Student Production Workshop

Celebrating 20 Years of Education: Dimitri Normil


This year, Education at Roundabout celebrates its 20th Anniversary. Since 1996, Education at Roundabout has served as a national leader in arts education, using theatrical disciplines to create responsive programming that serves students, educators, early career professionals, and audiences. To celebrate this milestone, we asked members of the Education at Roundabout community to reflect on how Roundabout’s programs have impacted their lives.

Below, Dimitri Normil, a member of Roundabout’s after school program, Student Production Workshop (SPW) reflects on his journey into costume design.

Dimitri working on SPW costumes with a Roundabout Teaching Artist.

My name is Dimitri Normil and I’m a member of the Student Production Workshop ensemble. When I first joined SPW, I was extremely nervous because it was my first-time interviewing/auditioning for something. First, I had a great interview for the Tech/Design track with Teaching Artist Theresa. Then I auditioned for the Performance track. I had only learned about SPW the night before, and in my mind, auditioning for something on such short notice seemed scary. But the atmosphere at SPW was so warm and welcoming that I felt like I could do it with no problems. After my interview and audition I was proud of myself, and that feeling grew even more when I was accepted in the Tech/Design track.

The past two years I’ve spent in SPW have been nothing but great. I’ve made some great friends and got the chance to see some amazing shows. So far, my favorites were Love, Love, Love and Therese Raquin. I’ve learned so much about technical design from Theresa and the other Teaching Artists who come in and lead workshops about costumes, set, sound, and lighting design. The Teaching Artists push you to take risks, which isn’t hard in SPW’s comfortable environment.

During my first summer at SPW, I got to be a costume designer for our production of She Was as Beautiful as the Moon. Being a costume designer was a new experience for me, and I was excited to learn more about what goes into designing character’s costumes. It was such an amazing experience. I got to work with a great mentor, and teamed up with amazing people, who are now my friends. This summer, I took on greater responsibility as the Production Manager for our production of Little By Little. SPW has taught me a lot in the past two years. I hope to take the skills I've learned and use them in the future to achieve great things. Because of SPW, I have a wide range of opportunities for my future. I'd recommend this program to anyone who enjoys theater, there's so much to take away from it. It helps you grow more as a person. Being a part SPW has been an adventure, and I can’t wait to see what next year holds.

Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Student Production Workshop

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Student Production Workshop: Kingdom Come Ensemble Day


Playwright Jenny Rachel Weiner speaking with the SPW ensemble

Playwright Jenny Rachel Weiner speaking with the SPW ensemble

Student Production Workshop, Roundabout’s youth ensemble, came together last month to explore Kingdom Come through a pre-show workshop and a discussion with playwright Jenny Rachel Weiner. After dinner, the ensemble attended the evening performance of Kingdom Come.

Roundabout Teaching Artists Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz and Jason Jacobs led a workshop that explored how playwrights can use a state of being, in this case loneliness, to inform a play. “The show seems to address questions of connection and loneliness, so working with teenagers, we thought that was something they could relate to. We wanted them to think about not only the feelings that are associated with loneliness, but also the behaviors that come from loneliness,” said Elizabeth of their goals for the day.

The ensemble began the workshop by competing in an alphabet relay, where they wrote out their responses to the word “loneliness”. They then created tableaus, from which they wrote monologues. After sharing their monologues in a small group, the students worked together to write a play inspired by the characters they had created. Kingdom Come playwright Jenny Rachel Weiner arrived just as the students were presenting their plays. “Loneliness is such a cross-generational topic, so it was amazing to see their take on loneliness, and their experience of it. It was really moving to see their work,” said Jenny of the students’ writing.

Students competing in the alphabet relay exercise.

Students competing in the alphabet relay exercise.

After their presentations, the ensemble had the opportunity to sit down with Jenny and talk about Kingdom Come and her career as a playwright. The students asked her about collaborating with designers on the show, writing relationships that exist only online, and how she, as a female playwright, remains persistent without being labeled as “pushy”.

Students took away new insights from their conversation with Jenny, both personal and academic. Feleesha, a member of SPW’s acting ensemble, realized something new about the challenges of playwriting, “Jenny talked about the arch of a story, as well as the arch of the characters. I didn’t realize that individual characters have their own arches too. As a playwright, not only do you have to worry about the story being cohesive, but you also have to see that the individual characters are growing within the story, along with the storyline. I had never thought of that before.” Tamia, another acting ensemble member, was particularly excited to learn more about the successes of a female playwright “I like that she was motivated to make sure that the play was what she wanted it to be and how she wanted it to be. I really admire the drive that she has.”

A student sharing her monologue with her peers and Teaching Artist Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz

A student sharing her monologue with her peers and Teaching Artist Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz

Jenny felt similarly inspired after their meeting, “It always feels so special and really important to me to be able to talk to young people who are interested in theatre, because I so deeply remember being that age and being so excited and passionate about having a life in the theatre.” The students definitely had an evening that they won’t soon forget.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Kingdom Come, Roundabout Underground, Student Production Workshop

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Interview with Teaching Artist Daniel Robert Sullivan


Daniel at the Student Theatre Arts Festival in 2012.

Daniel at the Student Theatre Arts Festival in 2012.

Master Teaching Artist Daniel Robert Sullivan has been on Roundabout’s Teaching Artist Roster for the past sixteen years. Daniel just returned from a long run as Tommy DeVito in the Las Vegas production of Jersey Boys, but spent much of his time out West coordinating the rolling world premiere of Prospect High: Brooklyn, a play he conceived and co-wrote with a team of New York City teenagers in Roundabout’s Education Studio.

Through Roundabout, Daniel has served New York City students and educators in multiple ways. He has served as the director for Roundabout’s annual Student Theatre Arts Festival and trained educators through Roundabout’s Theatrical Teaching Institute. He’s also facilitated multiple classroom residencies in Roundabout Partner School classrooms.

Educator Program Manager Abby Case spoke with Daniel about his career and work at Roundabout.

Abby Case: Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistry.

Daniel Robert Sullivan: I'm an actor, writer, and teaching artist trying to keep my feet firmly planted in all three disciplines.

AC: How did you come to be a teaching artist? Could you share your first arts education experience?

DRS: While student-teaching in Rhode Island during college, I was tasked with introducing Julius Caesar to an English class. The traditional lesson plans used during this unit had much to do with analyzing the text and working through the meaning of words, and very little to do with the raw emotional power of performance. I thought, “Well, shoot, I can get these kids to like Shakespeare way more by showing it to"

I asked a fellow actor to bust into the classroom at a particular time and begin a speech from the play, which I then countered with another. It was wild and completely effective. The 'bust-in' is teaching artist technique...I just didn't know there was such a thing as a 'teaching artist' until the following year when I moved to New York. A friend introduced me to Roundabout's Education program, I was mentored and inspired by its early leaders - Margie Salvante and Renee Fleming - and I've been attached ever since.

AC: What is your favorite part about working as a teaching artist?

DRS: My favorite bits are usually those that follow some kind of sharing event, much like my favorite part of performing is often the moment immediately after the curtain call. After the work has been presented, it is then time to reflect on how it has changed you. And it always, always changes you. Having students articulate this change is my favorite part.

AC: What is the most challenging part about working as a teaching artist?

DRS: Working in the room is fulfilling, but scheduling the work in the room is the hardest part. We all must balance our own creative work with the creative classroom work, and the classrooms we work in are all over the city! So piecing it all together remains a challenge.

AC: Could you share a memorable lesson or moment from your time as a teaching artist at Roundabout?

DRS: The very first Student Theatre Arts Festival stands out as a moment to remember. Students from all over NYC gathered together to perform short scenes on Broadway. Not only did they meet and connect with each other, but the legitimacy of their stage gave them confidence and the respect of their peers and family who had come to watch.

Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Student Production Workshop, Teaching Artist Tuesday

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