I attended the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST) Conference in Portland, Oregon, at the Downtown Hilton Hotel March 29 – 31, 2018. The Keynote speaker—Chris Coleman, Artistic Director for Portland Center Stage at The Armory—spoke about leadership. He said leadership was about telling stories, about creating a vision for others to see. An education in Theatre is fundamentally learning about narrative, perhaps the most formidable skill students can gain.
THEATRE CAN HELP HEAL A SOUL
Stories help people grapple with a chaotic world. Theatre allows enacting of events that when seen can help heal a soul that would destroy the soul if they actually happened. Mr. Coleman mentioned the field of neuroesthetics, the effect of live art on the brain. An audience helps spread emotion and amplify it; the heartbeats of an audience synchronize. He has a psychologist sit in on all his rehearsals to help the actors understand the motivations of their characters from that point of view. This might be a way for theatre and psychology to collaborate.
SUCCESSFUL STUDENT CHARACTERISTICS
Google and Apple are finding that new hires with a strong focus on STEM skills alone are not necessarily successful. People who have empathy, critical thinking skills, and are able to work/think collaboratively are more successful. Students of theatre practice and hone those skills throughout their degree studies. If there is no “A” in STEM, the ability to synthesize can often be missing.
THEATRE IN DIVERSE COMMUNITIES
There was also discussion about creating theatre in diverse communities using their stories. As an example, one theater he worked with went into the Latino community in the area and created theatre there based on their stories. The community was grateful that a theater company came to them. There is also a shift to focusing on what connects various communities to each other and within themselves, as opposed to focusing on the community itself. One fun outreach was doing Improv with seniors at either a facility or senior center.
One session focused on curriculum design. Based on whether on not the charter for Vanguard can be amended to allow for the granting of B.F.A. degrees, the Theatre Department might investigate the possibility of offering a BA in Acting for Stage and Screen and a BA in Musical Theatre.
The session on copywrite law was very informative. It helped me to understand what is considered fair use and the variety of ways rights can be assigned and controlled. An interesting fact is that most infringement cases do not come to trial, so there are very few rulings to help guide people in this area.