Student Production Workshop


SPW ensemble members performing a scene from the play at the Student Theatre Arts Festival

SPW ensemble members performing a scene from the play at the Student Theatre Arts Festival

Student Production Workshop’s summer production She Was as Beautiful as the Moon follows two strangers, Luna and Alexander, who spend the evening recounting the moments, good and bad, that made them who they are. At the heart of the production are playwright Hanako Montgomery, and director Kayla Arvelo. The two have continuously collaborated throughout the play’s development, dating back to the play’s first reading, directed by Arvelo.

Education Coordinator Sarah Kutnowsky sat down with the pair to discuss their partnership and bringing the play to life.


Sarah Kutnowsky: What was the inspiration for She Was as Beautiful as the Moon?

Hanako Montogomery: There were many different things, but one of the key things was the short story Wunderkind by Carson McCullers. It’s about a little girl who was a musical prodigy. Her parents and her teacher applied a lot of pressure on her and made her amazing technically. But through that, striving for technical perfection, she lost the beauty of her playing. In She Was as Beautiful as the Moon, there is a lot of violin imagery, pursuit of being amazing at one thing, and the loneliness that comes out of that.


SK: What was the process of developing the play?

HM: I developed this play through the playwriting [track] at SPW. I wasn’t sure what I was going to write until two weeks before the deadline. I was actually on vacation when I had to submit it. So I sat down on the plane, and I just started writing. I wrote the first draft of She Was as Beautiful as the Moon non-stop. I didn’t really determine the structure beforehand, and I had a vague idea of who the different characters were and their relationships, but I didn’t really know what the central theme was going to be. But from that script I worked with Elizabeth [SPW’s Playwriting Mentor] a lot, and I narrowed down the message of the play. There was a really messy editing process that I’m glad to say, but also sad to say, is over.


SK: What has the rehearsal process been like? How have you two collaborated on this play?

Kayla Arvelo: For me, it’s mostly hands on. It’s about painting the picture in my head and putting it on its feet. I was always open with Hanako and told her “if you want something, let me know and I can do it”.


Kayla and Hanako in rehearsal with the cast

Kayla and Hanako in rehearsal with the cast

SK: So you consult Hanako?

KA: Yes! She doesn’t even notice, but I look at her face while they’re rehearsing and if she makes a face I’ll say “no, do it again.”

HM: I really trust Kayla. She does ask me “is this okay? What do you think of this?” Sometimes, we’ll have to talk about it. The set was a challenge; we weren’t sure if we wanted to have a lot of pieces onstage.


SK: How did you two work with the design team to bring the play to life?

KA: When we first started, we had a meeting before we even spoke to the design team. We narrowed down what our vision was. We discussed a lot about what we wanted the audience to see. We got help from our mentors on how to share our ideas; we didn’t say exactly what we wanted, but we gave specifics that [helped the design team] get the big picture.

HM: The weekly meetings helped a lot. We met the different design teams to catch up on what they’d been doing the past week, and what else they planned to do. During that time, if we didn’t like something or were questioning something, we could ask questions.

KA: The two of us have our language. We’ll just tilt our head and everyone knows that means “no." Or we’ll squint our eyes, and that means “maybe." And if our eyes pop that means “yes!”


SK: What do you want audiences to take away from this play?

HM: One of the main things I want them to take away is the message of the play. The pursuit of being important, being great at whatever you do, and the loneliness that comes with it. The effects it has on different relationships, and the people in your life. I hope audiences can see that and think about what that means to them. How they’ve maybe abandoned their values or family members in trying to do something better for themselves, and how that makes them feel.

KA: I want [the audience] to take away the idea of not giving up on what you love, that passion. Not letting those around you affect what you love to do. I find that that’s a big part of this play, specifically for Luna and Alexander, they gave up on those priorities in their lives, and that has taken a toll on them. Especially for us teenagers, it’s important to know that we should go for what we want, and not let parents or friends change that idea for you. Even if it changes, let it change on your own terms.

She Was as Beautiful as the Moon will premiere at The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre on August 7.

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A Conversation with, Education @ Roundabout, Student Production Workshop

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Education at Roundabout: College and Career Readiness Workshop for SPW

Posted on: July 25th, 2016 by Sarah Kutnowsky



Students brainstorming interview tips with lawyer Adam Dennett

On July 21st, Student Production Workshop (SPW) ensemble members took part in a College and Career Readiness Interview Skills Workshop at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. The workshop is one in a series of four College and Career Readiness Workshops, each covering a different aspect of college and career planning.

The workshop focused on the choices students can make to best present themselves at an interview. With Roundabout Teaching Artists Leah Reddy and Hannah Johnson-Walsh, students explored how posture, eye contact, and facial expression all impact one’s first impression. “I want them to be more confident with the idea of going to an interview. Now they feel like this is something they can do,” said Hannah of her hopes for the workshop’s impact on students.

Teaching Artist Leah played the role of “Sam Student," an unskilled interviewer who dreams of going to Ohio State University. After a particularly bad college interview, Sam begged the other students to help her improve her interview skills. Together, the students gave Sam advice, modeled etiquette in practice interviews, and shared their elevator speeches, a brief introduction that highlights their aspirations and accomplishments.


A student and lawyer Amie N. Broder practicing elevator speeches

Students received additional support from lawyers from Troutman Sanders LLP, who participated in the workshop and shared their interview expertise with students. Robert Schaffer, a partner at Troutman Sanders, was delighted that the students could benefit from the firm’s collaboration with Roundabout. “I was particularly impressed and excited to see how the advocacy and legal skills that the Troutman people brought into the room really merged with the craft of theatre. Together, we were able to make a synergy to help these students progress in presenting themselves.”

As the workshop ended and the participants reflected on their experience, many students expressed that they felt more confident about going on an interview. When asked how she would use these skills in the future, Lally Varela, an SPW student leader, said “Not only will it help for college interviews, but definitely when I’m applying for jobs. The person that you’re talking to needs to know that you know who you are, and what you can do. It’s great that now I know what to do, it helps a lot.”

We gratefully acknowledge the partnership of Troutman Sanders LLP and the firm’s generous support of Education at Roundabout during this 50th Anniversary Season.

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Education @ Roundabout, Student Production Workshop

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A Student’s Perspective: The Robber Bridegroom

Posted on: May 4th, 2016 by Yasmine Haddad


rbg1Roundabout’s high school education intern, Yasmine Haddad, participated in a pre-show workshop and talk with the cast before attending The Robber Bridegroom with Student Production Workshop (SPW) students. She recounts her experience below:

Last week, SPW students and I got the opportunity to work with Carrie Heitman, a teaching artist from Roundabout, who led us in a workshop surrounding The Robber Bridegroom. After the workshop, we met with cast members and attended the show.

Carrie established the focus on the characters from the musical through fun, creative activities. Since some of the characters in The Robber Bridegroom are criminals, Carrie initiated the workshop by having us describe the stereotypes or images associated with words like “robber” or “theft.” She then asked one person to stand in the middle of the room, while the rest of the participants divided into two groups. One group’s goal was to convince the individual standing to steal, while the other group’s goal was to dissuade the individual from stealing. Both groups made impressive arguments like “How would your mother feel knowing she raised a thief? As your mother, she would be very disappointed” or “Your child needs that new calculator for school, without any money, all you really can do is steal” to support their causes.


Following this, Carrie shifted our focus to lyrical analysis in relation to the characters. She asked us what kind of lyrics a good musical should include. We answered with responses about how the songs should have rhythm and tie back to the plot while offering insight on the performer's perspective. Carrie asked us to work in groups again to create lyrics describing the personalities of some of the characters based off the scenes we read from the script she provided us with earlier. Each group performed the song. I think my group had the funniest lyrics because we made fun of the character Salome for being a gold digger. At the end of the workshop, we thanked Carrie for her time and prepared for our Q&A with some of the cast members from The Robber Bridegroom.

We shared a fun, light discussion with the cast members and gained insight on the rehearsal and audition process that took place before the show hit the stage. I learned that some of the actors and the director, Alex Timbers, have been working on The Robber Bridegroom for quite some time now, and everybody is excited that it’s finally happening! One of the questions that was asked was what is the main difference between the actors and their characters, to which  Greg Hildreth, who portrays Goat, answered, “My character is dimwitted and I like to think I’m not.”


Cathlouin, a member of SPW, asked Nadia Quinn how she developed her character as Goat’s mother. Nadia shared with us how she met with Alex and decided to give the character a background story, where she and her son have a junkyard and they sell used items to get by. When asked what his favorite moment from the musical was, Lance Robert, the actor portraying Clement Musgrove, stated it was during the musical number for “Steal With Style” because he feels as if he’s in a music video. Lance told us to keep a look-out for his face during the song for proof of his claims.

After sharing a pizza dinner, we went to finally view The Robber Bridegroom downstairs in the theatre, and we’re very pleased with the production, it was so much fun to watch! My favorite song was “Rosamund’s Dream.” We even waited for Lance’s reaction during the show and were not disappointed with what we saw!

The Robber Bridegroom is now playing at The Laura Pels Theatre. For tickets and information, please visit our website.

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2015-2016 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Student Production Workshop, The Robber Bridegroom

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