ROUNDABOUT BLOG

 

Now in its eleventh year of producing emerging playwrights in the Black Box, the Roundabout Underground program has achieved a stunning degree of success since we mounted Stephen Karam’s Speech and Debate as the inaugural Underground production in 2007. In the years since their Underground productions, all twelve of our Underground alumni have gone on to fruitful and lucrative writing careers, whether for the stage or for the screen. Over the past two seasons alone, three of these alumni have made their Broadway debuts: Stephen Karam (The Humans, 2016 Tony Award® for Best Play and Finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize); Joshua Harmon (Significant Other); and Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hansen, 2017 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical). Both The Humans and Significant Other began in our Laura Pels Theatre, just upstairs of the Black Box at the Steinberg Center. In addition, Underground alumna Lindsey Ferrentino made her debut at the National Theatre in London this past spring with her play Ugly Lies the Bone, which premiered here in the Underground in 2015. Both Lindsey and Joshua Harmon, in fact, will be returning to the Laura Pels Theatre later this season with new plays, both of which we commissioned: Lindsey’s Amy and the Orphans and Joshua’s Skintight. I am so thrilled to watch as our relationships with the Underground writers have grown over the years and given rise to these and other magnificent successes at Roundabout and beyond.

Needless to say, the Underground program holds a special place in my heart, and I couldn't be happier to welcome Jiréh into this family with his extraordinary play. Set in Nashville, Tennessee, during the Civil Rights Movement, Too Heavy for Your Pocket follows four black Nashvillians who encounter the Movement far closer to home than they expected--and approach it with mixed feelings. To Jiréh’s characters in 1961, the Civil Rights Movement isn’t yet the world-famous triumph that we know it to be today. It’s still a revolution in the making with its own challenges and struggles, and the fates of the Movement’s activists are yet uncertain. For prospective protesters, the risks to their person and property are high, the potential sacrifices of livelihood and career are large, and the road to equality and reform is long. Through the perspectives of two vividly-drawn families, Jiréh confronts the realities of protest and the price of social change, reminding us that the true work of revolution often originates not on the floors of our Capitol buildings but in our church basements, classrooms, and homes.

At a time when the question of the cost of protest is an incredibly urgent one, Too Heavy for Your Pocket asks us to face our own attitudes toward political activism and consider what we might be willing to forfeit in the name of justice and social progress. The freedoms of speech and assembly often come at a price for those who need them most, and Jiréh’s play, with vibrant and captivating storytelling, deftly captures the nuances of this contradiction. Too Heavy for Your Pocket serves as a gripping reminder that while the Civil Rights Movement may be decades behind us, the lessons it provides us for our current and future political atmospheres are timeless.

Too Heavy for Your Pocket, under the direction of the exceptional Margot Bordelon, will undoubtedly continue and deepen the Underground’s tradition of excellence, and I am so excited for you to experience the phenomenal work of this creative team. Like all good theatre, Jiréh’s play is sure to spark discussion and inspire a richer understanding of our past and our future. As always, I am eager to hear your thoughts on our season, so please continue to email me at ArtisticOffice@roundabouttheatre.org with your reactions. I can’t tell you how greatly I value your feedback.

I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!

Sincerely,
Todd Haimes
Artistic Director/CEO


Related Categories:
2017-2018 Season, Too Heavy for Your Pocket


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This will be the first-ever Broadway revival of Priestley’s masterful play, 80 years after its original Broadway production in 1937. Over the decades, Priestley has secured his rightful place in the theatrical canon with such international hits as his 1945 thriller An Inspector Calls, the 1992 production of which in London earned the title of longest-running revival of all time. Time and the Conways, though just as revolutionary in structure and gripping in story, hasn't been met with quite the same amount of attention as some of Priestley’s other works. Yet the act of “rediscovering” lesser-known but deserving classics by masters such as Priestley and bringing them back to Broadway stages is, I believe, a core component of Roundabout’s mission. I am thrilled to present Priestley’s story to an entirely new generation of audiences with this incredibly talented cast, director, and design team.

Priestley became famous during the 1930s and 1940s for the inspiration he drew from alternative theories of time, perhaps most famously the hypotheses of British engineer and philosopher John William Dunne. Dunne conjectured that a person’s dreams open their consciousness to higher dimensions of observation and thereby provide them glimpses of future events. From this philosophy Priestley developed his concept for Time and the Conways, which soon became known as one of his famous “Time Plays,” the ranks of which also included An Inspector Calls and his less famous dramas Dangerous Corner and I Have Been Here Before. While the validity of Dunne’s theory of time has since been largely discounted by the scientific community, the possibilities that it unlocked in the imaginations of a generation of readers and artists are monumental in scope.

In Time and the Conways, Priestley employs Dunne’s theory as a lens into the lives of one upper middle class family in post-World War I Britain. With trademark nuance and depth, Priestley delves into the Conways’ most personal aspirations, shortcomings, and fears, and as their story unravels, he examines those life-altering moments that put dreams at odds with destiny. What begins as a theatrical exploration into a theory of perception and the subconscious becomes a piercing look at the consequences of greed and the worship of status. At a time when issues of economic disparity and upward mobility in our country are wrenchingly urgent, Priestley’s drama is a more prescient piece of writing than ever.

I am so excited for you to experience this revitalized classic, presented by such a superb creative team. This is such a meaningful and vital play, and I am thrilled by the work of Rebecca and her fantastic cast in bringing it back to a Broadway stage. As always, I am eager to hear your reactions to the show, so please continue to email me at ArtisticOffice@roundabouttheatre.org with your thoughts. I can’t tell you how greatly I value your feedback.

I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!

Sincerely,
Todd Haimes
Artistic Director/CEO


Related Categories:
2017-2018 Season, From Todd Haimes, Time and the Conways


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CELEBRATING 20 YEARS OF EDUCATION: Alana Jacoby & Courtney Ferrell

Posted on: September 1st, 2017 by Sarah Kutnowsky

 

This year, Education at Roundabout  celebrates its 20th Anniversary. Since 1996, Education at Roundabout has served as a national leader in arts education, using theatrical disciplines to create responsive programming that serves students, educators, early career professionals, and audiences. To celebrate this milestone, we asked members of the Education at Roundabout community to reflect on how Roundabout’s programs have impacted their lives.

In the Spring of 2017 at Bronx Theatre High School, Courtney Ferrell, Math teacher and Math for America Master Teaching Fellow, and Roundabout Teaching Artist Alana Jacoby partnered up for a classroom residency that focused on the question “How do lighting designers use math to create lighting designs?” Roundabout classroom residencies are entirely customizable and unique to each class. The classroom educator and teaching artist work together to create lessons that blend the class’ subject and teaching artist’s discipline, highlighting each of the facilitators’ expertise and bringing subjects to life through real world application. Together, Courtney and Alana collaborated on a series of lessons where students exercised their knowledge of trigonometry to collectively create a lighting plot, each student responsible for their own lighting instrument. As part of the residency, the class also attended two Roundabout productions, On the Exhale and Arthur Miller's The Price. Before seeing On the Exhale, the class toured the Black Box Theatre with the Stage Manager and got a closer look at the lights for the production. The residency culminated with students bringing their light plot to life as they hung and focused the lighting fixtures for the school’s production of Rent. Education Coordinator Sarah Kutnowsky talked with the pair about their experience.

Sarah Kutnowsky: Alana, how did you design a residency that met Courtney’s goals? What were your goals for the residency?

Alana Jacoby: Courtney was very clear and straightforward with her goals, which made the residency easy to design. She gave me a lot of freedom to make it whatever I thought would be most interesting to her students. On the basic level, my goal was to use theater to help teach math. But my underlying goal was to open up the students’ eyes to the world of lighting design. I love giving students a glimpse of the world of theatrical lighting design so they can get a head start if they take an interest in it. I was also invested in making math fun for them. I loved high school math but know that wasn't a super popular opinion, so I wanted to see if I could help share what I liked about it. It's always easier to learn something when you're having fun.

SK: How did the exploration of lighting design help enhance your subject, Courtney?

Courtney Ferrell: This residency was the perfect way to introduce and review trigonometry, it was a real world application super close to their lives. The entire project was about justifying light placement through clearly explained mathematics and artistic vision. Students were all assigned individual lights and they all came together to create the plot. It was ensemble learning and Common Core at its best.

A student’s worksheet from the residency

SK: What was it like working together on this residency?

CF: Alana was super open to ideas and to conversations about student engagement, and she always was ready with a clear plan and various ideas for carrying it out. She is also incredibly fun- for example, she brought dinosaur salt and pepper shakers and flashlights into class to demonstrate lighting concepts.

AJ: Courtney is an ideal teacher with whom to collaborate. She's actively engaged, passionate about her subject matter, and obviously cares a great deal about her students. She was always open to ideas, and eager to help adapt them to meet the needs of her classroom when necessary. The part of working with her that was most exciting to me was how willing she was to keep working on the residency with the students in between my visits. She kept momentum going, reviewed and practiced the material, and allowed us to cover much more ground. I enjoyed our lesson planning sessions a great deal.

SK: How did the students respond to the concept of learning math through lighting?

AJ: I said on the first day of the residency that I was totally aware that one of the most common complaints about high school math is feeling like it's never going to be relevant again; that you're learning something obsolete just for the sake of learning it. That's a frustrating feeling, to be learning something that seem like a waste of time. I told them that this was an example of math that I use in my job all the time. But sure, that's something teachers probably say all the time. On the second or third visit, a student asked "Miss, do you really use this stuff for your job?" and I looked him in the eye and said “yes” and explained how and why. At first they were skeptical, but I think I won them over. Even if they know they don't want to pursue lighting or electrics work, at least they now know that this kind of math doesn't just exist in some kind of high school math void. Even if they're not going to use it, they know that there are people out there who do, outside of school, for real, and I think knowing that helps.

CF: Most of these students are performers, so they also benefited from understanding the work that happens behind the scenes. Plus, they don't get opportunities in math to talk about why they think things should look or be a certain way, so that was exciting! Additionally, I feel that Alana taught me lots about lighting design to the point where I felt very confident continuing to do the lighting work after the residency had ended.

Students hanging lights in the school’s theatre

SK: What was your favorite moment of the residency?

CF: One of my favorite moments of this entire year was during the Rent talkback when one of my math students said “Can we talk about the lights, though?” and then dozens of students from the class started saying “I did that one! I focused that one! Look at that angle of depression! #lit!” They were so proud to light their own performance and the accountability to make themselves look good as performers ensured the project got done.

AJ: This residency had a lot of highlights, but my favorite lesson was probably the day we reflected on our trip to the student matinee of The Price. We were lucky enough to see two Roundabout shows during this residency, one towards the beginning and one towards the end. Before the first show, I set them up with some of the tools they'd need to watch the show from a lighting design perspective, and it was great to hear them discussing it in those terms in the lesson we had after the performance. But by the time the second show came around, once we were deeper into the residency, they impressed me so much with their observations and opinions. They'd learned to look at the design critically, to think about why the designer made the choices they did, and had even started to think about what they would have done differently. Because we got to go through this process twice, it was an amazing opportunity to see their growth. In the first post-show discussion I had to draw answers out of them, but in the second post-show discussion I couldn't get them to stop sharing.


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Education @ Roundabout


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