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Jtf 2013

Posted by: Kaitlin Perry (January 16, 2013)

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Its another year full of excitment that kicks off with the best place ever JTF (I would live their if it was all year long and i could!)  We have all worked so hard to get our performances to the best they can be and we only have one shot to give it our all and to make all the hard work count! So good luck to all the teams competing, I hope yall do great! cant wait to meet some of you! 

The Playwright's Pause

Posted by: Rodney Robbins (January 4, 2013)

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Not every scene in your play has to be about your main character struggling against his sworn enemy. Real stories almost never work that way.

At the same time, almost every scene needs to have conflict. So, as you write, try this trick--pause, just long enough to decide who wants what, what or who stands against them and the planned outcome of the scene. 

Bill wants Janet to go to the movies. Janet wants to buy slippers. "They're 45% off!" Jane wants to take Allen to the movies. Allen wants to stay in their secret love nest--like they always do. Darnell just wants to get home without sliding off the road in this terrible ice storm. Kenya does NOT want to fall in love with her coworker. He has no idea how charming he is to her. 

Don't forget the best scene endings are no, heck no and yes but. 


Posted by: Rodney Robbins (December 23, 2012)

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Scene Structure

Posted by: Rodney Robbins (December 3, 2012)

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The unit of measure for an actor might be the line, but for playwrights, it is the scene. Every scene has someone who wants something, and someone (or something) that wants to STOP THEM.

There are only four dramatic outcomes for any scene:

  • Yes.
  • Yes, BUT
  • No, and
  • Hell no!

Dramatically, "Yes" is the weakest answer. Dramatically, "Hell no!" is the strongest answer.

You will build drama into your stories when every scene has someone who wants something, someone (or something) to opposed them, and one of the following answers: yes, yes but, no or hell no!

Viewpoints & Composition with Young Theatre Artist

Posted by: Bryan-Keyth Wilson (November 14, 2012)

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My friend Shaunyce Sims-Omar suggested I take this acting workshop that was coming to Houston about two years ago and I have to say that my life was changed, I was introduced to Viewpoints and Composition. Now many of you in the business have heard of this and were introduced to it in a workshop setting or during a rehearsal process. So after many attempts of looking for information on the internet; I couldn’t find anything I could use in my continued training and the frustration followed, but then there was the trip to NYC! After a tour of NYU I went to the bookstore and it was as if the theatre Gods heard my prayers! I began to look for plays to read and there it was on a book stand cascaded by a LED overhead lamp, The Viewpoints Book: A Practical Guide to Viewpoints and Composition. Was this true what was within my grasp and just one credit card transaction away from being mine? Was this the Holy Grail to what my creative soul was looking for? YES! A complete guide with exercises as well as a historical narrative of the conception of the technique. From that day forward my life as a Teaching Artist was changed. I needed something fresh other than the traditional methods I used in teaching my acting students. I needed more! So you may ask yourself what the HECK is he talking about!?!

A glance at Viewpoints 
A viewpoint is a technique of composition that provides a vocabulary for thinking about and acting upon movement and gesture. Originally developed in the 1970s by choreographer Mary Overlie as a method of movement improvisation, The Viewpoints theory was adapted for stage acting by directors Anne Bogart and Tina Landau. Bogart and Overlie were on the faculty of ETW at NYU in the late 1970s and early 1980s during which time Bogart was influenced by Overlie’s innovations. Overlie’s Six Viewpoints (space, story, time, emotion, movement, and shape) are considered to be a logical way to examine, analyze and create dances, while Bogart’s Viewpoints are considered practical in creating staging with actors. Coming from a dance background this concept was the Yin to my Yang. I’ve noticed for many years that “producing” has become the be all, end all here to the process when developing a show. We are so consumed with the overall end product and forget about the nuance and exchange of energy and emotion for the sake of producing a solid show. Viewpoints immediately take you out of the script, music and choreography. If you are relying on those elements only while producing a production you are missing out on 90% of the experience. In the book it states, “When a rehearsal boils down to the process of manufacturing, and then hanging desperately onto emotion, genuine human interaction is sacrificed.” This training forces you to rely on ONLY yourself and the people and environment around you. It forges visceral relationships with fellow actors and helps in ensemble building. The book also tells how the training suggests fresh ways of making choices onstage and generating action based on the awareness of action, time and space instead vs. over thinking and fraudulent choices. I am convinced that this is a great way to build layered characters as well as organic moments on stage.

Viewpoints with Young Actors
I had mixed feelings on introducing my students to Viewpoints. I didn’t know if they were going to embrace the training and approach it with an open mind. Needless to say I was double wrong! Our scheduled thirty minute introduction turned into a 2-hour Open Viewpoint emotional breakthrough. I began with the basic Sun Salutation exercise in a circle and we proceeded with Exercises 2-8 which used repetition, jumping, chasing, gesturing, imagery and soft focus. I saw how they took to the exercises and we proceeded to the other exercises in the book. One thing I love about this training is that it allows you to go far with an exercise or keep it simple. We began to work on Topography and while exploring this exercise I was surprised at the commitment by my students. Each student was to think about their life, and use Topography to map it out. Once that exercise was completed we moved on. I’ve found that using my Yoga Pandora station set a holistic atmosphere. The Floor Pattern- Life Story/ Floor Pattern Expressing Character exercises took this secession to another level. As each student performed their life Topography the walls began to fall; tears were shared and trust was established. Students showed how they’ve overcame bullying, losing a best friend/ grandparent and self-acceptance. The Viewpoints training forces you to create an atmosphere that encourages discovery, truth and possibility. Actors young and old need a work environment that is stress-free and allows for growth. You must establish a trusting relationship from director to actor and this was accomplished in the Floor Pattern Exercise.

Talking to the Actor

I’ve learned that language is a determining factor on the overall tone and of rehearsal. You must have tact and tone during the process of working with artists young and old. The possibilities are limitless and the relationship becomes visceral. We’ve been taught by the theatrical powers that be to have a certain type of demeanor and use certain words as directors that at the end of the day are demeaning, intimidating and flat-out wretched to any creative journey. I’m learning to make the process communal while holding on to my creative vision as a director/choreographer. Instead of telling your actors what you want, ask the piece/ play what it wants. This allows for many creative discoveries from the actors down to the creative team. My students have embraced Viewpoints and we are growing together while we learn the vernacular of this ingenious approach to “the process.” We are currently choreographing a piece about bullying using Viewpoints in our rehearsals and I can’t wait to see that final product.

Continuing to Grow With Viewpoints

As you can see this is something that I’m passionate about, and look forward to learning more about the technique and teach others across the country. I taught at a writers conference in Ft. Lauderdale and brought my Viewpoints training with me to help other artist/ writers get out of the same ole same ole writing regime. I’ve also referred other colleagues in the theatre business to the book/technique and the success stories are rolling in. I’m in the process of directing MACBETH with The Eklektix Theatre Company and I’m using Viewpoints as the catalyst to mount the show. The training forges relationships, allows you to get away from the script and exchange energy artist to artist. In using Viewpoints there are gifts or as I call them my little nuggets of wisdom and they are Surrender, Possibility, Choice & Freedom, Growth and Wholeness. The possibilities are limitless if you allow the material to work for you. My motto for this year is: If you want something you’ve never had you must do something you’ve never done, and Viewpoints is the road map to your creative journey. Now go get the book and PLAY!


The Silver Lining Effect

Posted by: Cindy Ripley (November 13, 2012)

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It's been two weeks since that "Diva" Sandy upstaged most everyone in the NYC area one way or another.  We have colleagues that are still trying to manage without power; we have friends, relatives, teachers and kids from our Broadway JR workshops and pilots whose life has little resemblance to what it was a few weeks ago. The "silver lining" effect that immediately followed this event is worth the healthiest of standing ovations.  You've read how neighbors banded together and the unspoken acts of generosity keep on coming.  Even in our relatively small world of educational theatre, the texts, calls and accommodation offers from six states away have been incredible.

When we as children's musical theatre directors take time to reflect and assess our performances, we look at what was good and what needs improvement.  Hurricane Sandy's performance spoke for itself, but the silver lining effect extended from near and far and is a performance of note.  I just left AMLE, the national middle school conference where I met teachers from across the country and Canada to talk with them about Broadway JR. Their instinctive questions were how could they and their kids help.  They talked about donating performance proceeds in the same sentence that they inquired about the cost of a show kit. They talked about connecting with other casts whose shows were cancelled by using social media.

So the "silver lining" effect is obviously intuitive to those of you who spend a majority of your time juggling what it takes to give kids the experience of musical theatre.  So take time to accept the pat on the back for what you do well.  To many of you, it is a strength you don't give yourself credit for. Tenacity, selflessness, generosity, unconditional support and the ability to inspire. Yup, we all know any quality production with kids uses all of the above.  Thanks for sharing. 

Here are places if you want to see me blog

Posted by: Mike Pemberton (October 25, 2012)


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that has pics of my last show of Joseph I did at the Ranch and my cast ablum collection


that has a bunch of random crap. 

Never Listen to Writing Teachers

Posted by: Rodney Robbins (September 30, 2012)

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So, I'm reading a highly recommended book about plotting your story. The author gives the classic advice that a good plot needs a strong lead character who truly WANTS something, but an equally strong force tries to stop her. In the end, she gets what she wants (drama) or fails to get what she wants (tragedy). After thinking about the author's example of "The Wizard of Oz" movie, all I can say is, what a load of CRAP!

At the start of the movie, Dorothy kinda wants ta leave Kansas and go "somewhere over the rainbow." At that point, Dorothy kinda sorta hopes-thinks-longs-a-bit to leave her home. That is certainly NOT a strong, interesting, dynamic lead character who truly, madly, deeply WANTS something.

  • Then Miss Gulch wants to have Toto killed. So, Dorothy needs to save her dog. She does, in fact, want that badly enough to leave EVERYTHING she knows behind. Ah, dramatic need!
  • But no, as soon as the Wizard in the wagon reminds her that people will miss her, she wants to go back home.
  • She gets almost home and sees the tornado. Then she wants to get into the storm shelter.
  • The house gets carried away. So, Dorothy just wants to survive.
  • Then she lands in Oz, and just wants to know what the heck is going on.
  • Glinda gives Dorothy the Ruby Slippers (that rightfully belong to the Wicked Witch of the East's next of kin, the Wicked Witch of the West). Dorothy doesn't want them, but she gets stuck with them anyway.
  • Then Dorothy, who doesn't WANT to see the Wizard, never heard of the Wizard, doesn't care about the Wizard, is told by Glinda, to go see him. That is not a strong dramatic need, but Dorothy takes off walking.
  • On the way, she happens to meet a Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman. and a Cowardly Lion. Not that she was looking for friends, or looking to avoid meeting new people. They just sort of bump into each other.
  • Dorothy is confronted with snarky talking apple trees that just want to keep their own apples, and the Witch shows up again, wanting HER slippers back. (Now the WWotW has a true, clear dramatic need. She want's her slippers!) And gets through the poppy fields with a little unexpected, uncalled for, help from Glinda.
  • They see the Wizard, and he tells her to go kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Does Dorothy WANT that? No. She kinda wants to go home, but is having a great time in Oz, and she doesn't even know why she should keep those stupid red shoes. If anything, she just wants the WWotW to leave her alone. A weak, mild, negative need.

Does this meet the classic plot structure of a strong, dynamic lead who really REALLY wants something and meets opposition along the way? I say no, not at all, not even close. By the end of the movie, Dorothy is back in Kansas where Toto's life is once again in danger. She has dithered around and put Toto's live in danger AGAIN. Great job, Dorothy!

Very popular story. NOTHING like the classic plot structure. Dorothy is thrown hither and yon, pushed this way, pulled that way, forced into situations she did not want and does not understand. All while just trying to hang on and stay alive--with perhaps a little help from her friends. Sounds more like real life than the classic plot to a novel.

Once again, the writing teachers have it all wrong. Don't trust them. Don't listen to them. Stop reading their advice. Stop reading writing books and start reading real books, novels and short stories. Go see plays. Go BE in plays. See what stirs your pot. Listen to how real audiences react.

Get out there in the real world. Start writing. Keep writing. Keep dreaming up stories. Keep writing down plots, YOUR plots, your story outlines, your story structures, your ideas, YOUR plays and musicals. Better to write and ruin a dozen plays than to waste your time reading the crap that passes for writing advice in American colleges and book stores.

Stop reading this drivel and go dream up a story already!

Five more days

Posted by: Lisa Weinshrott (September 23, 2012)

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Five more days until we wrap up our three week production class at the Woodriver HS in Hailey, ID.  We are getting excited to see what three to five minute show they will put on for us.  What's exciting is that these kids did not have a clue to technical theatre.  In three weeks, they will program the lights, edit sound and play it back and put on a little talent show for their classmates.  We couldn't be prouder of their accomplishments. 

Power-up and Use your Strengths!

Posted by: Cindy Ripley (September 4, 2012)

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We all have them.  We all have to rely on them when the going gets tough.  Our strengths, that is.  The way in which you naturally think, feel and behave.  Most of you have already launched a new school year with your kids, or a new season of after school theater programs.  Possibly a healthy dose of inspiration appeared during your opportunity to artistically inspire kids to make the world a better place.

I for one love the fact that I never know what may pop up to spur on the creative spirit.  It might be as simple as observing a person, place or thing that is outside your day-to-day frame of reference.  At our iTheatric’s and MTI Teacher Intensive Weekends this summer, we watched teachers and directors from all over the country inspire each other by simply being together for 2 ½ days.  That was inspiring for us

However, if the “motivational virus” did not bite this summer, (many of us simply are in need of r & r to re-tool), resort back to your strengths.  Maybe the ones you take for granted.  Maybe the ones you acquired by default.  Maybe the ones that ripen with experience.  Here are a few you most likely already own, but may need to dust off.

  • engage kids first  (2 things needed to successfully work with kids: get their attention and then teach)
  • bring on the joy that originally charged you
  • be organized yet create flexible structure
  • share control and invite participation
  • express emotions   (laugh with your kids!)
  • be adaptable
  • be a visionary
  • be an “includer”
  • put positivity into action
  • remind yourself of your significance

This week I clearly need to remind myself that a few of my strengths can help alleviate some challenges, as my daughter’s wedding is in our backyard.  Mother Nature dried up and altered the growing season to look like mid- fall, the water garden is leaking and the blueprint for parking 150 plus cars is up for grabs. BUT, I do know that I can stage my backyard as quickly as I can a scene and active participation is required to attend and have fun at this eventI know that the joy and emotion we have shared all of her life will be multiplied with our guestsAnd lastlyI will remind myself that I may think I am significant, but I am only the mother of the bride!

So power-up.  Use your strengths!  They led you to this noble, creative vocation of educational musical theater.  Time to spread your magic to a new crop of eager kids and affect another generation.  Me? Tech week is coming up!  C