For the past couple of weeks, I've been working with live history presenters at the Stanley-Whitman House to explore research and various approaches to authentic physicalization of characters from Colonial and Civil War-era New England. We’ve worked on finding the core of the actor versus the character and Laban Movement Analysis; next week we’ll play with Chekhov’s psychological gestures and Boal’s games of physical masks. These workshops are offered by SWH as a way to enrich volunteer staff's existing performance abilities. For most of the participants, who range from approximately fourteen to sixty years old, acting is an enjoyable hobby or a newfound passion but not a subject they have previously studied in this way. It has been very exciting to observe each of the participants’ willingness to take risks. I continuously give them opportunities to “opt out” of exercises that might be too far out of their comfort zones, but everyone keeps pushing their boundaries! Some have expressed that they are beginning to see how they might apply certain techniques in their work. In the process, we are all becoming better acquainted and more comfortable working with each other.
This may seem shortsighted, but when I began my educational theatre career I would not have considered an acting workshop at a museum to fall under the description of “professional development.” I almost always used to associate professional development with a requirement for teachers and teaching artists. As I learned more about arts education and applied theatre, I became more informed about the potential for arts in civic life. More and more, I practiced ways of applying the arts in diverse communities and cultural centers for purposes including and beyond entertainment (education, life-skills development, team-building, dialogue, conflict-resolution, etc.). Throughout my years as a community-based artist, I have encountered many people who do not necessarily consider themselves artists or teachers, but they are lifelong learners nonetheless. These individuals almost always share their interests in maintaining or improving their professional competencies or exploring how the arts can enhance theirs or their community’s abilities and perhaps improve everyone's quality of living. Arts-based professional development projects should be located in traditional locations of learning, but programs should also travel beyond the four walls of an academic classroom and into the non-profit world, the boardroom, hospitals and health centers, law offices, and science laboratories (to name a few).
We hope to reach out to people from all walks of professional and personal life that are interested in exploring how the arts can be utilized to build their body of knowledge, enhance skills, or refresh existing practices through professional development opportunities guided by objectives that are accepted by all. Our professional development models are designed to be continuous and ongoing because we believe learning never stops. We offer ongoing mentorship and continuous assessment not only because we want to ensure that everyone is satisfied, but because we believe that these types of long-term partnerships help to create strong communities and bonds between all of us as we seek to become more informed citizens through arts learning.
Stay tuned for more updates from the road!