February 22, 2011

Educating Rita with a Hot Pot of Coffee

Educating Rita Assistant Director Nicholas Vargas has been receiving his own education in the rehearsal room, mainly involving British dialects and slang terms. He shares his thoughts and observations following the first week of rehearsal working alongside director Maria Aitken:

A "two hander" — a play with two people. This is what I assume Director Maria Aitken means when she uses the term in rehearsal. Either that or she'd like both actors to always be cognizant of using both hands more. Or she believes it's a difficult play to direct and she will need both hands to manage. Perhaps even something more philosophical about two hands in a bush are worth more in a tree. I think it must be the first.

In this "two hander," set in the north of England, we've all come to learn the importance of the "Hot Pot of Coffee" sound when speaking — a very useful, yet sometimes confusing vocabulary term used by the dialect coach, Stephen Gabis. He uses the phrase to correct the short "o" vowel sounds necessary for our two wonderful actors, Andrew and Jane, to master . "Hutt Putt uh Cough-ee," or something like that. Yet, despite my urge to run across the street to grab another Starbucks, the company forges forward having staged the framework to Act I of this two-act two hander. (Say that ten times fast!)

We've already started incorporating props and some mock ups of costumes, which is necessary in a play where the longest break between scenes is thirty seconds. The company is keen on using every desk drawer, coat rack, filing cabinet, and pocket to hide and discard unwanted props and costume pieces. I almost wonder if this isn't a play in search of Waldo. Not Ralph Waldo — but I'm sure he's hidden in the stacks of books somewhere. I guess you'll have to come and see if you can find him for yourself!

So, what's next in the process? More blocking? Of course. Some self discovery? Maybe. Discovering the correlation between whiskey and Chekov? Definitely.

Willy Russell's Educating Rita, directed by Maria Aitken, plays March 11 — April 10, 2011 at the Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston. For more information or to buy tickets, visit our website or call the Box Office at 617 266-0800.

February 10, 2011

Inaugural August Wilson Monologue Competition

Contributed by Donna Glick, Education Director

Mariah Watkins, winner of the August Wilson Monologue Competition

I wanted to share with everyone that Huntington Theatre Company's Education Department kicked-off our new program -at least to the public- the August Wilson Monologue Competition, on Saturday, February 5, with great success.  We have been working with eight Boston public Schools teaching about August Wilson, his life, his plays, and his contributions to American theatre.  During November, December, and January, Associate Director of Education Lynne Johnson, Education Department Manager Meg Wieder, Education and Community Associate Naheem Garcia, Education Assistant Danny Bryck, and two outside teaching artists, Vincent Siders and Penny Benson, worked directly with an in-class group or an after-school group in the eight high schools. 

The ultimate goal involved preparing the students to memorize, analyze, and perform an August Wilson monologue from one of the ten decade cycle of plays.  The teaching artists met with some resistance.  There were numbers of high school kids who had never talked formally or performed in front of classmates or an audience.  Our effort over the last decade in the Codman classrooms indicates that performance and communicating as an individual are accepted as skills to be attained and improved upon.  Very few of these eight Boston public schools have embedded these important social and life skills into their curriculum.

The hard work and great commitment on the part of the teaching artists paid off tremendously.  Saturday, I watched while the finalists from each school made sure that they were connected to their Huntington teaching artist - looking for encouragement, last minute direction, and hugs before the competition began.