Monday, February 7, 2011

Alison Bomber Directs Othello

Alison Bomber, (above) the voice and text coach for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon in England, calls her chance to spend winter quarter at Ohio State "happy serendipity." She is in residence in the Department of Theatre, where she's directing nine MFA graduate acting students in a production of Shakespeare's Othello, which opened Feb 10. Her residency is part of the larger partnership between Ohio State and the RSC. "I decided to seize the opportunity," she says. "It fit in well with my schedule at the RSC, and I already had a strong relationship with the MFA actors from their work with the RSC last summer. This was the perfect opportunity for me to stretch my directing muscles."

The MFA actors have created an ensemble performance for Othello, which runs through Feb 26. Bomber describes the play as very passionate, dealing with issues of race, of sexual jealousy, of high passion. "It's the madness of love and how close love is to hate," she says.

Working with the OSU students has been a joy, adds Bomber. "The MFAs are great, there is such a generosity among them in the rehearsal room," she says. "They have a strong relationship and a strong respect for each other's work. I'm pushing them in new directions, and they're fantastically open to that. It's a playful, joyous, creative room."

Othello is being presented in the Roy Bowen Theatre, Drake Performance and Event Center. In addition, several matinees are being performed for high school students. And what might those young people expect?

"I really hope they'll come and enjoy the play. It's a cracking good story!" Bomber says. "I hope they'll say they can't believe Shakespeare could be so much fun, so exciting, so dramatic."

(Photo above, Moopi Mothibeli as Othello, and Charlesanne Rabensburg as Desdemona. Below, Mothibeli with Kevin McClatchey as Iago.)

Notable News

The Department of Theatre's production of Othello and the RSC's Alison Bomber, guest director, have been garnering a good deal of coverage lately in the media, including a Columbus Dispatch Sunday Arts article, an OnCampus story, and an Artzine video feature.

On Monday morning (Feb 14) (left to right) teacher Amy McKibben, MFA actor Moopi Mothibeli and Alison Bomber were guests on the WOSU radio program All Sides with Ann Fisher (far right). They were joined by RSC education director Jacqui O'Hanlon by phone. The program is rebroadcast the same evening at 8 pm on 89.7 FM and can also be heard on the WOSU website.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sixth Graders Learn Shakespeare Desk-Free

The first thing Sandy Guinto (above) did when the school year started was to remove every desk from her 6th grade language arts classroom at Waggoner Road Middle School in Reynoldsburg. Out in the hallway the desks went. Inside the room she arranged all of the students’ chairs in a big circle with ample room in the center for active learning.

Guinto is one of 38 Columbus-area teachers involved in a program that’s at the heart of a partnership between The Ohio State University and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Spearheaded by The Arts Initiative at Ohio State, the professional development program is transforming the way children are taught and is based on the RSC’s renowned “Stand Up for Shakespeare” program, which advocates “Doing Shakespeare on Your Feet; Seeing it Live; and Starting it Earlier.”

“It was very scary to start this process,” Guinto admits. “As an educator, we are taught how to arrange desks so that classroom management is easier. When the desks were gone, all of the safety of what I had known for management went out the window. But I jumped in and have been learning ever since.”

She adds, “It is unbelievably amazing as I watch students – who consider school to be extremely hard – work with Shakespeare’s text and understand it. They have debates about why a character says or does things. They are challenged to have an opinion and be able to justify it. They beg to do Shakespeare! How many times does a teacher get to hear that?”

One of her students had a similar reaction to the reconfigured classroom. “At the beginning of the year I was a little confused when I walked into Mrs Guinto’s room and there were no desks. I was like, where are the desks? But now I realize it’s really fun (to be active) without desks. And Shakespeare is fun!”

Guinto’s class is studying Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and using the play as a springboard for various school subjects. For example, they are just starting to work on their first quarter essay about their own “four personal worlds” based on the overlapping worlds that the fairy Puck experiences in the play.

They also are investigating Shakespeare’s characters. While Guinto was in Stratford-upon-Avon last summer, 10 master of fine arts acting students from Ohio State also went through the RSC training program, and are now visiting the schools to help with acting processes. One Ohio State student, Alison Vasquez, (right) recently came to Waggoner Road Middle School.

“Alison came to my classroom as Hippolyta so the students could interview the character,” Guinto explains. “She did an awesome job fielding some difficult questions posed to the Queen of the Amazon. The students were mesmerized when Alison ‘became’ Hippolyta and demonstrated how she can switch her voice to different dialects. One student was so captivated with an actor being in our room that she declared she wants to act when she grows up.”

Sandy Guinto is one of 38 Columbus-area teachers in grades 1-12 who are part of an intensive teacher professional development program called Stand Up for Shakespeare America, which is at the core of the unique partnership between The Ohio State University and the UK’s Royal Shakespeare Company.

Notable News

The for/word company, in association with Whistling in the Dark Theatre Co., presents a staged reading of a new play by Jen Schlueter. The Little Book, featuring Christina Ritter, Christopher Roche and Emily Bach, will be presented Sunday, Dec 5, at 3 pm in the Arts Initiative space in the South Campus Gateway alley (across from OAL and the Green Room). The play chronicles the story of EB White, once best known as the voice of The New Yorker, and later as the author of Stuart Little. It follows White's professional and personal experiences with two powerful women, and takes a look at the clash of the modern world with the Victorian, the tension between style and sentiment, and a battle over a book about a little mouse. Admission is free.

Don't forget the award winning Sketch by Number troupe presents The Eight Reindeer Monologues, a play by Jeff Goode, at 7:30 pm on Dec 9, 11 and 12 at the Green Room, in the South Campus Gateway alley. Cost is $10 at the door.

And Artillery Ohio presents its Holiday Art Market on Saturday, Dec 11, from 10 am to 5 pm at the Gateway Film Center at South Campus Gateway. Plenty of artist vendors will be offering items for your gift-buying browsing, from paintings and ornaments to pottery, glass and jewelry.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shakespeare at Lunch

Ten sixth grade students from Hannah Ashton Middle School in Reynoldsburg (above) along with three MFA acting students from Ohio State performed a wee bit of Romeo and Juliet (below) to guests at OSU President Gee's pre-game lunch event on November 13. The children are students of Amy McKibben, who is one of 38 local schoolteachers involved in the OSU/Royal Shakespeare Company partnership and teacher professional development program called "Stand Up for Shakespeare America." The students performed part of Act I, Scene I for about 300 guests, capped off with a staged fight by MFA actors Ibsen Santos and Kevin McClatchey and a wrap-up to the scene by MFA Charlesanne Rabensburg.

The event not only let the kids spotlight some of the Shakespeare techniques they've learned, but also served as a kick-off for Ohio State's summer 2011 fund-raising initiative in New York City. Ohio State will join Lincoln Center Festival and Park Avenue Armory next summer to present the entire RSC ensemble in a repertory of plays for six weeks. On July 12, 2011, Ohio State will thank major donors and generous alumni for their financial support of Stand Up for Shakespeare America with the Scarlet and Gray Shakespeare Gala, a private performance of the RSC's celebrated new production of Romeo and Juliet at the Armory.

The announcement about the initiative appeared in the Columbus Dispatch the day after the lunch event. Read it here.

Notable News

Mark your calendar for a double gallery opening on Thurs, Dec 2, 6-9 pm. The Arts Initiative is co-sponsoring the Ohio Art League's annual Thumb Box Exhibition (below), and the show will fill both galleries in the alley at South Campus Gateway. Stop by and see a wide range of "small works" by local artists.

Artillery Ohio will present its Holiday Art Market on Saturday, Dec 11, from 10 am to 5 pm at the Gateway Film Center at South Campus Gateway (High St at 10th). More than 30 artists will be offering original and affordable gifts for the holiday season, from pottery and knitwear to jewelry and more. The market will be followed by the Ohio Art League's Holiday Mirror Ball from 7 to 11 pm in the gallery next to the film center.

Sketch by Number presents its holiday show -- The Eight Reindeer Monologues -- at 7:30 pm, Dec 9, 10 and 11 at the Green Room at South Campus Gateway. The "wickedly funny" show, by Jeff Goode, focuses on the viewpoint of the eight tiny reindeer when something isn't right at the North Pole. Tickets are $10. Email for reservations.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

First Grade Students Embrace Shakespeare

Walk down the hallway of one urban elementary school in Columbus OH, and on one side you see typical first-grade artwork and writing samples about brown bears and red apples. The other side of the hall, however, is adorned with hand-drawn maps of Verona, Italy, and stories carefully hand-written from the viewpoint of various characters in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Inside the classroom are hand-colored portraits of William Shakespeare and wall-size excerpts from the text itself, plus huge paper castles labeled “Montague” and “Capulet.” Are these 6-year-olds at South Mifflin Stem Academy really learning Shakespeare?

Oh, yes. And they absolutely love it. Their teacher, Art Isennagle or “Mr. I” as he’s known, is one of 20 Columbus-area teachers who trained over the summer in a program at the heart of a partnership between The Ohio State University and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Spearheaded by The Arts Initiative at Ohio State, the professional development program is transforming the way children are taught and is based on the RSC’s renowned “Stand Up for Shakespeare” program, which advocates “Doing Shakespeare on Your Feet; Seeing it Live; and Starting it Earlier.”

“After going through the program with the RSC in Stratford, I have to admit I was skeptical. I could see how these techniques could work in the 5th grade, the 7th grade, high school,” he says. “But I wasn’t sure how it would work with 1st graders! These are 6 year olds just learning to read. But I am absolutely amazed with what they are doing. I feel like we’re breaking new ground here.”

Mr. I incorporates Shakespeare in many lessons. For example, students read together from a portion of Act 1 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet. In addition to improving their reading skills, this has also taught the children to learn new words and to think about what the text means – for example, they had to figure out what “neighbor stained steel” means.

Students act out sections of the text, embracing the emotions of the townspeople and relatives of Romeo and Juliet. They imagine they are citizens of Verona and have written personal narratives about what kind of shopkeeper they are – one girl, for instance, wrote, “I am the apothecary in Verona, Italy. I make medicines out of plants called herbs. I work in the market place. I have had enough of the Capulets and Montagues fighting.”

The children have had discussions about how to deal with people who are not getting along, and they’ve created Venn diagrams showing how the Capulets, Montagues and townspeople are similar and different. Next up, they would love to perform the play!

“I am amazed at how quickly the students have embraced Shakespeare,” Mr. I says. “Pretending and imagination are what let us get into it so quickly.”

One little girl in pigtails agreed. “I love pretending and I love Shakespeare! It’s so much fun!”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Next Generation of Leaders Fellows Announced

The Arts Initiative at Ohio State is pleased to announce newly named members of the Next Generation of Leaders Fellowship. The year-long fellowship is designed to identify, support and prepare the most promising next generation of leaders at local institutions of arts and culture. They got together recently for a welcome reception at the Arts Initiative space (above), where they talked with Karen Bell, associate vice president for arts outreach, and program director Christy Farnbauch, along with alums from previous years of the fellowship. New fellows include Lauren Emond, arts coordinator, City of Upper Arlington Cultural Arts; John Shaw, director of production and fabrication, COSI; Tony Pellerite, marketing coordinator, Wexner Center for the Arts; Ruby Classen, grants and services manager, GCAC; Eliza Jones, gallery director, Ohio Art League; Anna Wuerth, part C program coordinator, Columbus Aids Task Force; Joe Bishara, associate artistic director, CATCO-Phoenix Theatre; Dustin Grovemiller, donor relations manager, CAPA; Geoffrey Martin, assistant arts administrator, Columbus Cultural Arts Center; and Lisa Dent, associate curator of contemporary art, Columbus Museum of Art.

The fellowship will include nine small-group sessions with highly individualized attention to the professional development needs of the participants in the context of the multiple demands of leadership.

Notable News

The Arts Initiative space was lively last Thursday when it hosted an opening reception for the work of Tom Kelly (above). His exhibition, Elegies and Vestiges, is a show about fragments, drawn from literary sources and through the use of found objects. Kelly is a self-taught mixed-media visual artist, who cites lyric writing, mythology and storytelling of ancient and contemporary sources as inspirations for his work. His show continues through November.

The same evening, the Ohio Art League hosted an opening reception for Industrial Lichen, work by Michelle Stitzlein (below), while the Shoebox gallery spotlighted new works by Stephanie Livingston in her show, Plush Apocalypse.

Coming up -- the 6th annual Craftin' Outlaws craft fair will be held at the Gateway Film Center on Saturday, Oct 16, 10 am to 5 pm. Vendors include 50 of the area's top crafters, artists and designers. Activities include screen printing, pumpkin carving / decorating, and candle-making.

October is National Arts and Humanities Month! If you're looking for some ideas on how to celebrate the arts, check out the website here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Arts in the Alley Hosts Oct 7 Events

Arts in the Alley -- the arts and entertainment district in the alley at South Campus Gateway near the Ohio State campus (High Street at 10th) -- will come alive on Thursday, October 7, from 6 to 9 pm with three gallery openings, live music and a special film offering. The galleries will host free opening receptions for:

Elegies and Vestiges, mixed media paintings (above) by Tom Kelly, in the Arts Initiative space (1568 N High St). The show is a collection of the artist's work that highlights his use of fragments drawn from physical and literary sources. Elegies is a collection of paintings inspired by the surviving work of the ancient Greek lyric poet Sappho. Vestiges is a collection of Kelly's paintings using found objects as well as literary and historical sources. The show continues through November.

Industrial Lichen, work by Michelle Stitzlein, in the Ohio Art League Gallery (1552 N High St). The exhibition is a series of wall-hung sculptures inspired by botanical imagery and created with recycled materials. It continues through October.

The Plush Apocalypse, new works by Stephanie Livingston, in the Shoebox Gallery (1570 N High St), presented by ARTillery. The show continues through the month.

During the evening, there also will be refreshments in the galleries and live music outdoors in the alley. And the Gateway Film Center presents the Columbus premiere of the HP Mendoza comedy Fruit Fly, presented by the film center and Stonewall Columbus. It starts at 8 pm.

Notable News

The Arts Initiative's website is "new and improved" and has a host of information about our endeavors, from the Royal Shakespeare Company partnership and next summer's Scarlet and Gray Shakespeare (below) to details about our emerging artist programs and fellowships. Click here to check it out.

Sketch by Number, Arts in the Alley's award-winning sketch comedy troupe, presents The Monster Halloween Show Spectacular, with comedy and live music this month. Shows are $5 in the Green Room, 10th and High St in the alley at South Campus Gateway. On Friday, Oct 22, there's a 7 pm preview and a 9 pm show, with music by Cap City Pocket. Saturday, Oct 23, includes a show at 9 pm with music by Zak Houston. And Friday, Oct 29, has two shows at 9 and 11 pm and music by Tempted. Check it out!

Special student discount tickets are available to the Thurs, Oct 7, Condom Couture Event at BoMA, 583 E Broad St. There are SRO tickets available for any college or university student for $25; doors open at 7 pm and the runway show begins at 7:30. The popular event features runway fashions using condoms, designed by CCAD students. Proceeds benefit Planned Parenthood. Call 614-358-8730 to purchase a ticket.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Arts in the Alley Celebrates Students

To celebrate the return of Ohio State's student population, Arts in the Alley -- the arts and entertainment district at South Campus Gateway -- has a whole evening of fun planned. On Tuesday, Sept 21, the alley will be hopping with special activities from 5 to 9 pm. The alley itself will host a lively art fair, with local artists selling their works and live music provided by several bands. The Gateway Film Center will be closed for regular business that evening and open to incoming students only for a night of free movies and concessions. Movie showtimes are 4:30, 7 and 9:30 pm. In between shows, students can catch some comedy when Sketch by Number (above) offers full-length shows at 7:30 and 10 pm in the Green Room in the alley. And...don't be surprised if the sketch comics pop up in unexpected places in the alley throughout the evening!

The three galleries in the alley will host receptions for current shows. In the Arts Initiative space, Spencer Mustine and Nick Stull (below) showcase their work in HumanScapes: A Sense of Place. The Ohio Art League has a reception for What Would JOAN Do, works by Cyndi Bellerose-McAfee. And the Shoebox gallery hosts a closing reception spotlighting the Couchfire Collective.

Notable News

On Saturday, Sept 25, the Shoebox gallery hosts the opening reception 5-9 pm for the Very Exquisite Corpse show, a "progressive art" exhibition where works were created sequentially by several artists. The event is being presented by ARTillery Ohio and Artmobile as a fundraiser for several arts advocacy groups and Artmobile.

Also on Saturday, Sept 25, the Black Box Theatre in the Gateway Film Center will be the site of the Not Painful Film Festival, a celebration of short experimental films and sound pieces. It begins at 8 pm; admission is free but space is limited.

Mark your calendars for Thursday, Oct 7 for another "First Thursday" in Arts in the Alley. The Shoebox gallery, Arts Initiative space and Ohio Art League will all host opening receptions for new shows. Stay tuned for more details!

Spaces are still available to attend the 10th triennial Festival of Cartoon Art at Ohio State Oct 14-17. The festival will feature presentations by acclaimed cartoonists including Steve Breen, Roz Chast, Tony Cochran, Jan Eliot, Dave Kellett, Dan Piraro, Jen Sorenson, Paul Levitz and more. For information, click here.