April 2019

LOOKING BACK

Opening Act ensembles are busy this month, creating worlds for the characters, scenes and conversations that have emerged from their workshops. Soon, each ensembles’ original piece will start taking form and preparation will begin for students to take the stage at our annual student play festival, YESfest!  

Act 2 Saturday: Opening Act on Campus

Student participants, alumni, staff, and volunteers at “Opening Act on Campus”

Our Act 2 Saturday event, “Opening Act on Campus” was a huge success, bringing together Opening Act actors from all over NYC to our two campus locations, Brooklyn College and Lehman College! Participants heard from Opening Act alumni about their post-high school experiences researching schools, applying, choosing a major, making friends, managing their time and strategies for self-care. Students practiced scheduling their own imaginary “day in the life” of a college student, making time for their job, homework, meals, time with friends, classes and valuable “me” time. Actors at the Brooklyn College location ended the day with a tour of the campus and new performing arts center led by Opening Act Teaching Artist and Professor at Brooklyn College, Corinne Donly!

Act 2 Saturday: Beyond the Stage & To Kill a Mockingbird

“Beyond the Stage” panelists speak with students, and 100 Opening Act community members see, To Kill a Mockingbird

Opening Act actors, Teaching Artists, Staff and parents/guardians gathered at our partner schools on the Graphic Educational Campus to hear from a panel of professional theater artists whose work shines “Beyond the Stage”! Panelists, Rina Saltzman (General Manager, “Pretty Woman”), Mary Hamrick (Associate Set Designer, “Harry Potter”), Mel Elcock (Carpenter, “The Play that Goes Wrong”), Spencer Carter (Sound Tech, “Avenue Q”), and Jessica Dermody (Wardrobe Supervisor, “Frozen”), walked students through the production side of putting on a professional Broadway or Off-Broadway show, shared lessons learned from their personal career paths and offered advice for anyone interested in the design, production, management, and technical professions in the world of theater.

After pizza, this fantastic group of 100 members of the Opening Act community walked to the Shubert Theatre for a performance of To Kill a Mockingbird. The show was followed by a talk-back with actors, Celia Keenan-Bolger (Scout Finch), Will Pullen (Jem Finch), Gbenga Akinnagbe (Tom Robinson), and Neal Huff (Link Deas), who answered students questions about the process of putting together this relevant and moving piece of theater.

Opening Act’s 13th Annual Benefit Play Reading, In Their Own Words

Student Leadership Company takes a bow after performing their original piece

Opening Act’s 13th Annual Benefit Play Reading is a celebration that brings together our students, alumni, and community to support Opening Act’s empowering theater programming in our partnering NYC high schools. This year, the event included student-written one-act plays performed by a fantastic cast of Opening Act students, Opening Act alumni, and professional theater and film actors! This is our biggest fundraising event of the year and we were so proud of the incredible work our students and staff put into a beautiful evening of delicious food, great company, and profound storytelling! Read more about the annual Play Reading from our friends at HBO!

Everyday Celebrations & Accomplishments

Opening Act actors are transitioning from the EXPLORATION phase to the CREATION phase of the semester, building on all of the phenomenal material they’ve created and workshopping them into original pieces for the stage:

  • “As one of our actors left the workshop he said, ‘I think these are going to be my best friends’ and then happily skipped away.”
  • “Our Spanish speakers made an entire Spanish radio station complete with commercials! So exciting to see the ownership they took! Also one of our shyest students wrote an entire radio ad about self sizing shoes and performed it by himself!!!!”
  • “The fact that we had the quietest kids return, participating with a stronger voice, with great energy and saying yes-and to all activities is a real testament to how the program empowers these students!”

LOOKING AHEAD

We’re looking ahead to some very exciting Opening Act events for Act 2 and summer programming! Opening Act actors and alumni have access to various performance opportunities and leadership programming through the end of the school year and summer including our the student written play festival, YESfest, Futures & Options summer internships, and our Summer Arts & Leadership Conservatory!

Act 2 Saturday: Interviews, Auditions & More

Our last Act 2 Saturday of the Spring semester is happening at the Actor’s Fund on April 13th! “Interviews, Auditions, and More” will be focused on developing the skills needed to positively present yourself in any room, whether for job interviews, college visits, auditions, meetings, or other opportunities. Opening Act actors in attendance will get to choose between breakout sessions for audition preparation led by working actors, or preparing for interviews for college/workforce with leading professionals.

Spotlight: Justin Daniel, Associate Director of After School Programs

Justin Daniel at the 2019 NYC Arts in Education Roundtable Day of Learning

Opening Act’s Associate Director of After-School Programs, Justin Daniel, wears many hats! Outside of his role at Opening Act, Justin serves on the board of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable, co-chairing the Teaching Artist Affairs Committee. In February, Justin led a session on Self Care for arts administrators at the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable “Day of Learning”. In this session, participants were lead through a meditative “sound blessing” or “sound bath” and discussed various strategies to combat burnout and practice self-care in our everyday lives. In his follow-up blog post, “Art & Fear; Reflections from the Day of Learning Self Care Salon”, Justin writes,

“It struck me as these discussions were happening, Arts Education Professionals often put on an armour, whether when entering a classroom or writing a grant proposal, yet we are often grappling with internal factors that debilitate us from embodying the attributes we hope to foster in the people we serve.”

Read the post here, to learn more about the strategies, tips and tricks Justin compiled from this workshop that arts administrators use to stay grounded and support each other through this work.

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