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New program offers immersive theater experience in New York City

Posted By Claudia Vaughan | Contributing Writer On January 17, 2013 @ 12:00 am In Scene | No Comments

[1]Wash. U.’s Performing Arts Department is proud to present its new program held at the Primary Stages Theater in New York City. Performing Arts Department playwright-in-residence Carter Lewis says that the program has been in the works for the past year, but now it is finally ready for student enrollment. It offers courses that extend far beyond Wash. U.’s offered playwriting courses and is meant to introduce students to a true theater environment in one of New York City’s most prestigious theaters.

The only prerequisite for the program is Introduction to Playwriting, after which students can apply to spend either their fall or spring semester working at the off-Broadway home of the Einhorn School of Performing Arts, a school with departments in playwriting, acting and directing. The program offers two different tracks from which students can choose—Playwriting or Theater Arts Studies. All students will take the same four core courses, while the fifth course depends on which track the student has selected: playwrights will participate in a “First Draft Lab” while those in Theater Arts Studies will participate in a “Theater Arts Lab.” Lewis explained that the program will be like “a Whitman’s Sampler of theater.”

Students in the program will meet theater professionals who both teach students and work for Primary Stages, and they will have a more hands-on experience with theater than could be gained on campus.

“It’s going to be a lot of new information; there’s not going to be a lot of overlap from any programs here,” junior and drama aficionado Kate Drummond praised.

“The greatest value of this program is being there,” Lewis said. “New York City is a huge theatrical hub.”

This access to world-class theater is emphasized as participants will attend plays, operas, first draft readings of plays and discussions with the artists afterward.

“The connections are invaluable,” Lewis said. “All of the people you meet are New York success stories.”

Participants will be housed in the New Yorker Hotel in midtown Manhattan, a mere four blocks from Primary Stages and within walking distance of the Theatre District. This location and the 14 weeks that students will spend working in the intensive program add to the program’s total immersion into the world of theater.

While applicants to the program need not be theater majors—the program’s brochure solicits those majoring “in anything from creative writing or journalism to theater or English”—they should have sufficient interest in studying theater and playwriting.

“The Primary Stages semester in New York would be a terrific opportunity for our playwriting and theater students to dip a toe in the professional world,” Lewis said. “It will provide them with not only an opportunity to continue their theatrical education, but it will also provide them future theatrical contacts, a clear view of the profession and even perhaps a body of professional work that will be invaluable upon graduation.”

“To be able to make meaningful and important connections through school is incredible,” Drummond said, “and to be able to do it as part of your tuition is even better.”

Still, upperclassmen like Drummond may have missed out on their opportunity to participate in the program since their senior-year schedules are likely already planned and don’t allow room for studying abroad. But Drummond suggested that an addition to the program, whereby “first- and second-year Wash. U. alums would be able to do it,” would “lend itself really well to someone fresh out of college trying to get an associated career…If they did open it to alumni or grad students, I would apply in a heartbeat because I’d really like to go.”

The Performing Arts Department will soon decide the number of students it will select to travel to New York City each semester. The arrival and departure dates of the program will also be announced soon. If you have an interest in the program or would like more information about it, feel free to contact Lewis. For more information about the Primary Stages Theater, visit primarystages.org.

With additional reporting by Zach Kram.


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