Stage One Profile: Ros Thomas-Clark and Victoria Marsh

Ros and Victoria, preparing for another PDA workshop.

Ros and Victoria, preparing for another PDA workshop.

Like Sonny and Cher, Abbott and Costello, and Fry and Laurie, one cannot think of a better duo within the Company One Theatre family than acting instructors Ros Thomas-Clark and Victoria Marsh. Both Ros and Victoria serve as members of C1’s Board and have been vital contributors to the growth of the company, particularly in the education department. Although fondly referred to as a twosome by many who know them, both have had incredibly diverse and rich journeys that led them to C1 and both are extremely respected and active in the theatre scene in and around Boston.

A native of England who has lived in the USA for decades, Ros’ passion centers on educational theatre as a means of social change and remembrance of history. She is a founding faculty member of the Boston Arts Academy (BAA) and strives to bring together theatre makers with varied training backgrounds, particularly the youth she works with at BAA. Ros is the Artistic Director of TC Squared, a company that embraces mentorship as vital to the development of civically engaged artists.

Victoria in class with the Fall 2015 PDA students

Victoria in class with the Fall 2015 PDA students

Equally committed to this idea is Victoria, whose passion for new play development has led to a career in theatre collaborating with playwrights and theatre companies from all over Boston. Victoria has directed 6 Company One productions, including 2 Boston premieres by Kirsten Greenidge. Victoria has served on the Company One Board since 2006.  “When Ros joined the Board, we discovered our mutual passion for working with actors.  We saw the need for a class that keeps actors on their toes when they are between gigs.  We just love to watch actors grow.”

Despite already having incredibly busy and fulfilling careers in theatre, Ros and Victoria’s dedication to artist development brought them together to lead C1’s Professional Development for Actors (PDA) program in 2009. The dynamic between the two instructors give the class an energy and pulse unlike any acting class of its kind. Actors leave the audition room that first day having forgotten their nerves because of Ros and Victoria’s critical yet kind and encouraging feedback.

“They feed off of each other’s energy, bringing so much joy and excitement for the work into the room that the other folks in a room with them can’t help but come along for the ride,” says Mark VanDerzee, C1’s Education Director who works very closely with the two.

There are many students who return to PDA precisely for this reason. There is a nurturing quality to the way Ros and Victoria run the class and yet they are large advocates of risk taking and bold decisions. Each actor is encouraged to find their autonomy and yet they are supported and guided to grow into their characters and into their craft.

“It’s good to be in a class that’s very hands on,” reflects Danny Sayson, who’s currently completing his second session in the class. “They have different views and they’re great at pointing out different ways to look at a scene.”

Like any iconic duo, it’s what differentiates Ros and Victoria that makes them memorable as individuals and it’s how they are able to seamlessly work together that makes them invaluable as teachers. “Victoria and I stay up into the wee small hours as we become more and more excited about finding strong pieces that work for each individual actor,” said Ros when asked to speak on her time with the PDA class and on her relationship with Victoria. “Our directing style is both comic and intentionally serious as we compliment each other running each Master Class.”

Comic and intentional – what a fitting way of describing not only their personalities but their teaching style as well. As teachers and as citizens, as mentors and theatre makers, Ros and Victoria will first and foremost always be friends – to their students, to C1 and to one another.

Check out the work of Ros, Victoria, and this year’s PDA students at their fall showcase, Tuesday, November 17th at the Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Black Box Theatre. RSVP online: CLICK HERE.

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C1’s Fall 2015 PDA Class, instructed by Ros and Victoria

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Final Meeting for 2014-2015 Teaching Artists

Stage One Teaching Artists take a selfie with their program director.

Stage One Teaching Artists take an end-of-year selfie with their program director.

The Teaching Artists at Company One are the driving force behind our Stage One In-School teaching residencies. You may recognize them from appearances in C1 shows like SHOCKHEADED PETER, DISPLACED HINDU GODS TRILOGY, SPLENDOR, and HOW WE GOT ON, but they’ve spent the entire school year representing C1 and bringing their skills, talent, and artistic leadership to elementary, middle, and high school students all over Boston. Stage One theatre classes cover units like improvisation, playwriting, and social justice, and provide students with the foundational experience of working towards common artistic goals with their peers and using theatre as a tool to explore, represent, and articulate the values of their community. At our last program meeting, the Education staff and Teaching Artists shared some of their most memorable in-school moments and discussed their end-of-year plans for Stage One students. Keep an eye out for future posts of student work, feedback about their experience, and photos from final performances and showcases.

Building Theatrical, Student-Driven Responses to National Events: Part 2

USA Students - Stage One Class 3In Part 1 of this Stage One Blog Post about the February 2015 Urban Science Academy (USA) theatre showcase, Stage One Teaching Artist, James Milord, introduced his high school theatre students to the foundational elements of improvisation, character development, and storytelling. The first quarter of the 2014-2015 school year ended with a showcase at a school-wide assembly of student-written scenes and monologues based on personal experiences. The second quarter began with an intentional look forward towards Black History Month. Class continued in November with plans to read and stage The Good Negro—Tracey Scott Wilson’s 2009 historical fiction play about the personal lives of civil rights leaders in 1960’s Alabama. Milord performed as a cast member in Company One Theatre’s 2010 production, which provided him with an intimate knowledge of the play’s structure and themes, and the ability to pass on this knowledge to his students.

BlackLivesMatter BostonOccurring simultaneously were the developments surrounding the non-indictment decisions for officers involved in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the hundreds of “Hands up, Don’t Shoot/I Can’t Breathe” demonstrations around the world. Milord decided to open up his classroom for the group to speak to each other about how these events impacted their lives as students, artists, and citizens. Milord was initially struck by how passionate and, at times, polarizing the students’ reactions were to these events. The group was notably transparent about what was happening culturally in the world and around them. Milord attributed the students’ progressive dialogue to the safe, liberating environment of his classroom, which functioned more as a theatre ensemble than a traditional academic class.

USA Students - Stage One Class 1The Good Negro was put aside, and the group discussed the meaning behind everyday actions of individuals in the face of adversity. The students’ understanding and appreciation of historic civil rights leaders was strong, but their disconnect with history and frustration with current events contributed to the sentiment that as minority students they were unable to create the change they wanted to see in their communities. Milord guided the students into a discussion about the qualities of leadership that are required to create change. What made the Black Civil Rights leaders successful? What held them back? What faults or frailties did they overcome? What choices did they make that we perceive as the right or wrong decisions?

USA Students - Stage One Class 2The class narrowed their focus and began research on four central figures of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement: Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party, and Bayard Rustin. Students would utilize their collective artistic license to build a scene about each figure, based on a combination of factual evidence and their own fictional embellishments, in order create a portrait of well-developed characters and dramatic narrative arc. Milord encouraged his students to collect research from a diversity of resources, including teachers, family, and community members who could share their personal stories and connections with historical events. After compiling their list of facts and their checking sources, the USA students began to dig deeper, take on the role of these historic figures, and improvise scenes around their personal and public lives.

Malcolm X

Malcolm X

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin

Stage One Blog Post - Black Panther

Black Panther Party

 

 

Building Theatrical, Student-Driven Responses to National Events: Part 1

Milord with Stage One Students at USA

In February 2015 a group of students at West Roxbury’s Urban Science Academy (USA) presented a showcase of student-written scenes depicting significant moments in the lives of prominent figures from the American Civil Rights Movement. This kind of production might not be unusual for an American urban high school in February, typically celebrated as Black History Month by schools, institutions, and communities across the country. What is notable about the students’ work at USA is their path to processing, creating, and writing about these events amidst the growing momentum of political and social justice movements, like #BlackLivesMatter, in response to unchecked police brutality and institutionalized racism. Many of the protests and demonstrations that occurred around the world in response to the events in Ferguson and Staten Island were lead by student groups who demanded change from the adult leaders in their community. The presentation at Urban Science Academy illustrates a positive application of theatre arts in a school environment, created by students to address the issues that impact their community.

Urban Science AcademyTheatre students at USA participate in Company One Theatre’s Stage One: In-School program (S1: In-School), which brings theatre education residences to the Boston Public Schools in order to foster young performers’ personal growth and theatrical development. In the 2014 Fall Semester, S1: In-School was coordinating residencies with over 300 elementary, middle, and high school students in six public schools. USA—a high school of roughly 470 students—was founded in 2005 with a focus on science and technology and was designed to prepare students to excel in college and their careers.

James Milord, one of S1: In-School’s Teaching Artists, had instructed theatre through S1: In-SChool at the USA during the previous 2013-2014 school year, so his knowledge of the school community and academic culture was stronger than that of a first-year teaching artist or guest instructor. The Fall 2014 theatre class was relatively small, with just eight regularly attending students, and was fairly representative of the school’s overall racial and ethnic makeup—over 90% of students identify as African American, Hispanic, Asian, Multi-Racial, or Native American.

Milord’s lessons plans for the first quarter at USA were structured around the curriculum goals adopted by all In-School Teaching Artists, which introduces theatre to students as a means towards liberated artistic expression, self-confidence, and cultural awareness. For Milord, the first few weeks of working with a new group are essential for establishing the classroom as a setting for meaningful ensemble work and allowing students to build a strong rapport based on trust and creative self-expression. After introducing the foundations of improvisation, character development, and scene creation, the first quarter for Milord’s students ended in November with a showcase of scenes and monologues, based on personal experiences and narratives. Sharing their work with the school—the first time performing for many of S1: In-School students—proved to be a unifying and positive experience for the entire group.