Drama: Staying Together Apart

Thursday, May 14, 2020
By Evan Yionoulis
Juilliard Journal
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Two actors in costume, midperformance, one of whom is sitting at a table
Emma Pfitzer Price as Aunt and Julian Robertson as Ivan Vasilievich in 'Black Snow,' Keith Reddin’s dramatization of Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel. Directed by Dustin Wills, it was one of three plays in the fourth-year actors' winter repertory cycle.

What’s going on in the Drama Division this spring? Quite a lot.

From New York, Texas, and California to South Africa, Australia, and many places in between, our students are gathering each day over Zoom for classes and rehearsals.

We’ve modified our schedule and assignments to limit screen time and maximize the opportunities Zoom offers. Though we all long for the time we will be back on 65th Street together, the work is moving forward, and we strive to keep our acting and teaching physical and embodied as we send our energy to each other through the ether.

An actor, mid-performance, leans coolly against the wall
Lucy Freyer as Rose in The Flick

We’re continuing scene study and rehearsing four plays. Since we aren’t going to be able to stage these plays in the physical world, we’re concentrating on a deep exploration of the text. But actors are also using rehearsal costumes from their closets and are on their feet in their own spaces, moving toward and away from their cameras as the characters’ circumstances prompt. Some students are using Zoom backgrounds—for instance, of Norwegian fjords while working on Ibsen.

Our third- and fourth-year students are bringing their Acting on Camera training to their work on Zoom, and everyone is getting a lot of practice in self-taping. Our graduating actors recently shared their scene presentations within the division and are planning to invite industry professionals to a live online showing soon.

Two actors in costume, midperformance. One kneels to affectionately wipe the bloody brow of the other, who is seated
Fourth-years Michael Braugher as Godfrey Crump and Mel Golliday as Lily Ann Green in Lynn Nottage’s ‘Crumbs From the Table of Joy,’ directed by Melissa Maxwell

We are also continuing our voice and speech work; there are daily movement classes and sunrise yoga three times a week; students are doing independent projects, either solo or in duets and trios, in Masks, Stage Combat, and Storytelling Theater. Our MFA seminars are also continuing in full force. The playwright fellows continue to write and meet weekly, and we’ve had two of what we call PlayTime sessions, when actors gather with the playwrights to informally read new work. We’ve also started a film society and continue to have our community meetings. Guests have included Creative Associate Colman Domingo, Michael Urie (Group 32), and Michael John Garcés, artistic director of Cornerstone Theater.

As is the case throughout the school, our students’ ability to carry on with their work is greatly affected by their living circumstances. We’re witnessing heroic resilience against the challenges of time zones, space constraints, connectivity issues, financial stresses, and, of course, health concerns (either their own or those of family members). Our faculty and staff have been flexible, creative, and compassionate problem-solvers, and, of course, are dealing with many of the same stressors as the students.

In May, we began sharing within the division some of the creative work that has resulted from our remote semester. We may not entirely be able to keep from mourning what we have missed in this time away from one another and our studios on the third floor, but we look forward to celebrating what we have been able to accomplish, the growth that has happened, and our readiness for the work that is yet to come.

Evan Yionoulis is the Richard Rodgers director of the Drama Division