Faculty and students explore novel modes of storytelling in Upper Division Tectonic Theatre workshop

Izzy Abbott, Contributing Writer

On Wednesday, Theatre Teacher Benjamin Posner hosted an Upper Division theatre workshop with a teaching artist from the Tectonic Theatre Project to broaden the artistic and creative horizons of students and faculty alike.

Based in NYC, the Tectonic Theatre Project aims to explore and utilize new theatrical forms and languages through their process of “moment work.”  The teaching artist led the students through their process of moment work to devise what he calls “moments” or units of theatrical time beginning an action by saying “I begin” and ending it by saying “I end.”

The participants were all asked to bring a wide range of tools with them to the workshop including a portable light source, a small prop item and a costume piece to incorporate into their “moments.”

Structured around creating moments that highlighted certain aspects of the theatre in three separate activities, the activity accentuated the architecture of the space, the light surrounding them, and the props they were instructed to bring.

“The purpose of this is to learn new ways to make theatre happen. I also hope that the students in my performance class were able to learn different tools for storytelling that we can use in our classwork,” Posner said. For students who did not take Posner’s performing arts class, Posner aimed to have them “come away having a theatrical experience and maybe even feel empowered to take one of our classes,” he said.

Jordan Ferdman (10), who took Posner’s History of American Musical Theatre class last year, decided to participate in this workshop to learn more about novel approaches to performance and playmaking.

“I think the biggest thing I learned was that the creation of plays isn’t necessarily linear, and there are so many ways to get to a finished product,” Ferdman said. “This workshop helped me realize that the moments we think of as insignificant in theatre are really essential to the story and the artform.”

Grace Ermias (11), a member of Posner’s playwriting class, attended the workshop hoping to expand her previous knowledge of moment work acquired from the theatre class she took last year.

“I went into the workshop thinking we would use moment work similarly to how we did in last year’s workshop, but the work we did this time totally changed how I thought about the creative process of a performance,” Ermias said.

She enjoyed working in a setting with teachers where everyone was trying to accomplish a common goal, and the workshop allowed her to see a side of teachers that are otherwise not seen in a classroom environment, she said.

Administrative Assistant to the Grade Deans Ennis Smith, particularly enjoyed the workshop’s “exploration of light, and learned what a useful element that can be when you’re telling a story on stage,” he said.

Posner also hoped that by including teachers of all departments instead of limiting it to those in the arts, the performance would allow students to learn more about the multitude of ways in which plays can be created, he said.

He believes workshops like these are beneficial to those involved with the Royal Shakespeare Company, a school affiliated theatre organization based in London, as it allows them to bring new methods of teaching and performing Shakespeare in a classroom environment, he said.

On a larger scale, Posner believes that the skills students can learn through theatre and storytelling are essential to their everyday lives, he said.

“No matter what you end up doing, there is always going to be a frame of information you are trying to share, and theatre teaches you how to communicate with your audience,” Posner said.

“Theater, by nature, makes the artist acknowledge the audience in the equation of performance,” Middle Division English teacher Isaac Brooks said. “When you perform, you are living the audience’s reactions. The feedback is immediate and your ability to pivot and craft a better product is more rewarding.  HM students and teachers need more of these kinds of experiences.”