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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm
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Students to volunteer at Arts Academy for summer

This summer, the Grinnell Area Arts Council is giving five Grinnell College students will the opportunity to share their arts expertise with community members.

As part of the Grinnell Arts Academy 2011, the students will teach classes in the Arts Center located in the old Stewart Library. They will cover a variety of subjects, from Music & Movement, as taught by Anna Weissman ’13, to Erica Seltzer-Schultz’s [’12] class on 3D Origami.

Theatre and economics double major Deborah Berk ’12 will spend six weeks of her summer teaching a musical theatre workshop.

“Next summer, the Grinnell Arts Council is going to put on the musical ‘Annie,’” Berk said. “They asked me to do an audition workshop because they want to raise the bar, they want people to be really prepared and to know what they’re getting into and to be confident.”

Each section of Berk’s class will meet for two weeks. People are divided by age into three sections: middle school, high school and adult. Although it can be an interesting position for a college student to teach adults, Berk isn’t intimidated.

“One of the things I realize,” she said, “is that nobody ever leaves high school, so it doesn’t really matter to me whether they’re adults or their kids. If they’re interested in musicals and they’re there and want to learn, my arms are wide open.”

Berk plans to meet with students one on one in order to deal with their individual needs.

“Everyone is different and everyone has different skills. You can’t instruct everyone to do monologues the same way,” she said. “That was one of the things I got really frustrated with in high school drama classes. It totally defeats the purpose.”

Each Friday, the students will perform for each other. After the first week, they’ll have a monologue, and after the second week they’ll have a song.

“I don’t care if they’re good,” Berk added. “I don’t care if I think they’re going to win a Tony when they grow up or if I think that they have no chance. I just want them to have fun and to be confident. There are a lot of things to be excited for.”

Due to the College’s small size, Berk has found that it can be difficult to get varied experience in production management, her planned career path, so teaching at the Academy is another opportunity for her.

“Next year I hope to work more with the high school and with the Grinnell Arts Center,” said Berk. “This is my foot in the door when it comes to that. I’m meeting a lot of people that hopefully I’ll work a lot with in the future and get a lot of experience outside of the school setting.”

Berk is funded by the Boyer Fellowship, a scholarship that offers up to $3,500 for a student to stay in Grinnell over the summer and do some kind of community project.

“I thought a musical theatre camp would be so much fun to do,” Berk said.

Caitlin Beckwith-Ferguson ’14 will also teach at the Academy this summer.

As a member of the College and the town, she is taking the opportunity to give back to the community from the College side.

“I think it’s really good to have the College and the community working together—the College has a lot to give to the community,” Beckwith-Ferguson said.

Beckwith-Ferguson will teach a theatre class aimed at covering the basic elements of acting, including characterization, emotion and mannerisms. She’s been teaching at the Grinnell Arts Academy for a while now, and has a pretty good idea of how to carry out the class.

“In each class, what we usually do is I’ll focus on a certain thing, say emotion, and then I’ll tell them a little bit about why it’s important, what you do, and then we’ll play several games that demonstrate it, or an activity,” she said.

Although Beckwith-Ferguson has grown up in Grinnell, she didn’t get the chance to take many courses like she’s teaching, so she’s excited to witness and be involved with increased activity on the part of the Arts Council.

“The kids are pretty attentive,” she added. “They’re all really enthusiastic about acting.”

Berk is also enthusiastic about her upcoming class, especially about sharing her passion with people who may have little to no experience with theatre.

“Besides being able to study this summer with my friends and getting to Grinnell early for my last year, I think I’m most excited about the high school kids, because that was when I really started to love musical theatre,” she said. “I’m just excited to help other people build confidence in themselves when it comes to musicals. Singing and acting both are very difficult and it’s hard for one person to cultivate both talents, but I really believe that as long as you’re having fun, it’s worth it.”

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