Bridgeport, WV – Traditionally, teachers spend the days leading up to their students’ return to the classroom in faculty meetings, lesson preparation, and continuing education. On Friday, The Vintage Theatre Company offered some Harrison County teachers a first of its kind professional development aimed at high school theatre educators.
The training, held at Bridgeport High School and facilitated by BHS Theatre Teacher Jared St. Martin Brown, was created by The VTC Academy, the educational branch of The Vintage Theatre Company. Jason A. Young, VTC’s Founder, hosted the full day of workshops; and Dr. Francene Kirk, Julia Lee, and Michael Aulick made presentations.
“You have to give most of the credit to Heidi Griffith,” said Young. “She is the individual at the board office who recognized that theatre teachers have never really had a continuing education day.”
Once the training was scheduled, Young worked with St. Martin Brown and with input from the county’s theatre teachers to build the unique curriculum.
“Theatre teachers are expected to not only educate in a classroom setting but also provide direction and technical support to their schools’ extra-curricular stage performances,” said Young. “We wanted to make sure we were providing resources for both scenarios.”
Dr. Francene Kirk began the day with an active two-hour workshop. Kirk is a professor of communication and theatre at Fairmont State University specializing in puppetry, children’s theatre, creative drama, and theatre education. She is also the former Arts Coordinator at the West Virginia Department of Education. Her workshop, “Taking Center Stage: Creating Critically Conscious Production Oriented Classrooms”, focused on connecting the classroom work of the theatre educator to the rehearsal hall work of the theatre artist.
Then, after a brief discussion about the inner workings of rehearsal schedules for musical theatre production lead by Young, Julia Lee presented the final workshop of the morning session, “Building Public Relationships: Doing Something Good and Getting Credit for It.” Lee, a 30-year veteran of the high school theatre classroom and another former Arts Coordinator at the West Virginia Department of Education, provided examples and conversation about how to provide marketable and meaningful relationships across curriculum and within the community that can grow academic and performance possibilities.
“Our morning session was primarily focused on connecting the classroom to the school’s productions and ways that they can benefit from one another,” said Young. “The afternoon was specifically about teaching acting.”
Michael Aulick, the Director of Theatre at West Liberty University’s Department of Music and Theatre, spent the final two hours of the day discussing “Creating the Character: Finding the Internal Truth within the Fiction.” A Stanislavsky trained actor, Aulick’s workshop focused on helping students and actors explore exercises and build a process for finding the internal truth in realistic and fantastically fictional characters.
“It is always nice to work with play sponsors and directors from other schools,” said St. Martin Brown. “I attend a lot of classes and workshops for teachers provided by Thespians, and I came away from this one with great ideas and techniques that were new to me.”
According to Young, discussions have already begun for similar training to continue in Harrison County and in other places as well.
“Friday was a special opportunity for us,” said Young. “We hope the material and experience was meaningful for the educators and that we can build upon this and help more theatre educators statewide.”