A New Approach to Modern Theatre

A New Approach to Modern Theatre

A New Approach to Modern Theatre
Dr. Bethany Larson and Cara Gerlock.

A new approach to acting and directing in modern theatre will be the focus of a Buena Vista University January interim course — "Viewpoints as a Means to Making Meaningful Theatre."

"This class is unique for a January course because it blends the expectations and advantages of a travel course with those of an on-campus artist residency," says Dr. Bethany Larson, associate professor of theatre. "We spend two weeks on campus learning about the Viewpoints directorial approach developed by Ann Bogart, and applying it to the creation of a play, Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker, which is the ‘lab.’ We then travel to the Region V American College Theatre Festival (ACTF) in Lincoln, Neb., where the students will lead a workshop about Viewpoints and become immersed in all aspects of theatre."

On their trip, the class will see Memphis, the Musical in Omaha and The Book of Mormon in Des Moines. Then they return to BVU for the spring semester and will perform the play in February on campus and at the Spencer Community Theatre (SCT). The SCT performance will be a benefit for both SCT and BVU Theatre with part of the proceeds going to a fund that supports BVU theatre student internships and travel for special development opportunities.

Cara Gerlock, the former artistic director at SCT and an award-winning theatre professional, will direct the play and co-teach the course with Larson. Gerlock and Larson have been friends and colleagues for several years.

The play — winner of the 2010 Obie Award for Best New American Play — is set in a small town where an unlikely assortment of strangers sign up for a creative drama class and the seemingly silly acting games end up generating real-life drama.

The play features an ensemble of five actors, but everyone in the class will have some responsibility in the production. Larson will play the lead role of "Marty," who teaches the drama class, and Justin Isbell, a BVU media support specialist, will play her husband, "James."

Others in the ensemble are:

  • Hannah Anderson, a junior theatre management major from Boone who plays the role of "Teresa"
  • Sahara Scott, a senior theatre major from St. Louis, Mo., who plays "Laura" 
  • Jarrod Roth, a senior English education major from Ethan, S.D., who plays "Schultz"

"Cara is a highly talented, creative and expert director, and has had a lot of experience with the ACTF, which I know will really benefit our students." says Larson. "Seeing the many ways that theatre professionals work is really important to students’ growth. Students have to find their own way of working as an actor, director or designer, and the more experiences they have the more likely they will navigate a path to their own way of working."

"In this course, students will be learning a technique that has garnered a great deal of attention in the theatre world in the past decade," says Gerlock. "Having knowledge of Viewpoints will give an actor another tool to create interesting, real, three-dimensional characters and to understand a language that directors are using more and more." At the ACTF, she says students will benefit from seeing full-length productions that are selected from "the best of the best," as well as watching acting competitions and attending workshops. Students can also make networking connections at the festival which can be invaluable when they begin looking for jobs.

The performances on the BVU campus will be Feb. 6-9, starting at 8 p.m. in Anderson Auditorium. Dates for the SCT performances are pending.