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 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.
“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 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!
Education @ Roundabout, Student Production Workshop