April Quarterly Newsletter
- Once on This Island, the Caribbean-style musical based on The Little Mermaid opened to great response. We were so fortunate to have Faith Bennett Russell as the director – her dedication, passion and investment gave so much to the 22 students she directed. With Andrew Coopman choreographing and David Duvall musically directing, the show was a joy to watch.
- In February we held our annual Shakespeare production, directed by Simon Pringle. This year, Lord Pringle’s Men, as the cast fondly call themselves, put on the fantasy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With nearly sold-out crowds, this show boasted a lifelike set, beautiful costumes and a cast of very talented teens.
- Following Midsummer, and using much of the same set, Into the Woods. This show, for many students, was THE show to be in and the experience was fabulous for all involved. Woods had two casts – one with 12-15 year-olds and the other with ages 14-19. Both casts found nuance, humor and depth and did the Studio proud. Kudos to the two director/choreographers, Sam Pettit and Andrew Coopman.
- On the StoryBook end of things, we held over 60 performances of Pinocchio during January, February and March. We also launched our first sensory-friendly performances with Pinocchio, which were a huge success. We are excited to continue these shows for the community in the coming season.
- Finally, we are knee-deep in summer camp registration – preparing for our 25th year of camps. We’re honored to be a tradition for so many Eastside families.
As we head into a new quarter, we have much to look forward to:
- Rapunzel, our final show of our 20th StoryBook season, will be playing throughout April and May. This includes two more sensory-friendly shows. A special thanks to Safeco for their generous support!
- Hello, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle will grace the stage for 4 weekends beginning May 18th. This fun, imaginative and very silly production boasts Deonn Ritchie Hunt of StoryBook fame playing Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and alumni David Bander playing Captain Piggle Wiggle as well as the lovely Mrs. Crankminor. Yes, I said ‘Mrs.’
- Spring Quarter classes are up and running and summer camps start in about two months. If you haven’t signed up for summer camp, please do – some are starting to fill!
- On May 6th, we will host Curtains Up at the Studio. This annual fundraiser is an opportunity to sponsor a show or support the Studio in a variety of ways. It’s also the evening we announce our upcoming Mainstage season. (I hear it’s pretty good J) We hope you can join us!
A hearty thank you to all of you for your belief in what we do! We are grateful you choose us for your extracurricular activities, dose of art, weekend outings, and friend. Your support is critical to our mission and our work in the community. The arts have much to teach us, and it’s our privilege to provide these opportunities for young people.
Happy Spring Everyone!
Executive Artistic Director
TOTAL IMPACT NUMBERS Sept ’17 – Mar ’18
Students & Audiences Total: 42,000
FINANCIAL REPORT Sept ’17 – Mar ’18
StoryBook Theater’s Pilot Sensory-Friendly PerformancesThis past weekend StoryBook Theater presented another sensory-friendly performance, thanks to the generosity of the Safeco Insurance Fund. Producing these shows was a brand new endeavor for everyone involved, and we are thrilled at how well the pilot season went, ending with a sold out show in Kirkland.
In preparation for these shows, a committee of parents, teachers and those involved in the field of autism and special needs met several times this fall and winter. A social story was created for each venue, which is a pictorial guide that allows the audience to know exactly what they will see and experience at the theater. Video tours of each venue were created as well.
In January and February, we performed our first two sensory-friendly shows with Pinocchio at Renton Carco Theatre and Kirkland Performance Center. The goal was to create a safe and welcoming place for children with sensory processing disorders and their families. We wanted the children to experience live theater in a comfortable setting that was free from judgment or social restrictions. This meant they could get up and walk around, make noise and play with their devices.
House lights were also left up a few levels higher. We reduced sound levels, offered a quiet space for those who might need a break, and the actors toned down their liveliness. Ushers and staff were available to help minimize stress or offer whatever support necessary.
Smaller audience sizes were also intentional. We set a limit of tickets depending on the size of the venue, so that the kids were free to move around and have ample space. This also helped eliminate anxiety for families.
Parents and audience members left thoughtful feedback after the performances. “Thank you for doing this. It really helped our special needs family feel normal for a little while,” remarked one parent. “Everyone was wonderful. It was nice to go out and not be stressed about it,” said another.
During one of our Pinocchio sensory-friendly shows, we were excited to have Q13 News film a segment for their April Autism Awareness month. This feature was broadcast on April 19th and can be viewed HERE. This exposure was fantastic as we work to have as many families as possible benefit from these shows.
Sensory-friendly theater allows all children, no matter their needs, to experience culture and take part in the world around them. As one parent who attended the show with their son said, “Being able to approach and speak to the actors, as well as ask questions about the performance, increased his appreciation for all actors and even movie performances…Explaining that actors in a movie are pretending and rehearsed isn’t the same as watching a play and then engaging with everyone. It was a very world-expanding experience for him.”
For more information on future sensory-friendly performances at StoryBook Theater, visit our website HERE.
Highlighting our annual Shakespeare production: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, our teen ensemble production, opened to nearly sold-out crowds at all three March performances. The cast was made of up 18 students ages 14 to 18, directed by Simon Pringle.
This title, written around 1595, is one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies. It’s full of confusion, magic, mystery and passion, with an extra dose of humor thanks to the meddling fairies. This title is also special as it was the first production Simon Pringle directed at the Studio back in 2011.
With its humor, trickery, colorful characters and layers of complexity, Midsummer is a perfect choice for young actors to tackle. “On one hand we have the chance to embody fantastical beings with all of their wonder and majesty,” says Simon, “And on the other we have the mortals, who universally question what makes love work and go on journeys of personal self-discovery, albeit with a little help from the fairy folk.” This combination provides a unique landscape for students to work with.
The troupe that is Lord Pringle’s Men
While the Midsummer title itself is a popular one, Simon also links the outstanding spring attendance to the Shakespeare “club” he has built at Studio East, affectionately coined Lord Pringle’s Men. The title is a nod to the theater troupes of the Elizabethan or Jacobean era.
Most of the participating teens have played a part in Studio East’s annual Shakespeare production for years. Their families are committed as well, and they’ve been watching the shows develop through the years. Shakespeare at Studio East is becoming a multi-year program, explains Simon. While it is never pre-cast, there is a group of teens that continues to come back year after year.
Kristine Knutzen, whose parents sponsored Midsummer, is an example of this. She participated in a Midsummer Shakespeare summer camp five years ago with Simon Pringle teaching. She has been a part of Lord Pringle’s Men ever since. “This is the greatest community the world has ever known,” says Kristine. Geoff Knutzen and Mary Hanson, Kristine’s parents, call this Shakespeare club one of the greatest gifts of the Studio East community.
In this recent Midsummer production, Kristine found herself coming full circle – she played the character of Helena, the same character she portrayed at her Shakespeare summer camp five years ago.
A 5-month rehearsal time
Unlike the other Mainstage productions, Shakespeare rehearsals normally cover a span of five months. While some of this is due to Simon’s schedule, working on Shakespeare is a whole other kind of process. This extra time allows the students to delve deep into their character and script, as they are not just memorizing, but having to research and study each line. “They have to be willing to do some of their own research to make sure they fully understand. It needs a lot of independent study,” says Simon.
Why learning Shakespeare is crucial for a young theater artist
The art of learning Shakespeare verse is a difficult skill to master, but it is incredibly worthwhile for young actors. “It forces you to up your game and get outside your comfort zone,” says Geoffrey Knutzen and Mary Hanson.
As Simon puts it, learning Shakespeare is so helpful because the student will then learn to treat everything like it was Shakespeare. “They will not just look at the actual words and memorize them, but they will study the part – how far can I break this down, what does this really mean.”
In addition to the time spent in research and study, there is also the practiced skill of language. Shakespeare comes with the difficulty of pronunciation and the need for accuracy in diction and careful memorization. “I think when you can command Shakespeare, it just sets you up so much better for all other kinds of performance and text work,” says Simon. “It teaches you to do it at a level that’s a little more difficult and perhaps needs more study to get it right.”
Simon and Lord Pringle’s Men will definitely be back next spring with another installment from the Great Bard. Look out for the new title, which will be announced at Curtains Up on Sunday, May 6th.
Meet Corey Dunne, the New Education Director at Studio East
Corey Dunne joined Studio East in February, and on April 1st became our new Education Director. Corey replaces Kristina S. Rowell, who was an incredible asset to Studio East in her three years as head of the Education Department. She oversaw increases in our class, workshop and camp offerings, and outreach programs grew significantly in her time with the Studio. Kristina is excited to work closer to her home in West Seattle, and we wish her the best in her new endeavors.
Corey Dunne hails from the Midwest, where she worked in children’s theater for ten years as a teaching artist, stage manager, Co-Director of Education, Outreach/Production Manager and Executive Producing Director. Corey holds a BA in Secondary Speech and Theater from Missouri State and is currently enrolled in the MFA in Arts Leadership program at Seattle University, an evening program for working professionals.
Corey is excited to continue her work in children’s theater. She especially loves teaching theater and witnessing kids make discoveries about their characters and themselves. Corey has already jumped in with both feet, as Studio East is in the heat of summer camp registration and spring quarter. Along with VJ Orduna, Kaysy Ostrom and Andrew Coopman, we are excited to watch our education department continue to grow and flourish under Corey’s direction.
Curtains Up is this Sunday!
It’s that time of year again – time to announce Studio East’s new Mainstage season. On Sunday, May 6th, starting at 5:30 pm, you could be among the first to know the lineup for our 26th season of musical productions. To purchase tickets at $75 per person or $125 per couple, call the Studio or visit our website here.
In true Studio tradition, Lani will be serving up her famous pomegranate martinis, we will enjoy tasty hors d’oeuvres, and Studio alumni and faculty will perform entertaining excerpts and scenes from our upcoming season.
Similar to last year, you can drop your kids and teens off at Pump It Up Kirkland for their own free Curtains Up event with food, activities and a live-stream of the season announcement.
Curtains Up is much more than unveiling our new season, though. It’s also a time to join together to support the Studio’s mission to provide young people with life skills through the performing arts. Your support helps in so many ways; it enriches our educational Outreach programs including ArtReach and after-school classes, it provides scholarships for children and families, and it helps ensure that our educational and production values remain high, both onsite and in our community.
During Curtains Up there will be many ways to partner with us. You may want to:
- Sponsor a Mainstage show – choose from three different sponsorship levels
- Make a one-time gift
- Schedule a recurring donation
Your support at any level will help us continue the vital work Studio East does in our community.
We hope you will join us as we celebrate Studio East, the new Mainstage season, and our mission to continue to provide life skills through theater to the youth of our community.
Dates, showtimes & tickets here.
Dates, showtimes & tickets here.
StoryBook Theater 2018-19 Season Subscriptions & Flex Passes are now on sale. Be sure to check out our BRAND NEW StoryBook website and our new 2018-19 season titles as well. Visit the new site HERE.