Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A First Glimpse at the World of Expedition

During the past two months, our student designers have been meticulously crafting the world of Rae Binstock's Expedition -- from the glass-walled Chicago apartment that overlooks the L train, to the soundscape overheard each day on the streets of Harlem, to the lighting effects that will guide audience members back in time to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Despite the fact that they're living in towns across the United States, our designers have already forged a strong and cohesive team. Each Sunday, they meet via Skype for their weekly production meeting. These meetings are a treasure-trove of historical research, script analysis, artistic skill, and hardcore creativity. Our designers can sketch a fully-colored rendering one week, and then rip it up and go back to the drawing board for something completely different the next. It's a challenging and sometimes frustrating process -- but the finished product is worth every moment!

They submitted their first round of designs this past weekend, and we wanted to share some of them with you below. (Make sure to subscribe to our mailing list for more behind-the-scenes access, and if you've already donated, take a peek at the backer-only content on Kickstarter!) But please remember that, without your help, these designs will be relegated to the sketchpad and the model box. Your donation helps us buy the wood, paint, fabric, and hardware that we'll need to bring these designs to life onstage! It only takes a few minutes to make a big difference. Please donate today and join us on our Expedition!


(Jack as William Clark)

(Tom as Meriwether Lewis)


(Set Design)

Please donate today and support our designers and the future of the American theater!

Costume designs by Olivia Hern (Shelburne, VT)
Set design by Jessica Baldinger (West Palm Beach, FL)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

"This Life Is Possible, and It's Yours to Live."

A Message from NTSA Board Member Kate Quarfordt

Each summer​,​ New York City floods with young Broadway hopefuls from all over the country whose families pay thousands of dollars for them to participate in prestigious training programs in the performing arts. In a city full of so many great opportunities for creative young people, what makes ​the ​National Theatre for Student Artists' work ​​unique?

Simple​!​ NTSA is the only organization ​in the nation that actually pays student actors, designers​,​ playwrights, and directors from across the country to experience what it's like to be a working creative professional in New York City. Paying kids for their artistic contribution (through a stipend or their flight and lodging) means that this singular professional experience becomes accessible to a much broader array of kids​:​ ​It is based solely on participants' creative merit and not on their families' income level. Equally​ as​ ​important, it creates an indelible stamp on ​students' early experience as developing artists that -- as our proud alumni will attest -- profoundly affects their drive, confidence​,​ and work ethic as they mature in their ​desired ​careers.

It takes a lot of guts to decide that you want to make art for a living​,​ and then commit to developing the skills and practical experience you need to make your dream come true. NTSA offer​s​ students an opportunity to hone those skills and​ earn that experience. AND, by giving participants what for most is their first paycheck as a professional artist, NTSA also provides an intangible but mission-critical boost that tells young creatives: "Your dream is not crazy. This life is possible, and it's yours to live."

We are inviting YOU to become part of nationwide movement to create the next generation of American theater. Donate to NTSA's Kickstarter campaign and help us raise the $10,000 that our students need to bring the world premiere of Expedition to New York City this summer. You have the ability to give students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see their creative vision realized onstage. Thank you so much for believing in the future of the American theater!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What Happens Next

We have two performances coming up of our first touring production, What Happens Next. Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 1990s? Turn to pg. 18 to spray the mutant spiders with antifreeze, turn to pg. 47 to surrender to the arachnid hordes? What Happens Next (WHN) is basically the theatrical equivalent of a Choose Your Own Adventure book. We present a half-finished play and then ask you to tell us what should happen next. Then our playwright goes home and writes a brand-new scene based on your feedback.

This season's installment of WHN, Dual Acceptance by Alinah Vision (LaGuardia Arts '16), follows two high school seniors, Emma and Adam, who have decided to skip college and stay together after graduation. But when Adam discovers that overachieving Emma hasn't been entirely honest with him, will their future lead them down different paths? Once again, you get to decide how this story will end. Does the rom-com fanatic in you want them to stick together? Or are these two due for a super-dramatic breakup with all the angsty fixings? Come to next week's installment and let your thoughts be heard!

Not only will audience members help create the next scene in Dual Acceptance, they'll also have the chance to design the set and/or costumes for the show! The best designs will be seen onstage at the final performance of Dual Acceptance at The Tank on Times Square this September (check back for more details!). You can score an off-off-Broadway design credit before you even graduate from high school! (Congratulations to Jaliyah and Chloe from Leadership Prep Canarsie who designed the costumes for Emma and Adam at our last performance.)

You can catch What Happens Next at:

Uncommon Charter High School
Tuesday, April 21
6 PM
1485 Pacific Street, Brooklyn
(C to Kingston-Throop Avenues)

Williamsburg Collegiate Charter School
Monday, April 27
5:30 PM
157 Wilson Street, Brooklyn
(J/M/Z to Marcy Avenue)

All performances are FREE to the public!

post signature

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Top Five Reasons Why You Should Join the Expedition

January signals the start of a New Year full of new opportunities and adventures. When you're thinking about setting goals for 2015, how about considering this one: "make your off-Broadway debut"?

We're looking for the most talented high school seniors and college freshmen from across the country to make their off-Broadway debuts this summer. We're hiring six extraordinary student actors and designers to come to New York City to work on the world premiere of Rae Binstock's Expedition. So, without further ado, here are the top five reasons why you should send in your application TODAY.

5. Spend the summer in one of the theater capitals of the world.
New York City. Back in high school, just mentioning the City That Never Sleeps was enough to make me giddy with excitement. (To be honest, I still feel an adrenaline rush every time I get off of the subway at 42nd Street-Times Square . . . and I've been living here for over a decade now.) There's nowhere in the world quite like New York City -- and this summer, you can call it "home." Imagine spending your tech week afternoons sitting on the stoop of the building where Rent was produced. Imagine perusing the 80,000 rental costumes at the TDF collection at the Kaufman Astoria film studios. Imagine seeing the best that Broadway has to offer on the weekends, surrounded by some of the best friends you'll ever meet. Which brings us to . . .

4. Work with tomorrow's Broadway superstars today.
You're talented. Working with NTSA will give you a chance to meet equally talented students from across the United States, working in all different disciplines. These are tomorrow's Broadway superstars -- and you have a chance to work with them today! Meet the playwright whose script you'll perform in Chicago after graduation. Meet the actor who will be your roommate on your first national tour. Meet the director who will someday call you about designing a show on Broadway. As our Marketing Director Brandon Burke once said: "[NTSA is] a family with CRAZY connections. Anything that you need, just ask and you shall receive."

3. Because WE pay YOU.
I can't tell you how many students have emailed me and asked, "What does your program cost?" The answer: nothing. In fact, we pay for your housing and transportation over the summer. I've met tons of families (including my own) who couldn't afford the high tuition fees charged by performing arts summer programs. We want to make sure that all students have the opportunity to participate in NTSA's productions.

2. You want to join the Expedition.
We fell in love with Rae Binstock's script the first time we read it. It's a stunning examination of the distance between what we "should" want and what we actually do want. We had our first reading of the script in November, and we're going to be producing a workshop with local actors in March. We're so excited to see how the work grows and develops over time. By joining the Expedition, you can be a key part of that process!

1. At NTSA, you're always center stage.
I.B. Hopkins, co-author of Jimmy!: A Musical Fable with Almost No Historical Basis, once wrote: "The National Theatre for Student Artists is in the business of realizing dreams like mine." Yes, we create dynamic theatrical productions -- but, perhaps more importantly, we're in the business of making your dreams come true. And that doesn't stop once the show has closed, and you're on a plane flying out of JFK. NTSA is a family that's dedicated to providing you with the resources and support that you need to make your artistic mark on the world.

Join the Expedition this summer. Apply to NTSA TODAY.

post signature

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Trial Runs Ahoy!

This past weekend, NTSA hosted trial runs of two brand-new programs: Design Launch and What Happens Next. We're always looking for more ways to get young artists involved in NTSA, and these programs open up tons of opportunities. We're going to be scheduling more events soon, so if either of these sound interesting, join our mailing list to receive updates on future workshops, readings, and sneak peeks.

Design Launch kicked off with a reading of Kendall Kaminsky's The End of Side A. Kendall, a senior at the University of Houston, wrote a captivating drama about family secrets that snatched one of our three mainstage finalist slots this season. Still reeling from their father's suicide, Daniel and Dana are tasked with packing up their familial home; however, when they find boxes of voyeuristic tape recordings detailing their neighbors' lives, they begin to question if they really knew what kind of man their father was. Three remarkably talented juniors from the Professional Performing Arts School (Amanda McCormick, Brielle Webb, and Jason Wilks) brought these complicated characters to the stage. Students then analyzed the script before hitting the craft supplies. Cutting up magazines and photographs, they created visual research collages for each character. When they were finished, all of the students were challenged to identify one element in their collage (a specific color, texture, pattern, symbol, etc.) and use that to draft a design. One of our favorite designs featured a dual-level set where all of the real-life events occurred on the first level, while the shadowy second level contained figments of the characters' pasts -- including their father watching them. At the end of the evening, we packed up all of the colored pencils, markers, pastels, and watercolors, as each student left with a rendering to add to her/his portfolio.

We've spent the past few months working on What Happens Next -- a project where audience members become co-creators through post-show discussions with the playwright, which are then reflected in subsequent performances. On Sunday, we had the opportunity to test out this idea in front of an audience of middle school students. They watched a performance of Alinah Vision's (a junior from LaGuardia Arts) Dual Acceptance, featuring Jason Wilks and Amanda McCormick, before reflecting on if characters made the right choices and what they could have done differently. Tonight, Alinah met with NTSA staff members to brainstorm how these ideas could be incorporated into script revisions. "I don't know how the main character didn't commit suicide; she was under so much pressure!" a 7th grader exclaimed during the post-show discussion. We talked about how that statement could be depicted onstage. Could we incorporate a monologue in which the main character struggles with her parents' high expectations? Could we add a flashback where we see an argument between the main character and her overbearing parents? Or do we go in a completely different direction and show why the parents behave this way? What about her father's past pushed him to attend Harvard University -- and why might he want the same for his daughter?

We can't wait for performances of What Happens Next to start in late January, and we're already scheduling new Design Launch events for set, costume, lighting, and sound designers. For more information, join our mailing list -- sign up using the form to the right of your screen. We're looking forward to seeing YOU at future NTSA events!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Starting the Expedition

"I'm going to respond to all questions with: Yes. No. Rosebud."
- Rae Binstock, author of Expedition

The Design Launch workshop scheduled for Saturday, November 29 is full and registration is now closed. Thank you so much to everyone who registered! Because of the enthusiastic response and high demand for this program, we're already working on scheduling new workshops for January-April. Be on the lookout for FREE future workshops in set, costume, lighting, and sound design.

Last Sunday, we welcomed a fantastic group of actors from Columbia University for a reading of Expedition, our 2015 summer mainstage production. Written by Rae Binstock (Columbia University '15), Expedition deals with two young men struggling to keep their relationship alive after college -- a feat that seems increasingly difficult as career paths change, social pressures mount, and the hundreds of miles between them become the least of their problems on their path to the American Dream. This intimate four-person drama will premiere in July at the Fourth Street Theatre in Manhattan. Alex Tobey (Carnegie Mellon University '15) will direct.

Thank you so much to everyone involved! If you're interested in joining the Expedition team, either as a designer or an actor, please visit our Acceptd site for more information. We'll keep you updated as we workshop Expedition in March.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thinking About a Future in Design?

This year, NTSA will be hosting Design Launch -- a series of workshops providing high school students with training and guidance from professional Broadway and off-Broadway designers. Our first workshop will be on Saturday, November 29 from 1-5 PM at A.R.T./New York's South Oxford Space (138 South Oxford Street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn).

At this month's Design Launch workshop, you'll watch a reading of The End of Side A, a new drama by Kendall Kaminsky (University of Houston '14), before engaging in a roundtable discussion with Patrick Rizzotti whose work has been seen on stages at Signature Theatre, HERE Arts Center, Prospect Theatre Company, Target Margin, and Florida Repertory Theatre. (Contemporary musical theater aficionados might know him as the mastermind behind the set for Ryan Scott Oliver's Jasper in Deadland last season.) We'll close out the session with an exercise created to kickstart your theatrical design portfolio. EdTA Thespians: this session will set you up for success if you plan on presenting an Individual Event in Design this year. You can register for the event using the form below. Space is limited to fifteen students so register today!

(HINT: If you've ever wanted to work as a designer with NTSA, this is a great chance for us to meet you and get to know your artistic work. We're currently on the lookout for student designers for our winter 2015 touring production and our summer 2015 mainstage production.)