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Student Production Workshop

Interview with Teaching Artist Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz

Posted on: February 22nd, 2016 by Abby Case

 

Elizabeth collaborating with other Roundabout Teaching Artists during the Teaching Artist Winter Lab

Elizabeth collaborating with other Roundabout Teaching Artists during the Teaching Artist Winter Lab

Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz’s relationship with Roundabout began when she was in the classroom at Bronx Theatre High School. She’s since transitioned to become a Master Teaching Artist at Roundabout, where she’s served for the past seven seasons. Elizabeth facilitates workshops for students across the city. She is very involved in Student Production Workshop, where she serves as mentor for the student playwrights. This year, she’s mentored them in developing scenes for the Winter Showcase and led them in a pre-show workshop for Noises Off.

Education Coordinator Abby Case spoke with Elizabeth about her career and work at Roundabout.
Abby Case: Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistry.

Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz: My whole career can be summed up in two ideas: words and community. I've been working as an educator in and around the Bronx for 17 years. I have worked with middle school, high school, college, and adult learners as a teacher of reading, writing, performing, and theatre-making. In every educational experience, I am devoted to building community and exploring the power of language.

 

AC: How did you come to be a teaching artist? Could you share your first arts education experience?

EDR: I began my career as a full-time classroom teacher in the South Bronx and after several years there the opportunity arose to partner with Roundabout and co-found Bronx Theatre High School. It was an amazing experience to create a school inspired by Roundabout's philosophy of using theatrical skills to teach the required curriculum. When I returned to school to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing at The New School, I joined the Roundabout Teaching Artist Roster.

 

AC: What is your favorite part about working as a teaching artist?

EDR: I love working with young playwrights and watching them develop their writing skills and belief that their point of view and voice matters. It is a joy to watch a young playwright hear his or her work read aloud for the first time. Any time a young person comes to me and declares that they now know what they want to do with their life feels like a win.


Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Student Production Workshop, Teaching Artist Tuesday


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Student Production Workshop’s Visit to Noises Off

Posted on: February 10th, 2016 by Abby Case

 

The Student Production Workshop student ensemble came together last month to explore Noises Off through a pre-show workshop and a discussion with cast members Andrea Martin and Kate Jennings Grant. After a pizza dinner, the ensemble attended Noises Off.

Roundabout Teaching Artist Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz’s workshop explored the question “How do theatre artists craft a comic theatrical moment?” Students investigated what makes something funny. They worked to create a definition for the word “humor,” finally agreeing upon “the juxtaposition of the incongruous."

Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz leading students in an activity exploring the concept of humor.

Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz leading students in an activity exploring the concept of humor.

Elizabeth challenged students to use their discussion of humor to create a story through three comedic tableaus, which are physical “snapshots” that represent a scene. The assignment called for the first tableau to establish a scene, the second tableau to disrupt it, and the third tableau to be a return to the original scene with an alteration or “twist.”

Students were creative in their tableau stories, and themes ranged from Black Friday sales to a house robbery. One of the tableau series told the story of a wedding that cupid disrupted, finishing with the maid of honor becoming the bride.

A student tableau series featuring cupid influencing a wedding ceremony

A student tableau series featuring cupid influencing a wedding ceremony

“It’s a challenge to get what you’re trying to say to someone else through a picture,” explained Heaven Terrero, a senior at Theatre Arts Production Company School. “I love when [other students] say, ‘this is what I see,’ and it’s spot on. You feel accomplished, like, ‘I did this!’”

After students presented their tableaus, Elizabeth revealed that the three-act structure of Noises Off is similar to their tableau challenge. The first act of the show introduces the audience to the characters and the scenario, the second act shows a change with its backstage perspective, and the third act returns to the front of stage with the performance altered by time and drama.

Cast members Andrea Martin and Kate Jennings Grant joined as the students were presenting their final tableaus. “I was so struck when I came in through the elevator and was just blown away by all of your energy,” Kate told the students. “Everybody was so positive. I was like, ‘What is going on here?’ There was art in the room. And you guys were really committed and working with each other, and having this incredible moment. It was inspiring to me. I’m going to take it on stage tonight.”

Students having a discussion with Andrea Martin and Kate Jennings Grant

Students having a discussion with Andrea Martin and Kate Jennings Grant

Students had the opportunity to ask Andrea and Kate questions about Noises Off and their acting careers. Repertory Company High School freshman, Winston White, asked the actresses what he should do when he’s acting on stage and he feels like he’s losing the audience. Andrea advised Winston that although it’s hard, he should try to forget the audience. “The more you think about the audience, the more you [should] dig into your part, dig into your objectives. Because the more truthful you are, and the more committed your audience is going to be drawn to you,” she explained.

The evening wrapped up with students attending a performance of Noises Off. They loved it!


Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Student Production Workshop


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Student Production Workshop’s Winter Showcase

Posted on: December 16th, 2015 by Abby Case

 

Roundabout Teaching Artist Theresa Flanagan with SPW students in tech for the Winter Showcase.

Roundabout Teaching Artist Theresa Flanagan with SPW students in tech for the Winter Showcase.

On December 16th, Student Production Workshop’s Winter Showcase will be presented in the Black Box Theatre at the Harold & Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. The showcase is a collaboration of the full ensemble made up of 38 students from 12 different schools and all five boroughs. Seven pieces are performed with students working as actors, directors, stage managers, costume designers, sound designers, and lighting designers. This will be the first time that these playwrights will hear their written words aloud in front of an audience.

Under the mentorship of Roundabout Teaching Artists Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz and Jeff Augustin, SPW playwrights have spent six weeks writing scenes, one acts, and monologues using their newly developed skills of creating clear character motivation and dramatic movement within a scene. The scenes presented in the Winter Showcase address such themes as forbidden love, money, loss and young love.

“Through this, I’ve learned more about revision,” explains Adrian Green, one of the student playwrights, “I re-read [my play] and ask myself, ‘How does this make sense? Does the dialogue make sense? If this character does this, then how does the other character react to that thing?’ I learned how to do that, and I will be doing that more in the future.”

Student Playwrights working on their pieces for the Winter Showcase.

Student Playwrights working on their pieces for the Winter Showcase.

Roundabout Teaching Artist, Jason Jacobs, has mentored the student actors and directors this fall. In preparing for this showcase he explains, “The actors have been working on playing with objectives and what [their characters] want, and trying to play a tactic or action to get it.”

These pieces will come to life with the help of the students in the technology/design discipline. Under the mentorship of Roundabout Teaching Artist, Theresa Flanagan, students have engaged in workshops in stage management, sound design, and costume design throughout the fall. Through the Winter Showcase, these students are applying these skills. The design process was entirely student-driven. “[The sound design team] found the sound cues, put them in Q Lab, and they will be running them during the show,” explained Flanagan.

Adrian is looking forward to watching his piece performed. “I want to see what the actors, directors, and stage managers put together as a team. It’s going to be exciting to see something they took from me and made their own.”


For more information on Student Production Workshop, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Student Production Workshop


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