeply on Shakespeare, she should also plan to take classes such as Shakespearean Drama in the English department as part of her Interdisciplinary Approach.
What is an Interdisciplinary Approach?
- In addition to the core requirements, students will choose at least 9 credits (6 credits should be a 300 level or better) of an “interdisciplinary approach.”
- It is the prerogative of the student whether to choose all 9 credits from any one discipline, e.g. Politics or Physics; or, to combine disciplines, e.g. Peace & Conflict Studies and Music.
- It is hoped that, through the integrated experience course, theatre students will be able to map the trajectory of their capstone back to their total Juniata experience with an attention to their theatre core and particular emphasis on their interdisciplinary approach.