Frequently Asked Questions

The Metamorphosis by Lary Opitz, Spring 2009

 

What is unique about Skidmore theater?

Unlike most liberal arts theater programs, students who major in theater at Skidmore receive a bachelor of science degree. This reflects the fact that theater is a preprofessional program. Out of the 120 college credits required for graduation, theater students take a minimum of 41 credits in theater, and most students find themselves taking as many as 60. Typically, in a 120-credit bachelor of arts program students take 30–36 credits in theater, and in a bachelor of fine arts (conservatory) program, students take 90. We believe that the best possible education for a theater artist is to combine serious theater training with a rich and well-rounded liberal arts education. At Skidmore, theater majors fulfill their choices for all-college liberal arts requirements, enjoy intensive theater training, and still have room for a variety of electives. Every Friday afternoon, all theater students and faculty meet in Theater Company. In the this weekly town-hall style gathering, we present and discuss our shows, make announcements about upcoming activities, learn about professional opportunities, and tackle issues that effect our department, college, and the theater and arts community at large. Outside guests are often invited to speak at Company, and workshops are occasionally presented. The core of the Company meetings involves presentations prior to the opening of each production. Directors, designers, and actors discuss their work and their goals and sometime present short scenes. After each production closes, a critique takes place in a subsequent meeting.

What kind of productions does Skidmore theater present?

The Department of Theater produces a wide variety of events, showcasing eclectic material from all over the world and ranging in period and style from the ancient to the contemporary, from the realistic to the abstract, and from the classical to the postmodern. Our primary goal in planning our season is to offer appropriate opportunities for students to test their skills as artists and to experiment with different styles and genres.

Seminar Productions: Every semester we present two large productions, one on our 348-seat thrust stage theater and one in our flexible Black Box theater (50–120 seats). These have an academic component in which we explore the historical, political, social and economic background of the play, and a variety of guest experts from both on and off campus are invited to participate in Seminar classes. While the Black Box show is mounted in approximately six weeks, the Mainstage show goes into rehearsal at the start of the semester, allowing for a nine-week rehearsal period. This makes room for a great deal of exploration and experimentation and more closely approximates the amount of time that goes into a professional production. Our seminar productions are typically helmed by members of our faculty and certain qualified student designers, but occasionally guest artists (outside directors, actors, designers or composers) participate in these productions. Typically, the spring Black Box production is directed by one or two senior directing students.

Labs and Senior Projects: Three to five smaller productions are done each semester, usually in our Studio Theater on the second floor of our building. These are typically generated by directing students. Lab projects and senior projects are proposed in written and oral presentations and are selected by the faculty.

Both Seminar Productions and all labs hold unified auditions during the first week of classes of each semester.

Free Hour Theater: Every Friday afternoon following our Theater Company meeting, anyone with an idea can reserve an acting studio for a presentation. In the past we have had new play readings, poetry readings, sound designer/choreographer projects, puppet shows, short plays, etc.

Faculty Lab Production: At the end of each semester, a faculty member may choose to create a small production. Actors may be invited or might be asked to audition. These projects are self-contained—they are created, produced, and performed by the small company created by the faculty member with no expectations of the sort of support associated with our larger productions. These might be presented in the Black Box, or they might be site-specific.

Guest Productions: Professional guest productions are often brought to the campus and are performed in one of our theaters. Often, when producing the work of a living playwright, we have sought to bring the playwright to campus to participate in the seminar process. Recently, playwrights Caridad Svich, Tina Howe, and Mac Wellman participated.

In addition to the types of productions listed above, theater students have created and staged their own productions, such as an annual AIDS benefit performance and Vagina Monologues for V-Day.

Our Season runs from September through May, concurrent with the Skidmore College academic calendar. Every summer, SITI (Saratoga International Theatre Institute), created by Anne Bogart and Tadashi Suzuki, is in residence in the Skidmore theater for their four week training program.

Do I have to audition to be admitted to the theater program?

No.  Skidmore theater operates within the greater liberal arts setting of the college, as opposed to a conservatory training program. Students do not have to declare a major until the end of their sophomore year, and everyone is encouraged to become involved in the Theater Department, whatever they may decide to major in. All classes are open to students who have met any necessary prerequisites. Some upper-level classes may be taken only with the permission of the instructor.

Do you do musicals and train musical theater performers?

Musical productions are not regularly produced by the department, though depending on the director’s interests and the available abilities of students, we have staged some musicals and many plays that incorporate a good deal of music. Students interested in studying musical theater are encouraged to take appropriate courses in the Theater, Music, and Dance departments. Private voice lessons are available in the Music Department. Students interested in musicals also have the opportunity to participate in the Cabaret Troupe, a student-run organization that performs a musical on campus each year.

Are auditions for departmental productions open to all students?

Yes, combined auditions for the seminar and lab productions are held during the first week of each semester and are open not only to theater majors and minors, but to the entire student body and, at times, community members. First-year students are encouraged to take part in auditions. Our productions typically involve a well-balanced mix of first-year students, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Occasionally professional guest artists perform with students.

Where are audition announcements posted?

Open calls for auditions are announced through eblasts to our all-college student email directories, postings on our Facebook page, and physical posters hung throughout campus. Once the shows are cast, final cast lists are emailed to auditionees and posted on the call board near the elevator on the first floor of the JKB Theater.

What do I need to do to prepare for an audition?

Usually students are asked to prepare a two-minute contemporary monologue (either comic or dramatic) and about eight bars of a song (without accompaniment). Monologue material should be within the age range of the actor.

How does the audition process work?

There are usually two stages in the audition process—combined auditions and callbacks. Following the first stage of auditions on the first Thursday and Friday evenings of the semester, a callback list of actors under consideration will be posted in the lobby. When a student auditions, she or he is making a commitment to that production schedule in its entirety. Callbacks are usually held on either Saturday or Sunday of the first week during the day. At the end of callbacks a cast list is posted in the lobby. Actors must initial their names on the cast list to accept a role. Callbacks for the labs are posted at the same time. Lab callbacks are usually on Monday and Tuesday evening of the second week of classes.

Can I work on more than one show in one semester?

If responsibilities for each show do not conflict, yes. In fact, members of Theater Company routinely choose to work on both of the seminar productions in different capacities (such as acting in one and doing technical work on another). As long as rehearsal and performance times do not overlap, students are able to act in more than one production (for instance, the Black Box seminar and the last lab).

May I receive academic credit when cast in a production?

Students who are cast in any faculty-directed seminar production are eligible to take TH 250 “Seminar Production” for 1, 2, 3, or 4 credits. Seniors may take TH 376 for 3 credits. Other students may choose, if cast in any seminar production, to use this as the fulfillment of half of their Theater Company requirements. Seminar classes are generally held from 6 to 7 p.m. Mondays and often involve guest speakers, discussions, and reading and writing assignments.

Can my diverse interests in a variety of theater areas be accommodated?

Absolutely. We offer courses of study and hands-on experience in acting, directing, design, stage management, and technical theater. Students are encouraged to branch out and experiment in different areas of theater. It is possible to act one semester, stage-manage another, and direct a show a third semester. You should make your interests known early on to your faculty advisor, who will be happy to work with you in creating a course of study that can satisfy your needs. In addition to acting, directing, and designing, many of our graduates have gone on to work as stage managers, dramaturgs, producers, technicians, etc.

I’d really like to get involved, but I’m not an actor. What can I do?

There are opportunities to work in all areas of production: painting, construction, running crew, properties, costume, makeup, stage management, sound, design, directing, theater management, lighting, etc. At the beginning of the semester, plan on attending the general theater meeting (typically Wednesdays at 7 p.m.) and the first Theater Company meeting Friday at 2:30 p.m. during the first week of classes. There you will find out the best ways to begin working and you will meet the appropriate faculty members to speak to regarding your interests.

What acting method is taught at Skidmore?

We believe in a multifaceted approach to acting, and we do not champion a single methodology. We encourage actors to train with a number of different people using various methods. The actor is then the synthesis, using appropriate methods for given plays, styles, or roles. We combine Stanislavski-based approaches (as interpreted by Strasberg, Meissner, Adler, Hagen, and Lewis) with a strong grounding in physical-based theater training (View Points and Suzuki training, both taught by a member of Ann Bogart’s SITI Company). Classical work is also available in a number of upper-level course. Students are also expected to take full advantage of our voice and movement classes.

How is the Skidmore theater season selected?

Overall, our seasons are curated based on our goal to present a diverse offering of theatrical styles and experiences. We try to represent different stories, voices, viewpoints, and backgrounds in choosing our season plays. Each semester, we poll theater students to hear what productions, playwrights, and genres they would most be interested in exploring. Using that information, combined with our academic needs and logistics (such as rights and royalty availability), the two seminar productions are ultimately chosen by the faculty. The spring Black Box production is proposed by qualified student directors in the previous semester and chosen by the faculty after written and oral presentations are reviewed. Lab production proposals are submitted in the previous semester by student directors and selected by the faculty. The fall season is announced in April, and the spring season is announced in December. Each faculty and guest director works differently and ideally, actors will work with a range of student, faculty, and guest directors over their four years at Skidmore in both classes and productions.

What opportunities are there to study abroad or at other institutions?

Our most recently approved program is the Accademia Dell’Arte in Arezzo Italy, where students have the opportunity to study physical theater.
We also regularly send students to the National Theater Institute in Connecticut.
Quite a few of our students spend a fall semester at the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia.
Comedy training is available at Second City in Chicago.
The Gaiety Theatre School in Dublin, Ireland, offers a semester-long conservatory program.
BADA offers a London Theatre Program and Midsummer in Oxford.
In the future we expect to send students to the prestigious Central/St. Martins School in London to work side by side with British conservatory students.
We have strong connections with Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox, Mass., and send students on their intensive and semester-long programs.
Film studies are available at NYU during the summer and at University of the Arts London.
Theater courses are available at the Skidmore programs in Alcalá and Madrid, Spain.
Students studying in the Skidmore Paris program may attend one or two classes at L’Ecole Jacques Lecoq.

Do Skidmore Theater students work in other theaters?

We strongly encourage students interested in working in the theater to make the best possible use of their summers. Many of our students work in summer theaters throughout the country. We regularly help to place students in a number of local programs including Opera Saratoga, the Saratoga Shakespeare Company, Adirondack Theater Festival, Williamstown Theater Festival, and Berkshire Theatre Festival. A number of our students also explore professional internships in management, film, and TV. During the academic year there have been opportunities for students to work with Saratoga’s Homemade Theater and Capital Rep in Albany. A number of stage managers have completed semester-long internships at regional theaters including Capital Rep, Dallas Theatre Center, Arena Theatre, and the Guthrie.

Does the Theater Department offer career development opportunities?

We offer courses such as “Business of the Biz” and “Theater Management,” which focus on professional training and building connections for a career in the performing arts. Seniors take “Senior Seminar,” which focuses on all aspects of work and training after leaving Skidmore. Through this class, actors have an opportunity to get excellent professional headshots at half price. A semester-long audition workshop is offered each spring, and a number of guests (casting directors, career advisors, company artistic directors) are invited to speak to students and observe auditions. We also try to offer a small showcase in New York City: Actors will present audition material and directors, stage managers, designers, etc., will be able to meet with representatives from a number of NYC companies and agencies. Students are encouraged to explore summer internships, and guests are brought in to introduce students to a number of important programs. Workshops are occasionally held to help students to develop appropriate resumes and cover letters.

Are there summer productions?

The Skidmore theater does not operate a summer production season, but has hosted Ann Bogart’s SITI Company for over a decade. Strong students are encouraged to apply for training with the company. Many students continue their training or work in professional theaters during the summer months.

Can I design for a Skidmore theater production?

The faculty selects student designers from among the students who have participated in the design curriculum and who have demonstrated excellence and interest. Student designers and assistant designers are enrolled in supervised design sequence and receive academic credit for their work. Be sure that you speak to members of the design faculty for further information.

What do I do if I would like to direct a production for the department?

Student directors can submit proposals for lab productions. Lab proposal forms and guidelines are available in the department office. The submission deadline for the following semester will be announced. Lab directors are expected to have completed TH 231 “Introduction to Directing.” Students who have completed the sequence of directing courses, served as assistants to faculty or guest directors, and who have directed at least one lab can propose to direct a project in the Black Box for their final spring semester. Submitted proposals and written and oral presentations are evaluated by the faculty.

Can I stage-manage a production?

All productions are stage-managed by students. Our faculty production manager selects student stage managers from students who have served as assistant stage managers and who have demonstrated abilities and a desire to pursue this work.

What do Skidmore theater students do after graduation?

A remarkable number of our graduates enter the entertainment profession. Quite a few of our students complete professional training programs in some of the nations best MFA graduate programs (NYU, Yale, SMU, Trinity/Brown, Cal Arts, Columbia) and acting studios. We have also sent a number of students abroad (e.g.: England and Russia) for professional study after Skidmore. In addition to the many actors, directors, designers, technicians, stage managers, dramaturgs, writers, and administrators, a number of our graduates currently teach theater at other colleges. One very exciting phenomenon is the number of active small theater companies that have been created in New York City, Chicago, and Boston by Skidmore theater alums over the years. Many of our graduates have also found success in other fields including psychology, law, medicine, publishing, etc.