The Tempest Brings Out the Best in Student Audience … and Local Cows

 

SMAT Pic

Pictured: The cast of The Tempest takes a bow for the Student Discovery Matinee audience; photo by Jay Yamada.

Director of Artistic Learning Trish Tillman gives us an inside look at the first Student Matinee of The Tempest.

We had our first Tempest matinee today, with a brand new group of Artistic Learning interns, and a really excited, well-prepared audience of students.  They came from many schools, including Willard Middle and The Academy in Berkeley, Oakland Charter and Joaquin Moraga from Oakland, and several private school groups.  We saw familiar residency teachers, some conservatory students, students who reeled off ALL the student matinees they had been to since 2009, plus students brand new to our theater.

The whole audience was admirably attentive, even when tempted to shriek as the clown Trinculo dove headfirst under the monstrous Caliban’s smelly cloak, and when the young lovers swooned over each other. I talked to several students I knew at intermission and several that I didn’t, and all were enjoying it very much.  There was a full forest of hands up when Clive Worsley, our inimitable Moderator, asked after the show what their favorite moments were.  The marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda, the creation of the tempest itself (with only sound effects, actors in raingear, a rope and a stick) and the Trinculo-under-the-cloak moment won out for favorites.

The Question and Answer time after the show was attended by actors Nicholas Pelczar (Trinculo, Ferdinand), Catherine Castellanos (Antonio, Caliban), Erika Chong Shuch (Ariel), as well as sprites Travis Santell Rowland and Aaron Moreland.  They were ALL spectacularly articulate and respectfully serious in answering every question, ranging from “Is it hard to memorize Shakespearian language?” to “Was it weird being under the cloak?” to “How did you all decide to be actors/dancers?”  There was also a seriously playful moment when a student asked if Aaron was really singing the song when the marriage dance occurs, and he said no, but that he could sing and that it was a famous song by Nat King Cole.  He asked the kids if they knew Nat King Cole and (interestingly) a lot of hands went up (besides chaperones and teachers!).  Then they asked him to sing the song, and he sang the first two lines, very nicely, to thunderous applause.  They then asked him to sing a pop song (anyone know “One Direction?”) which he didn’t know, so an entire girls’ chorus from Willard sang a verse to him.  (Also to thunderous applause.)

Catherine ended the Q&A session by saying that being an actor really helped her as a person who is full of feeling to be able to deal with life by learning to express powerful emotions on stage.  There was a little hush in the theater after she said that it was a blessing to her to be an actor.  (And then more thunderous applause!)

The only rather sad note was that a very large group of students from one public high school were not able to attend due to their inability to get their school administration’s authorization in time, even though the teacher had reserved seats with us weeks in advance.  So the audience was somewhat smaller than what we’d like, to be able to serve as many students as possible.  If you are anyone who is close to an underserved school or want to build a relationship with such a school, I’d love to talk to you about becoming a special liaison.  Relationships are crucial to what we do and what keeps us going.  Sometimes just an extra bit of attention can keep schools feeling connected and excited to be with us, and that is a commodity that is really lacking in those communities.  And then they can keep their commitments and the students benefit so, so much.

A final note: the beautiful rolling hills behind the theater stage are home to a few groups of wandering cows, and for some reason during the Q & A today they were especially vocal.  Loud MOOs punctuated almost every sentence said by an actor; so much so that it seemed like the cows wished to answer the questions themselves.  There was a special round of applause for the newly named Cal Shakes Cow Chorus, after which a collective MOOOOO rose from the students and reverberated back into the hills. A Tempest remember.

 

The Tempest  opens at the stunning outdoor Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda, CA, Saturday, June  2, and continues until Sunday, June 24.

 

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