Today I write with the smells of Axe Body Spray and assorted fruity/floral concoctions still lingering in my mind and in my luggage. Last week, I spent five days at Gould Academy, in Bethel, Maine, teaching as part of their Sophomore Four Point program. This is an intensive mid-term week during which the sophomores work with professional artists, learning about their crafts, watching presentations, and building their own original art pieces. (The other classes at Gould do equally cool things off-campus during the Four Point program: the freshman go to China; the juniors go winter camping–heavy duty that far north!; and the seniors pursue individual internship experiences.)
When the Sophomore Four Point program was started, all the artists involved were painters or sculptors of some sort. But they have since added theatre and cooking to the schedule. New Hampshire Theatre Project sends one of their teaching artists to Gould every year, and this time around I was honored to represent NHTP. There were seven artists in residence for the week, and each student worked with two of them, for two days each. From my perspective, I spent two days with a group of seven kids, and then two days with a group of six. On the third evening, I presented my Mask work to the students, faculty, and staff. (Which was followed by a demonstration from the visiting chef on how to bone a chicken. A fitting combination of wackiness, I thought!) And on the final evening, at a banquet where the art work was displayed all around the dining hall, the acting students and I presented a show that featured improv games, clowns and mask characters. I was incredibly proud of the students’ work–they each spent nine hours over two days with a huge array of new ideas I had thrown at them. And they came up with some great characters! They were extremely nervous about sharing their “weird” work with their peers, teachers, and parents, but once the spotlight was on them, they hammed it up in fine style. Two particular standouts were a boy named Reed, who had turned a droopy-faced mask into a version of Henry Fonda’s character from On Golden Pond; and Ke, a Chinese basketball player whose clown character used the words “Whoa!” and “Oh, yeah,” to hold an entire conversation with two girls. He managed to win the hearts of both girl characters by the end of the scene, with the whole audience cheering him on.
So! My work at Gould is done! Back to the director’s chair–and I’m also beginning work as a Red Cross volunteer in the Services to the Armed Forces program this week. Stay tuned!