Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What is the BTW? (Barksdale Theatre Workshop)

Posted by Bruce Miller
A respondent to the previous post about TenSpot tickets made a good comment. "Hi. I'm confused. I understand the high school ticket rate; that's great. But what is the Barksdale Theatre Workshop? Is it really some type of free workshop for high school students?? Thank you."

Great question. I'm posting the answer here rather than in the comment section so that it can be seen by more people.

The BTW (Barksdale Theatre Workshop) is our outreach program designed to improve our service to high school students who love theatre. Through the BTW, we create opportunities for young actors, directors and designers to become more interested in and more connected with Barksdale Theatre.

The word “workshop” has two definitions. Quoting Merriam-Webster, a workshop is:
· “a small establishment where manufacturing or handicrafts are carried on, and
· a usually brief intensive educational program for a relatively small group of people that focuses especially on techniques and skills in a particular field.”
To help us create the BTW, we turned to our best resource, the talented and committed high school teachers who direct the drama programs in schools throughout our community. In the fall of 2005, we invited these drama teachers to Barksdale Theatre at Willow Lawn to discuss what Barksdale should be doing to serve their programs and their students. They identified five areas where we could have a positive and much needed impact. These five areas are the five components of the BTW.

In priority order, the recommendations of the teachers were:

1. Stage a summer production in which our community’s best high school theatre students could perform with Richmond’s major professional theatre. The program should be open to high school actors from all programs and backgrounds. Students should be able to audition for and participate in the program without charge. Rehearsals should be at night so that those students who needed to hold down summer jobs could participate. No other program, at that time, was filling that need. In partnership with The Steward School, we filled it, with Grease in 2006 and Disney’s High School Musical in 2007 (pictured throughout this article).

2. Create a discount program that allows high school students to come to plays at Barksdale Theatre for $10 each. The BTW TenSpot program now fills this need.

3. Create an externship that allows students interested in the performing arts to meet in a small group with our community’s top theatre, music and dance professionals in an after-school program for academic credit, learning firsthand about careers in the performing arts. In partnership with the CenterStage Foundation we have created and now operate the SOAR program (Student Opportunities in the ARts) to fill this need.

4. Expand our website to create a place where high school students can post information about the productions they’re working on and share their theatre interest with other high school drama enthusiasts—a community-wide high school theatre bulletin board. If you go to the Students section on the Barksdale website, you’ll find the pages where we’re filling that need. We’ve also created an interactive FaceBook page that hundreds of high school drama students access and contribute to each week.

5. Create Master Classes led by Greater Richmond’s best actors, directors, designers etc. and make those classes available on tour to individual drama classrooms in Greater Richmond's high schools. Also, conduct Master Classes in our theatre facilities so that students can access them on their own. We’re planning for our Master Class program to be in place by the beginning of the 2008-09 school year. The Master Classes will be unique, not duplicative of other programs currently existing in the community, such as (in alpha order) Christian Youth Theatre, HATTheatre and/or SPARC—all of which we support.

If you or someone you know is a high school theatre lover, we hope you’ll make sure they know about the BTW (Barksdale Theatre Workshop). For more information, they can email or call Chase Kniffen, 783-1688 ext. 14.

--Bruce Miller

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