Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Theater: Creating Something Out of Nothing

There are many skills and benefits that children receive from involvement at Oddfellows Playhouse and in theater arts programs.  Creativity and imagination are some of the first benefits people list when talking about the value of a theater arts education and experiences.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to appear on WNPR’s Where We Live with John Dankosky to discuss the topic of creativity.  The discussion between panelists Constanza Gowen-Segovia (CO LAB), Louise Loomis, Ed.D (Thinkwell Center) and the Watkinson School Creative Arts Program students has really stuck with me. (Listen here) It was a broad, wide ranging discussion and we only began to touch the subject of creativity.

I have been thinking a great deal about creativity in the wake of our conversation, and how to re-frame what it is that we do at Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater. In particular, I’ve been considering the way society values creativity.  It is very much in the forefront  of our current economic environment to talk about the new economy, and the importance of innovation.  "Innovate" is simply another way of saying "create".  So, if we are going to prepare our young people to be innovative, we need to build their creativity. 

Creativity is something that you need to practice.  As with any skill, one needs to work to develop and refine creativity.  That is one of the  benefits of continued involvement at Oddfellows Playhouse and in theater.  It is an opportunity for a young person to have their creativity exercised.  Just as students go to sports and music practices, creativity and imagination need to be exercised and pushed to the limit. 

All of the “creating” that goes on in each rehearsal comes with other benefits as well.  Students become quick thinkers, they improvise and they learn to work through scenarios in advance and feel prepared when something unexpected happens.  This helps them learn to handle the anxiety that comes along with so many aspects of life—such as a school project, a business presentation, speaking in front of colleagues or sharing an original idea. 

Oddfellows’ spring session begins the week of April 1, and is full of opportunities for children ages 3-18 to exercise their creativity.  The youngest students in Pre-K, Kindergarten and Grade 1 have classes that are designed to get them used to using their creativity and sharing it with their peers.  Think of it like riding a tricycle, then a bicycle with training wheels.  Students in Story Starters (grades 2-3) can create a Mini-Production based on the West African folktale of Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters.  Not only are they creating characters and story, but they are considering a “Cinderella” tale from a different cultural point of view.   The Kids Company (grades 4-5) can explore Fundamentals of Musical Theater and Comedy and Improv.  Junior Rep (grades 6-8) can give their imaginations a serious workout with How To Deliver a Monologue and Intro to Playwrighting.  Our Teen Rep (grades 9-12) also has an opportunity to discover their unique voice with Intro to Playwrighting and Intro to Directing classes.  Complete class descriptions and information can be found at www.oddfellows.org .  Registration is available online or by calling 860-347-6143.  

Written by Matthew J. Pugliese, Executive Director

Monday, March 25, 2013

Last Chance for Spring Classes

Classes Begin
Week of April 1

The spring session of afterschool and weekend theater classes for students ages 3-14 begin the week of April 1.  Why theater?  It builds essential skills for children - not just creativity.  Children become quick thinkers, able to master their anxiety, solve problems creatively, express new emotions, build self-esteem, develop language and see the world in a whole new way.  Middle and high school students can explore other avenues of creative and personal expression with Intro to Playwrighting and Intro to Directing courses.

Creative Drama: Animal Adventures - Saturdays 9-9:55am
Creative Drama: Around the World - Saturdays 10-10:55am
Parents & Tots (Ages 3-4) - Thursdays 9:00-9:55am

FIRST ACT (Grades K & 1)
Creative Drama: Lyle, Lyle Crocodile - Mondays 4:00-4:55pm
Creative Drama: Jungle Safari - Saturdays 9:00-9:55am
Creative Drama: Tales of Peter Rabbit - Saturdays 10-10:55am

STORY STARTERS (Grades 2 & 3)
Mystery Theater - Saturdays 9:00-9:55am
Anansi Tales - Saturdays 10:00-10:55am
Mini-Production: Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters - Tuesdays & Thursdays 4:30-5:45pm

KIDS COMPANY (Grades 4-5)
Fundamentals of Musical Theater - Saturdays 10:00-11:30am
Mini-Production: Adventures in Toad Hall - Mondays & Wednesdays 5:15-6:45pm
Acting Skills: Comedy and Improv Saturdays 9:00-9:55am
Circus Skills: Acrojam - Mondays 5:30-6:25pm

Circus Skills: Acrojam - Mondays 5:30-6:25pm
Actor Technique: How To Deliver a Monologue - Tuesdays 5:00-6:00pm (Begins 4/8)
Intro to Playwrighting - Thursdays 6:00-6:55pm (Begins 4/8)
Behind the Scenes: Stagecraft - Mondays 4:30-6:00pm
Private Audition Coaching/Voice Lessons - Contact for more information

Circus Skills: Acrojam - Mondays 5:30-6:25pm
Intro to Directing - Tuesdays 6:00-7:00pm (Begins 4/8)
Behind the Scenes: Stagecraft - Mondays 4:30-6:00pm
Intro to Playwrighting - Thursdays 6:00-6:55pm (Begins 4/8)
Private Audition Coaching/Voice Lessons - Contact for more information

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

25th Children's Circus of Middletown Accepting Registrations

Oddfellows Playhouse is pleased to announce that registration is open for the 25th Children’s Circus of Middletown.  The Children's Circus offers an exceptionally unique program where the whole family and the entire whole community, can get involved in the making of something truly inspiring and special. 

The Children’s Circus of Middletown, part of the Kids Arts program, is a partnership between Oddfellows Playhouse, the City of Middletown and Middletown Commission of the Arts with critical support provided from the Middlesex United Way.  The 5-week, half day program begins on July 1 and runs until the performance on August 2.  During this time, students ages 8-14 are develop a variety of circus skills including juggling, unicycling, stilting, acrobatics, balance and clowning.  The program culminates in an outdoor circus performance in front of a crowd of nearly 1,500 people.  Each year the circus explores a different theme, with recent circuses focusing on “In Your Dreams”, “Eat’s All Good” and last year’s “The Circus of Science”.

Circus Director, Jason Leinwand, returns to bring the circus to life for the 25th time.  The program takes place at Macdonough School on Spring Street. 

For more information on the program and how to register, visit www.oddfellows.org or www.arts2go.org.  Registration forms are available at the City of Middletown Arts Office, Russell Library or Oddfellows Playhouse.  Registration is currently open. The program is $125 for Middletown residents and $250 for out of town students.  Busing is available for Middletown residents only.

Counselor positions are open, and applicants can download applications from the City of Middletown’s website.  Counselor applications are due by March 22 for to the City Arts Office located at 100 Riverview Center.

Oddfellows’ Children’s Circus of Middletown programming is made possible through the generous support of the City of Middletown, Middletown Commission on the Arts, Middlesex United Way and Stop and Shop Foundation. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Alice Threw the Looking Glass: It's Not A Typo

Oddfellows Playhouse’s Junior Repertory Company will present Alice Threw The Looking Glass: A Parody of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style by John Walch.  The comedic combination of the world of Alice in Wonderland and grammar rules will run April 4-6 at 7:30pm. 

First-year college student Alice is in serious danger of failing her English course when she follows her composition paper into the trash -- and ends up in a hallucinatory world where the rules of grammar are turned upside-down.  If she wants to pass, she'll need to deal with gunslinging run-on sentences, thugs hawking colloquialisms, fearsome Modifier Leeches, and more.  Inspired by Lewis Carroll and parodying the grammar and writing style bible The Elements of Style by Strunk & White, this witty comedy explores the fantasy world of language in all its grotesque mutations.

The Junior Repertory Company is comprised of students in grades 5-8, from 10 different towns throughout central Connecticut.  The Junior Repertory company brings to life challenging and fun theatrical productions appropriate for audiences of all ages. 

The production runs Thursday thru Saturday, April 4 through April 6.  All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are $15 for Adults and $8 for Students/Seniors.  Anyone bringing a canned food item for Amazing Grace Food Pantry will receive a $2 discount on their ticket.  Tickets are available online at www.oddfellows.org or by calling 860-347-6143. 

The production is made possible by major support from CT State Department of Education, Middlesex United Way, The Stare Fund, Pratt & Whitney, the Middletown Commission on the Arts and Daphne Sebolt Culpeper Foundation.   Media support is provided by WESU 88.1FM. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Steven Scionti on WTNH

Here is a video of Steven Scionti on WTNH with Teresa LaBarbera last summer, talking about Hear What's In the Heart

Hear What's In the Heart
Thursdays - 7:30pm
May 16 - June 20, 2013
Get Tickets

Friday, March 8, 2013

Teen Rep Directing Project Connects with Community

“Most of what I have learned about theater was by making mistakes!” confessed Dr. Sheila Garvey
at a recent session with members of the Oddfellows Playhouse Teen Rep Company.

Members of the Oddfellows Playhouse Teen Rep Company, under the guidance of Ken O’Brien, met last Thursday evening at with two professional directors to discuss the challenges of directing and producing plays. Dr. Garvey, Chair of Southern Connecticut State University’s Theater Department and Joseph D’Eugenio, Artistic Director of The Greater Middletown Chorale shared their insights gained through years of experience producing and directing both plays and concerts.

During the evening discussion, the Oddfellows’ young directors from the Teen Repertory Company talked about directing for the first time and about their plays – Eric Lane’s  “Dancing on Checker’s Grave” and Edward Albee’s “The Zoo Story,” among others.

They listened as Dr. Garvey stressed the importance of wide-ranging research into a play’s background,
including the history of the setting – right down to maps. She also shared the play book developed for a
current production which she creates for all her plays. Artistic Director D’Eugenio described how the
intermingling of various art forms creates vibrant productions, a process he is now managing in the “Letterfrom Italy” project.

“A lot of art, a lot about creativity, is recognizing good ideas and re-appropriating them in a new context.  Our Teen Rep members, in directing one-act plays, are learning about the collaborative aspects of theater.  How to share ideas, how to borrow, how to adapt.  Learning different perspectives, different processes, is an important part of that development” said Executive Director Matt Pugliese.

This exchange about the details of dramatic productions was sponsored by The Greater Middletown
Chorale as the third event in its continuing series - “Connecticut Community Conversations: ‘Letter from
Italy, 1944’ – a Generational Legacy”. These events have been developed to prepare for the world
premiere concert of “Letter from Italy, 1944” a musical drama being presented by the Chorale on April 28.

The Teen Repertory Company presents Nightmares & Streetscapes, Student Directed one-act written by Edward Albee, Christopher Durang, Eric Lane and Peter Tolan from May 3-11.  All performances are at 7:30pm.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Oddfellows on NPR

Oddfellows Playhouse on WNPR's Where We Live

Oddfellows's Executive Director, Matt Pugliese, was a panelist on Where We Live with John Dankosky on Wednesday March 6, as part of a panel discussion on creativity.  The panel was joined by a group of students from the Creative Arts Program at the Watkinson School, led by Dr. Karen Bovard (front row, left) a former  Artistic Director of Oddfellows Playhouse.  You can listen to the show online here.
L to R: John Dankosky (Host), Constanza Segovia (CO Lab), Louise Loomis, Ed.D (Thinkwell Center), Matt Pugliese (Oddfellows Playhouse)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Spring Classes Now Enrolling

Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater is pleased to announce its Spring 2013 Session will begin the week of April 1.  Oddfellows’ programs use theatre as a vehicle to build essential life skills, while exploring highly educational and artistic themes and plays.  There are a variety of performance options and technique based classes for students ages 3-18.

Oddfellows Playhouse has a 38 year history, and is the largest comprehensive theater program for young people in central Connecticut.  Students participate from 40 different towns from throughout Connecticut, allowing young people to create new friendships and broaden their perspectives.  The Playhouse employs a staff of talented and skilled, working professional theatrical artists.  As a theater arts center, Oddfellows Playhouse is dedicated to innovation, diversity and inclusion.  The goal of the Playhouse is to nurture the creative spirit and promote skills that will serve children throughout their lives.  

Classes for the Little Fellows (ages 3-4) include Around the World and Animal Adventures. Classes are offered on Saturday mornings.  Participatory classes include Parents & Tots and Arts Explosion on Thursday mornings at 10am. 

First Act (Grades K-1) offers Creative Drama courses themed around children’s books and adventures such as Tales of Peter Rabbit and Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.  Story Starters (Grades 2-3) encourage creative expression and promote confidence, self-esteem, and communication.  Once a week classes focus on skill building, while classes that meet twice a week short productions put those skills into action.  Classes include Anansi Tales and Mystery Theater and a mini-production of the West African fairytale Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. 

The Kids Company (Grades 4-5) is the stage that students begin to focus more on skills and techniques.  These courses help develop the next set of vocal, physical and emotional skills.  Technique classes include Comedy and Improv, Create a Character and Fundamentals of Musical Theater. The mini-production is the classic Wind in the Willows driven story, Adventures in Toad Hall.

The Junior Repertory Company (grades 6-8) offers technique classes for students in Actor Technique: How to Deliver a Monologue, Intro to Playwrighting and Behind the Scenes: Stagecraft.  A Circus Skills class in partner acrobatics, ACROJAM, meets on Monday evenings.  There are also private audition coaching and voice lessons available.   

Interested high school students can take an Intro to Directing class on Tuesday evenings, which will build budding director’s ability to think about story, staging and working with actors.  There is also a Intro to Playwrighting class offered.  A full list of program offerings and public performances can be found online at www.oddfellows.org.

Oddfellows programming is made possible through the generous support of the CDBG Scholarship Program, Citizens Bank, the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, the CT Department of Education, Daphne Seybolt Culpeper Memorial Fund, Elizabeth Carse Foundation, the Fund for Greater Hartford, the George A. and Grace L. Long Foundation, the Irving Kohn Foundation, the J. Walton Bissell Foundation, Liberty Bank Foundation, Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation, Middlesex County Community Foundation, Middlesex United Way, the Middletown Commission on the Arts, Middletown YSB, the National Endowment for the Arts, Pratt & Whitney, Price Chopper Golub Foundation, the Stare Fund, Stop and Shop Foundation, Thomas J. Atkins Foundation, Triple Frog, LLC and WESU (88.1FM).