Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Youth Workshop

You may hear shouting coming from lower Pheonix, maybe a lot of jumping around, certainly the occasional swearing, sounds of a karate chop and the inexplicable gibberish, "bippity bippity bop". No worries, it's just the next generation of playwrights, actors, director and designers unleashing their inner demons under your feet. 

Since Saturday, the 12 youth performers have been writing and laughing away. In case you don't know what's going on, here's the divvy:

10-4 every day young artists aged 13-18 exercises their creative muscles under the prized tutelage of Kim Maxwell. They freewrite, they dance, they sing, they lunch with theater's greatest.

These theater geeks have decided to spend a part of their summer up at the conference to learn the craft, become inspired, or do something completely new and terrifying. The workshop is unique in that it lets the writers/performers explore the range and depth of their artistic talent in a welcoming ensemble with access to professional minds of the highest caliber. The goal is through daylong exercises, dramaturge sessions, theater games and Q&A with the conference pros, to produce and hone original material. The pieces are then presented in a showcase, open to the public, on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. It is a truly intense and extraordinary workshop, and a great facet of the conference. (I would know, I've done it 6 times).

The youth workshop began with the much dreaded singing exercises. Kim asks each of the students to bring in a piece of music they love, and then the student performs a sort of karaoke to the song, running around the room as an ugly chicken, opera singer, ballerina leaping and flipping off the on-watchers. They laugh, they cry, and as strange as the exercise might sound, it opens everyone up in a shared, humiliating, raw way.

Through the past few days, the ensemble has grown closer, and produced at least 40 original pieces of material, ranging from monologues, scenes and performance art. We've lunched with Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, who taught us puppets can in fact make us cry and connect with a group of "cool" teenagers, not an easy feat. David Wiener also came in, talked about love, writing, and then walked the class through a memory exercise about needs. Dramaturges Chris Breyer, Catherine Kimmel and Arla Sorkin Manson have worked with everyone in individual sessions to refine their pieces. The next few days will witness the "killing of the babies" syndrome as the class chooses which piece to move forward with, and which to leave behind. There are more great lunches, fine writing and wild yelping planned.

Here are some pictures to give a sampling of the action...

Tawney does a read-through...

The Russian comes out of the closet during rehearsal...

Maddie and Chris collaborate

The much dreaded singing exercise

Watching classmates...

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