The Network of Ensemble Theaters (NET), in association with Columbia College of Chicago and the League of Chicago Theatres, presented the second event in our multi-year series of national symposia that brings together ensemble artists, practitioners, and educators. This event is livestreamed from Chicago, Illinois on the global, commons-based peer-produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on 20-22 May. In Twitter, use #howlround and follow @NETEnsembles.
This weekend’s programming has been curated for viewing through six core thematic lenses: 1) art + university + community; 2) navigating the academy/industry relationship; 3) movement + physical theatre approaches; 4) cultural pluralism, equity, diversity, and inclusion; 5) technology + innovation; and 6) place.
With growing interest in ensemble scholarship and pedagogy, and an increase in ensemble artists entering academia, today’s “next generation” artists benefit from earlier, more visible, and more frequent access and exposure to ensemble-based training. These opportunities are now offered through numerous universities, colleges, and community youth organizations (as well as directly through professional ensemble companies themselves).
FRIDAY 20 MAY
Digital Archives & Online Resources: Tools for Teaching and Research on Ensembles Pre-conference Panel
10—11:30 a.m. EDT (New York)/9—10:30 a.m. CDT (Chicago)/7—8:30 a.m. PDT (Los Angeles)
10—11:30 a.m. EDT (New York)/9—10:30 a.m. CDT (Chicago)/7—8:30 a.m. PDT (Los Angeles)
(Right to Left): Monique Courcy, Facilitator, OntheBoards.tv; Digital Media Manager, On the Boards
Adewunmi Oke, Fellow, HowlRound
Ruth Wikler-Luker, Curator & Producer, Boom Arts
Jorge A. Vargas, Co-Director, Teatro Línea de Sombra
Adam Soch, Filmmaker, Archivist
A conversation about documentation, archival strategies, and online resources. How is (and isn't) performance being conceptualized, produced, contextualized, and distributed across a range of platforms and media. What is the value for artists, educators, communities, and presenting organizations? Representatives from OntheBoards.tv, HowlRound, and BoomArts, as well as theatremakers from Teatro Linea de Sombra and filmmaker/archivist Adam Soch will demonstrate and discuss approaches, resources currently available, and possibilities.
Exploring Ensemble Training and Practice: Chicago + You Opening Plenary
3 p.m.—4:45 p.m. EDT (New York) /2 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. CDT (Chicago)/12 p.m.—1:45 p.m. PDT (Los Angeles)
Deb Clapp, Member, NET Board of Trustees, Executive Director, League of Chicago Theatres. John C. Green, The Allen and Lynn Turner Theatre Chair, Theatre Department, Columbia College Chicago
Alisha Tonsic, Executive Director, NET
Michael Rohd, Member, NET Board of Trustees; Founding Artistic Director, Sojourn Theatre
Luis Crespo, Collaboraction Theatre
Christine Dunford, University of Illinois Chicago
Anne Libera, Director of Comedy at Second City/Columbia College Chicago
Sandra Marquez, Teatro Vista, Steppenwolf Theatre, Northwestern University
Coya Paz, DePaul University, Free Street Theatre
Brian Shaw, Columbia College Chicago
Nikki Zaleski, FYI Theater Company/Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health
Local ensemble artists, educators, and practitioners help to root the next few days of conversation and exploration in the specifics of this vibrant, theatrically rich community. What does ensemble mean in Chicago? What should we know about how ensemble training and practice happen here, in this time, in this place? After hearing our lead local respondents’ multiple perspectives, we’ll open it up to the full room. Grab the floor and respond to what you’ve just heard, or share your own thoughts on the core elements of ensemble and ensemble practice... in 60 seconds or less!
The Narrative Body: Movement Explorations in the Cinematic Medium
5:15 p.m.—6:45 p.m. EDT (New York)/4:15 p.m.—5:45 p.m. (Chicago)/2:15 p.m.—3:45 p.m. PDT (Los Angeles)
Presenter: Karla Beltchenko, Artistic Partner, Chicago Moving Company
This session focuses on the expressive and affective qualities that can be viewed through the human and cinematic body, and responses that can be felt through the act of spectating. We will discuss how movement-based artists can utilize choreographic knowledge to create a digital canvas, how this canvas can be manipulated through rhythmically focused editing interventions, and how one can navigate the collaboration between movement creation within dance and cinematic forms. Comparisons will be drawn between cinema and movement, specifically as related to the choreological frameworks of relationships, proximity, and timing.
SATURDAY 21 MAY
Teatro Luna & Generation Sex: The Impact of Academic & Community Collaborations on Ensemble Development
1:45 p.m.—3:15 p.m. EDT (New York) /12:45 p.m.—2:15 p.m. CDT (Chicago) /10:45 a.m.—12:15 p.m. PDT (Los Angeles)
Presenters: Arielle Julia Brown, MFA Candidate in Public Humanities/Graduate Fellow, Artistic Associate, Teatro Luna
Melissa Huerta, Assistant Professor of Spanish, Denison University; Ensemble Member, Teatro Luna
Alexandra Meda, Artistic Director/Ensemble Member, Teatro Luna
Elizabeth Nungaray, Ensemble Member, Teatro Luna
Maya Malan Gonzalez, Ensemble Member, Teatro Luna
Members of Teatro Luna share a case-study of the company's recent original devised production, Generation Sex, which was intentionally developed on the road and with multiple university partners. Sharing the challenges and successes of this national experiment, Luna asks participants to explore the following questions: Is the notion of ensemble inherently exclusive? Can you build ensemble in a national sense, in multiple sites with a variety of entry points for artists? Can it be sustainable over time? Will it mean “equitable access” for all? The session culminates with an interactive peer-coaching session on scaling-up artistic and producing ideas that participants have for their own companies/careers, using local, regional, national, and international perspectives.
Can We, Without Speaking, Speak to Everyone?
3:30 p.m.—5 p.m. EDT (New York) /2:30 p.m.—4 p.m. CDT (Chicago) /11:30 a.m.—1 p.m. PDT(Los Angeles)
Presenters: Lauren Fisher, Co-Founder & Member, Silent Theatre
Jeff Ginsberg, Associate Professor, Coordinator of the Acting Program, Columbia College Chicago; Board Member, Silent Theatre
Curtis Jackson, Adjunct Faculty, Columbia College Chicago; Co-Founder, Silent Theatre
Tonika Todorova, Co-Founder & Artistic Director, Silent Theatre
Isaiah Robinson, Musical Director, Silent Theatre
A smile is a smile in any language. A broken heart: a universal human condition. In a world of instant communication, advanced technologies, and inundating distractions, we often find ourselves disconnected and misunderstood. Silent Theatre has been actively devising physical theatre performance for the last decade; birthed from their shared student experience at Columbia College Chicago, the ensemble has returned to their alma mater to collaborate on LULU: a live silver screen experience. Through a video montage, performance of excerpted work (devised by Silent Theatre ensemble members and current Columbia College Chicago students), and curated panel, the ensemble will share the discoveries and revelations in their journeys as ensemble-based artists and their evolution as individuals, and how silence has been the best tool for listening to one another. The session will end with a discussion of how academic-born ensembles can find their niche and give back to their communities.
Call & Response: Experiments in Joy at Antioch College
5:15 p.m.—6:45 p.m. EDT (New York)/4:15 p.m.—5:45 p.m. CDT (Chicago)/ 2:15 p.m.—3:45 p.m. PDT (Los Angeles)
Presenters: Gabrielle Civil, Associate Professor of Performance, Antioch College
Nick Daily, Assistant Dean, Office of Black Student Affairs, Claremont University Consortium; former Residence Life Coordinator, Antioch College
Duriel E. Harris, Associate Professor of Creative Writing, Illinois State University
Rosamond S. King, Associate Professor of English, Brooklyn College
Miré Regulus, Independent Black Feminist Artist & Performer
This dynamic roundtable will focus on “Call & Response,” a historic convening of black women and performance at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. With different relationships to the words “black,” “women,” and “performance,” Call & Response artists formed an ensemble, called for “Experiments in Joy,” and offered responses to the Call. Ensemble members and a university administrator will discuss the “Call & Response” symposium’s process, outcomes, and impact. Remarks, video, images, and readings will be interspersed with brief live performances, audience exercises, and discussion.
SUNDAY 22 MAY
Through the Lookingglass: Developing New Ensemble Work Within an Academic Setting
11:30 a.m.—1 p.m. EDT (New York)/10:30 a.m.—12 p.m. CDT (Chicago)/8:30 a.m.—10 a.m. PDT (Los Angeles)
Presenter: David Kersnar, Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, Lake Forest College, University of Illinois Chicago, and Roosevelt University; Founding Ensemble Member, Lookingglass Theatre
David Kersnar of Lookingglass Theatre will chronicle and discuss his recent production of 20K Leagues Under the Sea at Lake Forest College as a developmental presentation for a proposed professional production at Lookingglass Theatre Company. Lookingglass has a long tradition of developing work in an academic environment for an eventual professional production. Success of ensemble techniques, text revisions, and tested spectacle technology will be scrutinized. How does this process serve both the professional company and participants at the college?
Rivendell Theatre’s Women at War: An Ensemble-University-Community Collaboration (archival video coming soon!)
2—3:30 p.m. EDT (New York)/1—2:30 p.m. CDT (Chicago)/11 a.m.—12:30 p.m. PDT (Los Angeles)
Presenters: Rengin Altay, Ensemble, Women at War
Megan Carney, Writer/Co-Creator, Women at War; Director of Gender & Sexuality Center, University of Illinois Chicago
Danielle Davis, Ensemble, Women at War
Susan Gaspar, Ensemble, Women at War
Meg Harkins, Ensemble, Women at War
Cynthia Hines, Veteran; Ensemble, Women at War
Tara Mallen, Director/Co-Creator, Women at War; Artistic Director, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
Krystel McNeil, Ensemble, Women at War
Paula Ramirez, Ensemble, Women at War
Meosha Thomas, Storyteller, Women at War; Veteran; Founder, One Savvy Veteran; Board Member, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
Women at War, an original performance and civic engagement project, was created through partnerships between Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, veteran-serving organizations, and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). The script is woven from story circles, interviews, and additional research to illuminate the lives of women who have deployed in recent combat and begun to re-enter civilian life. With veteran coaches in the rehearsal room, the play was staged with military choreography. This session combines excerpts of the performance with the original cast, a presentation on the development process, and a town hall discussion with veterans and actors.
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