"Walking the boards," as it is known in the theater world—or appearing on stage—is a dream for young thespians. At Dwight, we're helping to make that dream a reality through our new Advanced Master Theater Program for a corps of high school students dedicated to putting in the extra time and work needed to hone their craft.
"I designed this after-school program to help students who have shown drive and a desire to pursue the theater—those who want to commit at a more serious level—to benefit from intensive instruction and connections with the New York professional theater community," explains Terry Christgau, who directs the program and our Upper School theater productions.
In keeping with Dwight's long-standing commitment to igniting the spark of genius in every child, this program is personalized for every student. Mr. Christgau mentors each one—one-on-one—and is helping students develop the skills needed to pursue a path in theater beyond Dwight. He began with eight students in the first semester; three more have joined for the second.
Learning from the Pros
One unique and exciting feature of this program is the exposure students have to experts. New York City is perhaps second only to London as the world's leading theater community and Mr. Christgau tapped into this rich resource. He forged collaborations with the Manhattan Theater Club (MTC) and Atlantic Theater with the goal of providing Dwight students with real-world theater experience and direct contact with artists working on Broadway and Off-Broadway stages.
In the fall, students participated in a four-week "Fool for Love" workshop in which a teaching artist and professional actors appearing in the MTC production visited Dwight to lead a series of acting exercises. One required that students write scenes to elicit particular emotions and false exits in their own authentic voices. They were excited to see how far they could stretch themselves—and they impressed MTC professionals, who adjusted their training to a higher level normally designed for more experienced conservatory students. Bravo!
"Being part of this Advanced Master Theater Program is an incredible experience," shares Sofia Reidbord '16, whose spark of genius is acting. We have seen Sofia shine in many Dwight theater and musical theater productions, and scene nights. Armed with the additional experience she is gaining this year, she plans to continue pursuing acting in college and perhaps as a career. Sofia reports, "Not only has this program given me so many tools I need to be successful as an actress, but also it has expanded my network within the business. I worked with such incredible actors who have enhanced my understanding of performing and I look forward to the next workshop!"
Another aspiring actor, Krishna Doodnauth '16, says, "This program is giving me exposure to acting techniques that I will need in the future and an opportunity to explore the type of actor I want to be. It is most definitely an invaluable stepping stone to the career I hope to have."
This winter, students are participating in a directing workshop and an on-camera class with professionals from the New York theater community.
What's next for our advanced theater students? More training through spring workshops—and for qualified students—hands-on theater internships, which may include working on a show as a casting assistant or production assistant. This would provide a wonderful opportunity to be involved behind-the-scenes throughout the rehearsal process, from day one to opening night. Students will be able to devote the time needed without falling behind academically by taking online classes through Dwight's Open World School, joining other talented actors, dancers, and athletes who are pursuing their sparks of genius while obtaining a world-class education.
In addition to providing year-round mentorships, Mr. Christgau hopes to extend the Advanced Master Theater Program over the summer and encourages interested students to email him. Participants may find themselves in the costume department of a Broadway production or working with a casting director. Who knows? They may also find themselves walking the boards in their professional debut!