A Day in the Life of a Student Matinee
Education Fellow Ashley Alter chronicles a student matinee performance of Macbeth
At 8:45am I entered at the Broad and Spruce Street entrance, meeting my caffeine-fortified co-workers who have arrived early to help greet our student patrons. It’s all hands on deck for the student matinees – including those in the offices, cast, and crew. Soon Javier, the sweet and sassy House Manager, throws open the doors, turns up the lobby lights, and the music on; the theater, inside and out, is transformed into show mode. Pavel Fajt’s contemporary drum and synthesized creations waft down the block, energizing passersby for the Wilma’s thrilling production of Macbeth.
So far, our Group Sales Manager Julie Cassidy has scheduled over 3,400 students, most of whom have attended one of our seven student matinees. Macbeth explodes our previous records, serving more students than our past two seasons (eight shows) combined! Education Director Anne Holmes and I have been training and arranging Teaching Artists and actors from the show to visit schools throughout Philadelphia and surrounding suburbs and lead high school and college students in pre and post show discussions. These workshops aim to empower students with a sense of ownership over certain characters, plot points, and language found in the play; generate interest in Macbeth by getting students to weigh in with their own opinions on some of the more charged themes in the play; prompt students to consider how some of the themes and plot points might be tackled in a live theater production (as opposed to say a film which is often their only point of reference); and introduce them to their role as an audience member. Teaching Artists guide the students to make personal discoveries about the work by utilizing some of the same exercises in which the actors themselves participated during the rehearsal process. Text Coach Andrew Wade of the Royal Shakespeare Company, for instance, shared some incredibly interesting exercises geared toward getting the text into your body and exploring possibility and nuance in Shakespeare’s words.
Today, as nearly 300 students gasp at the show’s first black out and marvel as the three Weird Sisters repel off walls and into their imaginations, the staff confidently looks on the newest generation of theater-goers.
A MESSAGE FROM ARTISTIC DIRECTOR BLANKA ZIZKA:
Every morning this week, starting at 10:00 AM, we have performed Macbeth for high school students. The theater has been packed by young people riveted by close to three hours of a Shakespeare play written in 1604. In the post-performance discussions students tell us they find the performance relevant, modern, and easy to understand. They can relate to it. They very much appreciate the modern clothing; they love the witches, the banquet scene with apparitions, and the fight. I think the music, the rhythms, the rhyme, and the sense of danger, keeps them concentrated. Our actors love to perform for students—they can feel their energy and they respond to it with their performances... I want to acknowledge the incredible work of our educational staff led by Anne Holmes, who organized not only the school performances, but also scheduled visits of teaching artists and our actors to schools ahead of time to prepare the students for the experience at The Wilma.