Frequently Asked Questions
Will the Theater Department hold productions this year?
We are moving ahead on our projected fall season of four plays and the fall musical theater cabaret. We also expect to support senior thesis presentations for Fall 2020 grads. All public events will take place in accord with Washington State and King County guidelines, informed by science and concern for safety.
Like everyone in our art form, we are actively engaged in planning the shapes and styles that performances must take in the given circumstances in which we find ourselves. Directors are currently working with Theater and Performance Production students, staff, and faculty to explore a range of innovative ideas, including outdoor rehearsal and performance; socially distanced staging; aural, radio-style performance highlighting the emotive power of the voice; and live-stream events using Zoom and other platforms. We are considering reconfiguring our fall season into a festival to be broadcast at the end of the term, expanding the range of audience that can take in our productions.
What is the Fall 2020 Season?
The season chosen by a committee of students, faculty, and staff from Theater and Performance Production, is comprised of:
- Macbeth by William Shakespeare, directed by Sheila Daniels (bringing to fruition the process from Spring 2020)
- Stupid F***ing Bird by Aaron Posner (based on Chekhov’s The Seagull), directed by Michael Place
- You on the Moors Now by Jaclyn Backhaus, directed by Kate Myre
- The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brien, directed by Richard Gray and Claire Marx
- A cabaret of solo performances developed by Musical Theater seniors, and other events to be announced later.
The definition of “theatrical performance” is evolving and our goal is to enable our students and faculty to develop new and vital skills to grow with it. We can be fast, nimble, and inventive. We are learning from what we accomplished this past spring as well as the approaches to production explored by our peer schools and the professional theater.
The excitement in our planning sessions has been palpable, and we will reach out to share our ideas with you. Please feel free to ask more questions, and I will continue to send out our thoughts and ideas back to you.
Look for more information about schedule, auditions and venues soon.
What will classes look like in the Fall?
This fall we launch two revised model programs, in Acting/Original Works and in Musical Theater. Each features new learning opportunities, such as:
- Additional on-camera acting courses
- Stage combat classes open to students beginning in the second year
- In-depth playwriting classes
- Intensive devising classes
- New MT Acting classes such as Scene to Song I (Golden Age styles)
- Increased hours of dance and singing instruction
The new curriculum also provides more opportunities to take classes in other departments and, thus, across the visual and performing arts. You’ll see the fruits of that this fall, as Theater students take classes in Music, Performance Production and Film, and PP stage managers join Theater students in Stage Combat.
Will courses be cancelled?
All classes that were scheduled for the fall will take place: our goal is to facilitate the progress of each student on their path to graduation.
How will courses be taught safely while maintaining the integrity of the curriculum?
Cornish, like most other colleges in the state, has made a commitment to return to in-person education in some form this fall. President Raymond Tymas-Jones has established Reopening Task Forces to address all facets of this complex undertaking. The safety of students, faculty, and staff will be our first consideration in all actions that we take. We will be guided by the guidelines published by the CDC and the state of Washington.
As such, we will be employing masks and other safety procedures as mandated by those guidelines until such time as the safety of our community can be guaranteed without them. Similarly, all classes will include online components, employing new instructional technology tools to support arts education.
- In-person instruction will happen in smaller groups. The schedule of classes is being revised to allow for that, and we’re reviewing all our creative spaces to determine their most effective and safest usage. For instance, the Cornish Playhouse will be used more as a teaching space.
- Online instruction will employ a variety of streaming platforms like Zoom, GoReact, and Panopto that provide much more flexibility for student-faculty interaction. The College will offer training for faculty and students to make the best use of these platforms, which are not only teaching tools but ways to expand the very definition of making theater.
Theater thrives on relationships: the conditions of the pandemic have created obstacles to physically intimate relationships, as well as the relationship between actor and audience. None of us can predict with accuracy how long those obstacles will be in place – but as we all know, as theater artists we don’t allow the obstacles to impede our progress – we use obstacles as a spur to develop new tactics to achieve our objectives. Intimacy can be created across distance – the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet is a powerful instance of that principle in action. Distance, masks, screens – the performer’s art is about transcending barriers.
Will students have access to classrooms for rehearsals?
Campus facilities will be open with students, faculty, and staff to support our educational activities. Anyone using college spaces will need to follow established guidelines for room signup, social distancing, mask wearing, and sanitizing. Details will be forthcoming.
What kind of planning has taken place?
We have established collaborative teams to resolve questions related to teaching Physical Technique, Musical Theater, Original Works, Voice and Acting. For example:
- Vicki Watts, Chair of Dance, is part of the Physical Technique group, which allows us to strengthen ties with the Dance Department and its curriculum.
- Theater and Music have been collaborating to develop best practices for teaching and presenting musical performance. All singing classes will need to take place online until it is safe to sing in a shared space, but our faculty have experience and expertise in that arena. In June, members of the Music and Theater voice faculty joined in a workshop on singing pedagogy led by Candice Pullom.
- In addition to teaching Private Vocal Instruction, Candice is also developing our new First Year musical theater TH 155 Singing: Vocal Function course.
- In partnership with the Music Department, entering Musical Theater students will take a foundational MU 101 Musicianship course which will include an introduction to music notation software.
- For TH111 Improv & Collaboration, Sheila Daniels is looking forward to using the longer class-time to weave together pathways between mindfulness, psycho-physical expressivity and to create generative work on a bi-weekly basis. She is also excited to introduce Naomi Iizuka’s Polaroid Stories as a lens through which to approach the actor’s relationship to text, targeting and given circumstances.
- As the new teacher of TH 487 Directing, Sheila is crafting an approach to both in person and on-line modes geared towards explorations of creating dynamic relationships with actors and staging as a means to enrich subtext and metaphor.
- Ellie Rose (formerly Ellen Boyle) will share the discoveries she has made over her sabbatical last year while leading the new TH 221 Embodied Voice class. Ellie has developed successful techniques for teaching mindfulness in online as well as in-person formats, and she is also looking forward to working with students on developing dynamic vocal techniques for heightened text.
- Kate Myre (TH 321) and Robin Lynn Smith (TH 311) have partnered to develop collaborative instruction around vocal and acting approaches to poetic language, using powerful texts from a range of writers. Students will experience skill development in levels, tempos and energy, breath, melody, rhythm, and caesura.
- Kate’s plans for TH 324 Voiceover include in person and online instruction. Voiceover as an art form is well suited to hybrid learning and online practice. Students explore a variety of copy including commercial and dramatic, games, and cartoons. We will continue to work with Jack Straw Studios for recording and microphone technique.
- Michael Place’s approach to teaching Clown has been inspired by his recent training via Zoom with master clown teacher Chris Bayes.
- Stage Combat instructor Geof Alm is working with the Society of American Fight Directors to develop new ways of teaching using online resources. He has participated as a student in two international forums, and taught Unarmed, Single Sword and Quarterstaff online. SAFD has opened all 8 fighting disciplines to online teaching.
- Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako joins us to teach TH 451 Audition Techniques and co-teach TH 453 Musical Theater Audition with Rich Gray. Nako’s wide-ranging career in classical and contemporary theater, musical theater, and television enables her to knowledgeably share a significant range of professional practices, including emerging practices for online auditioning.
- Rich Gray and Claire Marx are collaborating to develop a new format for TH 438 Musical Theater Cabaret, in which they will work with each student to create their individual cabaret, building a series of songs with a clear througline. Bills of cabaret solo performances will be broadcast to a wide audience at the end of the term.
- Theater History faculty member Chris Goodson has been working with a group of teachers from all departments to re-envision the histories of the arts.
This process also involves input from the Registrar and Provost offices, Creative Spaces & Event Services (CSES), Student Life and Housing, and our Operations staff, all of whom are working to determine how best to support the health AND safety of the community.
We will keep in communication with you as well over the summer to make sure your questions and ideas are integrated into the design of the learning process, so the classes continue to provide the creative challenges and opportunities that will further your creative growth.
How will dance and movement classes operate?
Dance and movement-based classes will operate following the guidelines set out by the State of Washington. If we are still within Phase 2 of Washington’s plan for re-opening, the maximum number of people in any of our studios at any given time will be no more than 5. Students will work with the instructor in groups of four for 40 minute-blocks. This model will limit the duration of your exposure to any possible virus, allows time for cleaning the studios between classes, and will ensure that each of you gets a significant amount of personalized feedback to help you continue to progress in the development of your musical theater skills.
Due to social distancing requirements and other federal and local health and safety guidelines we have been reviewing the scheduling of technique classes in order to prepare for a safe fall. Overall, the goal is to ensure that students have access to small group technique classes, intensive faculty mentorship, and an opportunity for private practice seven days a week.
While our teachers can confidently devise ways for you to learn online, we also acknowledge that there are challenges, such as sufficient space where you live, and internet bandwidth, to expect that you can safely and effectively undertake movement and dance study in your own homes. Our goal is to ensure that all students have access to technique classes in a safe environment.
How will these changes affect the class schedule?
We continue to explore all options for scheduling classes for health and safety while maintaining the integrity of the learning experience. If sections are added or re-formatted to support safe teaching and learning, your faculty will be involved in the planning.
While final decisions about scheduling are still under review, please know that the health and well-being of the entire Cornish community – students faculty and staff – will be our first priority.
What equipment will students need to fully participate in classwork?
Each faculty member has developed a list of recommended equipment and learning conditions for their courses. Even for classes that will include in-person instruction, a laptop will be helpful. Other equipment can include a yoga mat, microphone (or cell phone mic), a ring light and headphones. We will be communicating that information in the coming weeks.
If you would like to discuss incorporating the cost of a laptop purchase into your financial aid package, please be in contact with a member of the Financial Aid team.
What actions will the department take to support inclusive teaching and learning?
We believe that the Theater Department – and the College – should reflect the world in which we live and make our art. As such, we are committed to review and change to better support an inclusive teaching and learning environment.
The Cornish Theater Department believes that Black Lives Matter. We recognize and condemn the institutional racism that is functioning in our society that continues to allow oppression and violence against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and we acknowledge that systemic change is needed and immediate action is required.
We acknowledge that the Cornish Theater Department has contributed to systemic racism, and we are determined to remedy, repair, and rebuild from our mistakes. Both the institutions of higher education and theater have historically excluded People of Color, and engage in practices that continue to promote a racist society. We can no longer tolerate this as the status quo. As faculty and staff we commit to educating ourselves, and to changing our department.
Anti-racist education must be tangible through changes in curriculum, how we teach, and how we work with and support students.
To put this into action, we commit to creating a safe learning and creative environment for BIPOC students by:
- Committing to ongoing Anti-Racist training that includes theater-specific work
- Decentering whiteness in our curriculum, our productions and our teaching materials through amplification of historically marginalized creators and scholars.
- Centering equity in all assessments of student progress
- Acting on the needs expressed by BIPOC students and colleagues.
- Identifying and addressing microaggressions by faculty and students.
- Expanding and updating the range of material used in classes in order to amplify the artistic and critical voices of BIPOC creators and scholars
- Prioritizing student engagement with BIPOC artists and educators
- Acknowledging the intersectionality of systems of bias, and committing to support and engage with LGBTQIA2S+, female, and gender non-conforming artists, educators and scholars
- Examining our past actions and committing to being transparent and public with our learning.