ROUNDABOUT BLOG

Theatre and Restorative Justice, Part III

Posted on: December 27th, 2016 by Leah Reddy

 

Leah Reddy is a Master Teaching Artist at Roundabout and has served as Partnership Coordinator for Roundabout’s partnership with Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre (BSMT) for the past 5 years. At BSMT, Roundabout Teaching Artists partner with educators to co-plan and co-facilitate 8-visit classroom residencies that explore classroom content through theatre. This fall, Leah partnered with Kayla Dinces in her creative writing class. Together, Leah and Kayla worked with the school’s Restorative Justice Coordinator, Yuko Uchikawa, to explore creative writing using theatre and restorative justice practices. The students attended Roundabout’s production of KINGDOM COME as a part of the residency. In a series of 3 blogs, Leah will share her experience as a Teaching Artist in this residency. The following is blog 3 of 3.

We live in a world where young people, particularly young people of color, are disrespected and devalued. I don’t want the environments I create in the classroom—even if I’m just there for 45 minutes—to reinforce or replicate that power structure, and I started this project because I had a hunch that Restorative Justice could help with that. One of the cornerstones of Restorative Justice practice is the restorative circle, in which a community sits in a circle and passes a talking piece around, with each community member having the opportunity to speak on the topic at hand. Yuko told me that “since restorative circles value equity in the space one takes up (use of talking piece allows everyone the opportunity to speak) and also the circle keeper is also a part of the community, not above or below the participants… it creates a place of expression and respect and not replicate the hierarchical power structure.”

TRJ3_02

We had circles in each of our workshops, often at the very end, when we responded to a reflection question. As a teaching artist I liked the practice not only because it made a comfortable space for every voice (something difficult to do when you have outspoken students in a class) but also because it highlighted that we are all on an artistic journey together.

We spent this week working with students to develop their collaboratively-written, original short play, Acceptance? Kayla and I began the process by offering a scenario for students to build on that connected back to Kingdom Come: two cousins and a grandmother in conflict over something the grandmother discovers online. We left the conflict, and it's resolution, open.

Tyreese, Kahmeeca, and Olivia improvised several ideas, eventually circling in on the grandmother discovering that the male cousin was gay, and the fallout as her beliefs clash with her grandchildren's experiences. From there, Donta, Chelsea, and Akima worked as playwrights to develop the script, while other students took on design and technical roles. The process was student-driven and the engagement and energy in the room changed. It felt successful: students were actively making theatre, inspired by a Roundabout production.

BSMT teacher Kayla Dinces, and Restorative Justice Coordinator Yuko Uchikawa collaborating on lessons for the residency

BSMT teacher Kayla Dinces, and Restorative Justice Coordinator Yuko Uchikawa collaborating on lessons for the residency

The process ground to a halt when the playwrights wrote in language and plot twists the actors didn't feel was true to their characters or story. Would our ensemble be able to be able to analyze and resolve their conflict? What effect would our practice of restorative circles and the time spent exploring dignity have? How much should we, as authority figures, guide the conversation?

The initial conversation was a mixed bag: the students were thoughtful and articulate, but not always able to give each other the benefit of the doubt, or acknowledge the work each group had put into the project. Afterwards, Yuko, Kayla, and I brainstormed additional ways we could have shaped the conversation so that students maintained ownership but were more mindful of their classmates’ perspectives.

Our residency is ongoing: like theatre-making, Restorative Justice is a collaborative process that takes time. I hope the students walk away with a better ability to analyze how conflict develops, and the awareness needed to resolve conflict in their own lives.


Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Teaching Artist Tuesday


1 Comment

Berlin’s Musical Calendar

Posted on: December 23rd, 2016 by Nick Mecikalski

 

Irving Berlin wrote many of the songs in Holiday Inn specifically for the 1942 film itself—but several of them took different trajectories from what he originally planned. The following traces select songs from the musical back to their roots and explores their lasting impacts.

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in Top Hat, which features the song "Cheek to Cheek"

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in Top Hat

FEBRUARY – "BE CAREFUL, IT’S MY HEART"
Berlin and Bing Crosby originally intended “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” to become the standout hit from the Holiday Inn film, but “White Christmas” emerged as the runaway single instead. Written as an intentionally fresh take on a Valentine’s Day love song, “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” both celebrates romance and acknowledges its dangerous side.

FEBRUARY – "CHEEK TO CHEEK"
Berlin originally wrote “Cheek To Cheek” to accompany the ballroom dance in the 1935 film Top Hat, in which Fred Astaire famously sings the romantic melody to Ginger Rogers after proposing to her. The song went on to earn a 1936 Oscar® nomination and become the Billboard number 1 song of 1935—and Berlin wrote the entire thing in a single day. “Cheek To Cheek” did not actually appear in the original Holiday Inn film.

APRIL – "EASTER PARADE"
The melody to the “Easter Parade” refrain originally appeared in Berlin’s 1917 song “Smile and Show Your Dimple.” Berlin reused the tune for “Easter Parade,” which he featured in his 1933 musical revue As Thousands Cheer, a satire of world events and newspaper headlines of the time. “Easter Parade” went on to be included in several films, including Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938) and Easter Parade (1948) in addition to Holiday Inn.

Judy Garland in "Meet Me in St Louis"

Judy Garland in the film Easter Parade

JULY – "SONG OF FREEDOM"
The first Independence Day song added to the Holiday Inn film was an intentionally apolitical and wordless “fire-cracker ballet.” After the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, however, Berlin, in the midst of shooting the film, quickly wrote “Song of Freedom” as a rallying cry for a nation at war. Inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech earlier that year, “Song of Freedom” captures America’s pro-war fervor at its entry into World War II.

OCTOBER – "BLUE SKIES"
The version of “Blue Skies” heard in this musical also contains parts of Berlin’s song “Down Where The Jack-O’- Lanterns Grow,” which Berlin wrote for The Cohan Revue of 1918. Berlin first wrote “Blue Skies” itself for the 1926 musical Betsy. At the opening performance, the audience was so enraptured by “Blue Skies” that actress Belle Baker ended up giving 24 encores of the song, the final one onstage with Berlin himself after she forgot the lyrics.

A 'Four Freedoms' stamp from 1946

A "Four Freedoms" stamp from 1946

NOVEMBER – "MARCHING ALONG WITH TIME"
Berlin wrote “Marching Along With Time” as part of his first musical feature film, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, the first ever musical film comprised of songs entirely by the same composer. Though Berlin’s producers urged him to make Alexander’s Ragtime Band an autobiography, the film instead primarily became a history of Berlin’s compositions. Ethel Merman was supposed to perform “Marching Along With Time” for the film, but the song ended up being dropped from the score.

NOVEMBER – "PLENTY TO BE THANKFUL FOR"
In the Holiday Inn film, a cartoon sequence directly before the debut of “Plenty To Be Thankful For” depicts a confused turkey running back and forth between two different dates on a calendar—a reference to President Roosevelt’s failed attempt to move Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in November in order to extend the holiday shopping season. The contrast between the moment of political commentary and the song’s idealistic lyrics may well be Berlin’s reminder to his audience of the capitalistic and governmental forces at work behind even our most sacred holidays.

Irving Berlin and performers from Alexander's Ragtime Band, 1938

Press photo of Irving Berlin (left) and performers from Alexander's Ragtime Band, 1938

DECEMBER – "WHITE CHRISTMAS"
When Berlin penned “White Christmas”—perhaps in 1940, though the exact date is unknown—he had no expectations for its success. Nostalgic and melancholy, the ballad
perhaps draws from Berlin’s conflicted feelings around the holiday, which in 1928 saw the death of his infant son, Irving Jr. The song became wildly popular when in 1942 Armed Forces Radio broadcast Bing Crosby’s version overseas to American GIs. Still a quintessentially American tribute to home, “White Christmas” is now the most-recorded and best-selling song of all time.

DECEMBER – "HOLIDAY INN / HAPPY HOLIDAY"
Berlin wrote both “Holiday Inn” and “Happy Holiday” in 1942 as separate songs and only later combined them for the film. “Happy Holiday” is popularly considered a Christmas anthem, but in this musical, as in the original film, it serves as the New Year’s Eve number, intended as a blessing on all holidays over the course of the new year.

 

Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical is now playing at Studio 54. Visit our website for tickets and more information.


Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Holiday Inn, Upstage


No Comments

Theatre and Restorative Justice, Part II

Posted on: December 20th, 2016 by Leah Reddy

 

Leah Reddy is a Master Teaching Artist at Roundabout and has served as Partnership Coordinator for Roundabout’s partnership with Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre (BSMT) for the past 5 years. At BSMT, Roundabout Teaching Artists partner with educators to co-plan and co-facilitate 8-visit classroom residencies that explore classroom content through theatre. This fall, Leah partnered with Kayla Dinces in her creative writing class. Together, Leah and Kayla worked with the school’s Restorative Justice Coordinator, Yuko Uchikawa, to explore creative writing using theatre and restorative justice practices. The students attended Roundabout’s production of KINGDOM COME as a part of the residency. In a series of 3 blogs, Leah will share her experience as a Teaching Artist in this residency. The following is blog 2 of 3.

We began our residency with several workshops that would give us insight into what our students’ strengths and interests were. We used the story of Axton Betz-Hamilton, a woman whose mother stole her identity when she was a child, as a basis for quickly writing and performing scenes. The themes of Betz-Hamilton’s story parallel those of Kingdom Come: dignity, identity, technology, and betrayal.

One of the things we do in the education department at Roundabout is to mirror the professional theatre process and artist’s process. I plant those seeds in reading and writing activities by asking students to think like directors and choose words and phrases that call up images for them or are “juicy” or compelling. Those selections became the seeds of the scenes they wrote, then performed.

From there we jumped into an exploration of The Essential Elements of Dignity as outlined by Dr. Donna Hicks, which was Yuko’s idea. The elements make a potentially hard-to-define concept really concrete, and they made a great lens through which to read and see Kingdom Come.

We read key scenes as a class, then found moments where characters upheld or violated each other’s dignity. Digging into why, for example, Suz doesn’t offer Layne understanding or acknowledgement or safety in their first scene together gave students a new way to consider some basic acting ideas: where a character is coming from, and what her objective is. It also raised our own awareness of why we act the way do in our real lives.

bsmt02-02

The class loved the student matinee, and the opportunity to talk to Alex Hernandez and Socorro Santiago after the show. The actors were curious if the students’ expectations for the play were what they saw onstage. A student mentioned that the character of Samantha wasn’t what she expected after reading a scene from the play in class.This prompted the actors to ask the students whether they could see other characters played by actors of different races or backgrounds, to which they answered a resounding yes. It’s crucial that students see themselves reflected in the theatre, and this play was especially engaging because of the subject matter and the casting.

After the show we focused on the ending. What are all the ways a conflict can resolve? Does resolution demand a restoration of dignity? We took those ideas into creating our own scene about dignity and conflict.


Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Kingdom Come, Roundabout Underground, Teaching Artist Tuesday


No Comments