Good afternoon! I hope everyone is enjoying the first full day of the 2019 Blackfriars Conference! My name is Amy Ippolito and today I will be writing about the first Colloquy Session featuring the Chair: Rhonda Knight and the Presenters: Kristen Wimberg, Bernard Dobski, Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy, Jennifer Black, Edith Frampton, Stephanie Howieson, Molly Barger and Dustin Gish. This session will be focusing on Leadership Pedagogy and Early Modern Drama.

Starting off with Molly Barger who teaches middle school at Fayetteville Academy focusing on the mechanical scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream showing the difference between her college prep English class verses her honors English class. Barger found that her honor students were more focused on getting the lines “correct” and that her college prep students were more focused on the creative side of performance. She showed this through videos of her students rehearsals as well as a hilarious blooper reel that had all in attendance laughing along with the students. Barger able “to give [her] students the language and position to become leaders in the classroom” through the mechanical scene as she stated in her bio that was handed out to all in attendance, as well as being able to give the “shy and quiet kids” a safe and encouraging way to find their voice through performance. And what a great way to do that through those lovable hilarious mechanicals!

Next we had a presentation by Edith Frampton from San Diego State University. She told her class to focus on “Shakespeare’s Worst Ruler – Richard III” (as Frampton said). Focusing on this idea, her students worked on staging a 30-minute production to its fullest extent with props, costumes, etc. This allowed Frampton’s students to take on multiple roles and find a sense of true ownership and leadership of their work, which wasn’t her intent, but became unavoidable when working on theater.

Rhonda Knight then took the time to ask the participants to reflect on what happens with leadership and what you gain while doing not just the final product, in regards to putting on a show. Knight talked about her class and how her students have had no trouble calling each other out when evaluating each other. Her comment was picked up by another presenter who said that as her students review more performances, they have become harsher critics. They found that when you do it yourself, your view changes.

Kristen Wimberg began to then talk about her students and their level of comfort in the classroom instead of whether they are quiet or not, in regards to leadership. She then went on to find that her students who were quiet made the greatest directors, dramaturgs and supporters. Molly Barger then commented on the fact that she found that her college prep students who were extremely talkative helped the quieter students in the room, and could be a great support for those students who have that stage fright, whereas her honors classes were so stressed out about their grades they couldn’t even focus on playing — or the fun of putting on a performance. Jennifer Black found that she had to do a lot of undoing the “right way” to perform Shakespeare and have her students be a real human and how her students stressed about “getting it right”. Which then led the participants to have a discussion about casting students in roles that are against their type and how that helps to grow leadership and comfort levels — but then also finding the balance of casting in types to give those students with severe stage fright the chance to grow, as well. Overall, we want to help those students find similarities in their characters and in the text in order to help grow their leadership and overcome their stage fright — whether that be students who do not like their roles or are cast against their type and not know how to move forward.

Moving on with the last half hour of the session the participants were then able to ask each other questions to each other, which then was opened to the people who were here in attendance. Many participants talked about how to help students overcome stage fright (or who is performing first) by taking the ownership as a teacher to also do the work with them. Possible ways to do this include  having a student direct them to help them articulate their vision, or perhaps performing a sonnet or speech as a leader themselves to go first and perform. A whirlwind of discussions and questions about each other’s papers led to the question of how to get students who feel so overwhelmed and stressed about grades to use the playfulness of producing a show to alleviate that fear, and to accept the unavoidable leadership roles inherent in building both a show and a sense of community.

And in the blink of an eye it is 4pm and we are on to the next session!