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!

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