NYC SHOWCASE OF STUDENT TALENT
Since 1994 Theatre faculty and students from throughout the CSU system have come together at the end of each academic year to provide a weeklong intensive learning environment in New York City for approximately 15-20 students and 3-4 faculty from each campus. Thus, approximately 60 student actors, directors, playwrights, designers, technicians and front-of-house staff and approximately 12 faculty have benefited from this annual experiential field opportunity.
We present shows in an Off-Broadway theatre venue; take workshops led by NYC professional theatre artists (i.e. in acting, voice, movement, mask, casting, etc.); tour graduate and professional schools (i.e. Juilliard and The Neighborhood Playhouse), Broadway theatres (i.e. backstage of Aida), theatrical design houses (i.e. Rosebrand Fabrics), theatre libraries and bookstores (i.e. Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library and the Drama Bookstore) and other appropriate theatre venues. We meet with professionals in the field through lecture/demonstrations, classes, panel discussions and talkbacks with actors, directors, agents, casting directors, stage managers, and others working in NYC – some of whom are CSU alumni! Of course, we also attend Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.
Importantly, the students and faculty get to collaborate in a system wide activity that leads to professional and personal connections and collaborations in the future. In fact, we all learn from one another and support one another in a myriad of ways due to having this on-going artistic collaboration over these many years. The CSU system has been unique in providing this amazing and necessary opportunity for our students and faculty. In fact, students have been recruited and retained in our programs due to our commitment to this special initiative.
The opportunity to experience taking a university production “on the road” opens the students’ eyes to what the world of theatre is truly like. The theatres are typically bare and our students learn what it is to create lighting, sound, and settings in a minimalist manner. The universities collaborate on bringing equipment as well as the student and faculty personnel to establish the technical support for all the CSU shows to be performed.
We experience transporting sets, costumes, move-in and set-up of the theatre space. Not only do we share equipment and personnel but also the theater itself as we rehearse and perform in the same venue and often on the same days and evenings. We rehearse and adapt shows to a very intimate proscenium space (which is often very different from the blackbox, arena or thrust spaces in which we usually present our shows at our university theaters). These smaller, stripped down spaces prepare our students for what they will most likely experience once working in the field. They get to perform in NYC for their family, friends, and university folk which is very exciting to all involved. Very importantly, they present their talents as actors, writers, directors, designers and technicians for Theatre professionals (i.e. agents and casting directors) and for graduate school recruiters (i.e. Actor’s Studio Admissions Director).
It cannot be overstated how important, even critical, it is for our students to become familiar with the professional Theatre world of New York City in terms of resources, references and future opportunities for graduate school, professional school, and employment in Theatre - or in any field for that matter - as they become more confident and worldly through travel and exposure to the world beyond. In fact, students often travel to and some move to NYC on their own after this experience to further explore all the cultural advantages that a huge metropolis can offer. Pragmatically, alumni can testify to this showcase experience providing impressive resume credentials that have earned them places in graduate schools and in jobs (specific names available upon request). Of course, due to this annual intensive weeklong immersion into the NYC Theatre scene, our CSU Theatre faculty members remain current in the field and continue to network and to build their credentials.
To note, this showcase opportunity has not been restricted to Theatre faculty and students. Over the years Music, Dance, English and Communication students and faculty have participated as well (i.e. original student-written plays; live music; choreography; video and audio components for productions; etc.). Often these shows offer an opportunity to explore innovative approaches (i.e. improvisation, Readers’ Theatre); new works (i.e. monologues and original one-acts); and important issues (i.e. racism, sexism, anorexia, suicide, etc.). The Theatre-In-New York CSU Showcase of Student Talent provides a life experience that is the epitome of what a Theatre program must be about – and truly embraces the heart and soul of the liberal arts mission.
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