I spent my first week teaching at the Jon Hassler Theater in southeastern Minnesota. I had six students in total participating in my workshops, four from Plainview and two from Pine Island, a nearby town.
I worked to adapt the material that I had learned in Belgrade, geared toward professionals, to material that fit the experience levels of the students in the room, which was a large range. Some of the students were older and naturally more advanced. It’s astounding what difference even two years of experience makes with high school students. I went into the week with a lot of excitement and nervousness (and all the thoughts that accompany that: will they like me? am I prepared? is there enough time?!). I had three hours a day with the students, working on the stage at the Jon Hassler Theatre, who graciously hosted me for the week. I had a lot of balancing to do. The group dynamic and the varied experience level of participants was often enough to monopolize my concentration.
On top of all else, I was sharing the exercises that I had learned in Belgrade. The material is very challenging and some of the students rose to that challenge and really absorbed the material. However, I quickly realized that I often had to adapt more than I had expected. Some of this training from Dah really seeks to help performers to recognize and break their cliches, in order to be flexible and well rounded. But I happened to be teaching in a context where some haven’t gotten their feet solidly on the ground with performance and haven’t had a chance to develop any cliches or habits.
I was also fighting time to include both exercises, training, and creating material (which had little space until the last days). I want to give them plenty of time to make things, devising theatre, and help to empower them to create their own performance. That’s my challenge for next time, because ultimately, I feel that that’s my goal.
It wasn’t all challenge, of course. We had lots of laughs creating small scenes, including using the seats at the Jon Hassler for a movie theatre scene, and my students taught me so much every day, as I observed them.
My only regret is that I forgot to take a picture of us as a whole group. Our three hours a day were always so packed. We didn’t even find time for a group picture.
In two weeks I’m headed north to Roseau, MN, my hometown, to do it all again.