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Every time you see a Broadway show, chances are a lot of the actors are wearing wigs.
Sunday night at the 68th Annual Tony Awards, Broadway’s highest honors will be presented in a ceremony at Radio City Music Hall. Awards will go to actors, actresses, set and lighting designers, but not the people who make the wigs the stars wear, even though the wigs are an essential part of theater craft.
Essential, and yet often invisible, says Jason P. Hayes, the wig designer for Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-nominated play, Casa Valentina.
Jason Hayes spent almost a week weaving thousands of strands of human hair into this 1960s hairdo for Reed Birney’s character, Charlotte, in Casa Valentina. The wig’s name is, appropriately, “Charlotta.”
“The problem with being a good wig designer is that if you do your job properly, no one knows that any of your work is on the stage,” Hayes says.
“I don’t think people realize that half of the people they’re looking at are wearing a wig,” Hayes says. “And that’s where a lot of that labor and that love and that work goes unnoticed, because if you do it properly, no one knows … that you were ever in the building!”
Wigs play a central role in Casa Valentina. The drama is based on a real Catskills resort in the 1960s that catered to heterosexual cross-dressers. So Hayes had to create wigs that weren’t for drag queens, but for transvestites.
“It’s knowing that difference that’s very important and integral to getting the looks and the characters right for Casa Valentina,” he says. “It’s understanding they’re not drag queens. The whole point of their feminine persona is that you should never notice them.”
For the character of Charlotte, Hayes created a realistic 1960s hairdo, painstakingly crafted on a base created from a mold of the actor’s head.
“It’s a very fine mesh lace, so imagine a cross between what looks like window screening, but is as fine as panty hose,” he explains. “For lack of a better word, you take one strand of hair and you hand-knot that, on that mesh. So, it’s almost like you’re doing latch hook.”
It took Hayes almost a week to weave the thousands of strands of human hair into just this one wig. Actor Reed Birney, who’s nominated for a Tony as Charlotte, says that kind of attention to detail helps him as an actor.
“It really is a crucial aspect of the performance, this wig, especially for me,” Birney says. “Your self-image suddenly changes. I can’t see myself, but I see myself in the mirror and I know I’ve got this honey-colored hair and a big swoop and it really does affect the way you move through space.”
Tony-nominated actress Sarah Greene says the wig she wears in The Cripple of Inishmaan completes her character, a volatile teenager on a remote Irish island in the 1930s. Yet initially the brunette actress resisted.
“When they came with the red wig, I was like ‘Oh no! I want my own hair,’ ” Greene says. “And yet, the minute I put it on, it was just like, ‘Oh no — the bold Helen is here.'”
If an actor is playing multiple characters, a wig can be crucial in helping to define them.
In the Tony-nominated musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, actor Jefferson Mays, who’s also a Tony-nominee, plays eight roles.
For the gender-bending musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, wigmaker Mike Potter made eight wigs and used magnets so actor Neil Patrick Harris can change quickly on stage.
Hear Neil Patrick Harris sing “Wig in a Box”
From “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, Broadway cast recording courtesy Atlantic Records.
The styling of the wigs is important, but so is the stuff they’re made of, says Charles LaPointe, who made the hairpieces for the musical. LaPointe, who’s got an impressive Broadway resume, has a studio with 23 employees.
“We build everything [with] human hair,” LaPointe says. And where does he get the hair?
“Well, we have distributors all over the place,” he says. “We get some from London, that’s like fine Caucasian hair; and then we get Indian hair from Bali; and we get Asian hair from the dime store around the corner.”
Perhaps the most outrageous wigs on Broadway right now sit atop Tony-nominee Neil Patrick Harris’ head in the gender-bending musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Mike Potter has designed all eight of Hedwig’s hairpieces — which evoke the likes of Farrah Fawcett and Tina Turner — in pink. For this show, Potter had to come up with a way for Neil Patrick Harris to change his wigs on the fly. So, he used magnets.
“They’re sown on these hat bases, called buckrams, and Neil has to do all of his own quick changes on stage,” Potter says. “And there are magnets built into his main wig, and so when he’s in the dark behind the car, he just pops it on and it’s like, instantly on his head.”
The actor will be showing off those expensively shaped locks on the Tony Awards broadcast Sunday evening. Harris wouldn’t be Hedwig without wigs, Potter says.
“They’re really a huge integral part of the character,” he says. “I mean, ‘wig’ is in her name!”
I’ve been researching on a range of blog subjects, lesson plans, etc. I ran on to this article which I thought others would be interested in, too.
I trained with a wonderful professional stage manager, Howard Ashley while attending Stephens College.
I’ve used his instruction with my students who become stage managers for me. One of my students, Hillary Pfeffer actually studied stage management in college and works in New York as one. So proud of er.
From the Kansas Public Radio Website:
Stage Managers: You Can’t See Them, But Couldn’t See A Show Without Them
On Sunday night the spotlight will be on Broadway stars at the 71st annual Tony Awards. The evening also includes honors for some people behind the scenes — writers, directors and designers, for example — but there are many more, working backstage, who aren’t eligible for Broadway’s highest honor.
If you peek into the wings at a Broadway show, you’re likely to find a stage manager, sitting at a desk with video monitors and lots of buttons and switches. He or she will be wearing a headset — sometimes called “the God mic” — to communicate with the cast and crew.
“I like to think of a stage manager as the chief operations officer of the corporation that is the show,” says Ira Mont, stage manager of Cats.
Donald Fried, stage manager of the Tony-nominated play, Sweat, says stage managers are kind of “the Captain of the Enterprise.”
“I would call us the hub of the wheel,” says Karyn Meek, production stage manager for the Tony-nominated musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. “We are … in charge of communication across all departments. … During the show, we are in charge of making sure the lights happen, the set moves, sound happens, all the things … we are the person who’s controlling all of that.”
Jeff Lunden for NPR
Long before a show starts its run, the stage manager is an integral part of the rehearsal process, explains Fried. “Everything begins and ends with the script,” he says. “I’ve got to read the script, read it several times. Once, just to read it as a person, not as a stage manager or an artist or anything. Just to have an initial emotional feeling for it. Then, I go back and read [the writer’s] stage directions, so that I know what would happen light-wise, how she envisions the props, how she envisions the set moving, people entering and exiting, whether or not they’re changing costumes.”
Once a show is up and running, Meek says stage managers and their teams put in long hours. Her day begins at 9:30 a.m. with cast members telling her whether they’d be in or out of that day’s shows, due to injuries or illness. Depending on the day, she’ll arrive at the theater around 12:30 for a matinee or rehearsal. There’s a dinner break around 5:00 or 5:30, and then everyone’s back at the theater for the evening show.
Shows that feature complicated choreography or simulated fight scenes require daily rehearsals. Sweat manager Donald Fried says they do a fight rehearsal before every show. “We want to make sure everyone is safe and limber, and that the props are working,” he explains.
In the half hour before each performance, the stage manager walks through a beehive of activity, making sure everyone’s ready for curtain.
Meek climbs a ladder to her perch, high above stage left at Great Comet. Actors perform throughout the theater and Meek can keep an eye on them all. Once the show starts, she follows a musical score, with sticky notes showing all of the lighting and tech cues.
Jeff Lunden for NPR
Through one of her video monitors, she can see Josh Groban, who plays Pierre, standing at the back of the stage. By the time the opening number really gets going, Meek is calling cues to the lighting technician every other beat. She literally calls hundreds of sound and tech cues for each performance.
All the stage managers I spoke with started out doing other things — Meek was a costume designer, Fried was a dancer. As a former actor, Cats manager Ira Mont was used to getting applause — but not anymore.
“I don’t expect or look for praise or acknowledgement,” he says. “I am here to support the shows I work on and the actors who do them and that’s what gives me the joy. And I’m very fortunate to have had a 30-year career in a profession that is not easy to get into and is not easy to stay in. I’m a lucky guy.”
He’s got lucky co-workers, too. Even as Mont juggles countless cues that go into a Broadway performance of Cats, over the headset he reminds the cast and crew of one more detail: to gather for a cast member’s birthday toast at the end of the show.
I have always liked Bette Midler. Then I found out she visited the New York Public Library when she was researching Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly! I liked her even more. Here’s an interview with Bette concerning the library and its importance to all of us.
I’m all about any research or editorials supporting arts education whether its in the United States or elsewhere. I ran upon this piece on Stemeducation.news:
I have a dream that this nation will achieve its full creative and economic potential and that Arts education will rightfully be seen as central to making this happen. It worries me that current thinking and policymaking around national innovation concentrates on increasing participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects while the teaching of the Arts (dance, drama, music, media arts and visual arts,) is rarely even on the innovation agenda.
It is not that I begrudge the attention STEM is getting, it is just that I believe if we want to be a truly innovative and creative nation we need to put the Arts, very firmly, back in the mix. We should be talking about STEAM in schools and universities with the Arts very much in the centre of it all.
There exists a popular narrative, used to drive the STEM education agenda in Australia (and elsewhere), that says there are significantly declining enrolments in the Sciences and other STEM disciplines. However I question this narrative as justification for major initiatives. I will come back to that later.
First up what are we talking about, when we talk about innovation and creativity?
Innovation and creativity
Creativity and innovation involves putting things together in new ways, it involves risk-taking, experimenting and refining, valuing the role of productive failure, it involves making and doing, and is often collaborative and co-creative. While creativity is about the capacity to putting things together in new, novel and different ways, innovation is often seen as putting them to work and out into the world so that they meet a need, want or interest.
However these capacities don’t get switched on when people hit the world of work, they need to be cultivated across the education lifespan in all subjects in as many ways as possible.
Unfortunately the nurturing of creativity and innovation often seems to be at odds with the direction of many current initiatives in education. I have concerns about mandated curriculum and standards and everyone doing the same thing, the same tests, meeting the same benchmarks. I am particularly concerned about certain subjects or areas of learning being valued as more essential or more important than others.
Why the Arts subjects are important when it comes to innovation and creativity
The focus on STEM, without similar focus being turned to the Arts and Humanities does not appear to be justified by recent research about the impact of technologies on our lives. It is hard to deny that all aspects of life and the world of work are undergoing rapid transformations, many brought about by developments in technologies across nearly all fields of endeavour. Recent research from Oxford University notes however, that while robots will assume the role of many people in many sectors, growth continues in those that rely on creative capacity and social interactions, people, services and experiences. They are not optional areas of focus for education, but essential for opening up future study and work opportunities.
The importance of valuing other areas of learning and related industry sectors is also evident when examining economic development within various industry sectors. Industry growth and projection reports identify that education itself is one of Australia’s major export industries. Other projected growth areas identified by the Reserve Bank include household and business services, food, arts and recreation.
A Deloitte report also identifies industry sectors such as agribusiness, tourism, international education and wealth management as ones that are growth sectors for the Australian economy.
To do well in these sectors may require knowledge and skills in some or all of the STEM areas, but also relies on understanding people, design, experience and communications: the Arts subjects.
Is there really a crisis in the uptake of STEM subjects?
A review of senior secondary enrolments in several states over the past 20 years reveals that in most cases all students have to/or tend to study an English and a Math subject. When it comes to the sciences, Biology is the top or near top elective subject and while there is some drop in the percentage of Physics and Chemistry enrolments it is not perhaps as extreme as we have been lead to believe, and in fact in recent times in Queensland, for example, there has been an increase in the numbers for Chemistry enrolments.
Enrolments in sciences have not been dropping more substantially than other subjects over the last 20 years using Queensland data as an example. While percentages of total year 12 enrolments might be 5-10% lower, this has to be considered in the context of increased subject choices including vocational training courses. It is clear that the pattern of enrolment of the Arts and Humanities also shows similar decreases in percentages too. When it comes to the most dramatic drop in enrolments over the past 20 years it is actually Accounting (20% to 7%) and Economics (19% to 5%) that have seen the most dramatic declines.
Similar trends can be identified in New South Wales and Victorian data, though the strength of Chemistry seen in Queensland is not necessarily reflected in other state data.
While there is no doubt that there are still issues with enrolments in STEM by different target groups, including girls and students from low SES backgrounds, regional areas and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, these are not new issues. However a focus on increased enrolments in STEM per se is not likely to change that. Other strategies that focus more on pedagogy, combining STEM and arts based approaches are more likely to have impact (and have been the basis for strategies in places such as Korea).
So what should we be doing?
It is important that capacity building in creativity and innovation be supported across the years of formal education (including early childhood, primary and secondary education) and tertiary study, including teacher education. This requires a shift beyond STEM and the ongoing focus on ‘basic skills’ in major educational drives, and to look at the cultivation of ideas and passions, calculated risk taking, how to work through failure, problem-finding and problem-solving and resolution of ideas into products and forms.
This requires an approach that recognizes that creativity and innovation can be cultivated across diverse learning and industry fields. If the current obsession with STEM is to continue, as I said previously, it should be converted to STEAM, with the Arts at its centre, at the very least, or perhaps ESTEAM to recognize the importance of Entrepreneurship as well.
Other key points
Here is my list of other key points and issues we need to tackle.
If our governments recognize the importance of creativity and innovation for our future national prosperity (as the current parliamentary inquiry would indicate), attention must be paid to learning that promotes problem-solving and inventiveness, social innovation and entrepreneurship, and multiple forms of communication and expression. To do this effectively Australia needs to give just as much attention to the Arts as it is currently to the teaching of and participation in STEM. These areas are all fundamental to cultivating innovation for the future of our economy and our world.
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I ran upon this article in the Washington Post. It thrills me to see teachers using theatre and dance to teach core subjects!
By Moriah Balingit February 22, 2016
The children puffed out their chests and mimicked drama teacher Melissa Richardson, rehearsing their big, booming “rhino voices.”
“Giant steps, giant steps, big and bold!” the kindergartners yelled in unison in a classroom at Westlawn Elementary in Fairfax County.
In groups, the children were then cast as animals and bugs: Big, stomping rhinos; delicate lady bugs skittering across the tile; leaping kangaroos and tiny frogs. All made their way to the classroom’s imaginary “water hole,” formed with blue tape.
This giggly play session actually was a serious math lesson about big and small and non-standard measurements. Dreamed up by Richardson and kindergarten teacher Carol Hunt, it aims to get the children to think of animal steps as units of measurement, using them to mark how many it takes each animal to get from a starting line to the target.
Teachers call such melding of art and traditional subjects “art integration,” and it’s a new and increasingly popular way of bringing the arts into the classroom. Instead of art as a stand-alone subject, teachers are using dance, drama and the visual arts to teach a variety of academic subjects in a more engaging way.
Teaching artist Melissa Richardson, right, from the Wolf Trap Institute, watches her kindergarten students at Westlawn Elementary School take large bear steps during a math lesson, on Feb. 18 in Falls Church, Va. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)
Middle-school students in Arlington have built sculptures to learn about exponents, and students have used art to express their thoughts and opinions about police brutality and racial equality. Educators and artists who are proponents of the method say it reaches students who might not otherwise absorb traditional classroom methods.
[In this Arlington middle school class, teaching math really is an art]
The Wolf Trap Institute, based at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, brought Richardson to Westlawn Elementary through a program that pairs art teachers with early-childhood educators to formulate math lessons. The program also provides professional development to teachers.
And the program appears to have been effective: A study by the American Institutes for Research found that students in classes headed by Wolf Trap-trained teachers performed better on math assessments than did their peers being taught by teachers who were not in the program.
Researchers found that pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students in classes taught by Wolf Trap-trained teachers gained about 1.3 months of math learning in the first year over their peers. By the second year, they were 1.7 months ahead.
Researcher Mengli Song said the students in the program did not necessarily learn additional math content but they did demonstrate a better grasp of the material. And the effect was comparable to other early-childhood interventions.
“It’s not a huge effect, but it’s a non-trivial, notable effect,” Song said.
Researchers followed students in 18 schools. In 10 of the schools, Wolf Trap Institute art teachers helped classroom teachers generate math lessons. In the other eight, teachers taught students as they normally would. Researchers administered math assessments to about eight students per class.
Teachers who were trained by the master artists and participated in professional development with Wolf Trap continued to use what they learned in their classrooms, even when they were no longer working with teaching artists, the study found. It demonstrated that a year or two of training could have a lasting impact.
Hunt said it can be difficult to work with the arts-integration lessons — they take far more time to plan and it can be challenging to figure out how to use drama to teach a math concept. But she has worked well with Richardson and has seen the payoff.
Hunt’s students were not among those researchers studied. A 17-year veteran of teaching kindergarten, she said the arts integration lessons are one way to reach children who struggle with English. The vast majority of her 22 students are English-language learners.
Some mix up the word “big” and “small,” so teaching the concept can be a challenge. In the lesson with the animals, she attempted to demonstrate that the smallest animal took the greatest number of steps to the pond — in other words, that a big number can still signify something small.
“Visually they need to see that,” Hunt said. “That concept is very difficult. The numbers are big but the measurements are small . . . it makes so much more sense when they act it out.”
Richardson said some children can struggle with math because it’s abstract. Children can get emotionally invested in acting out a story, though, that involves counting. And they are exceptionally good with imagination, far better than her adult acting students, she said.
On that day, the children did not totally grasp the concept, but they practiced counting by fives and studied how some animals have larger strides then others. And judging by the giggles, smiles and their enthusiastic participation, they had fun, too.
“Which animal had the biggest jumps or steps?” Hunt asked, pointing to the chart that listed rhino, frog, ladybug and kangaroo.
“A panda!” one girl yelled enthusiastically.
Hunt said that’s the other key. Her students never get bored when they are involved in the arts-integration lessons, even if they do get “wiggly.”
Jennifer Cooper, director of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, said arts integration — particularly lessons where children get to move and play — is a good way to reach a lot of children who struggle with traditional book lessons.
“By embodying a concept . . . and putting it through your body in a multi-sensory way, you’re going to reach a lot of different kinds of learners,” Cooper said.
Moriah Balingit writes about education for the Post. Follow @ByMoriah
I was Blanche in “Brighton Beach Memoirs” 1989
I was Dot in “Cricket in the Hearth” 2000
I was Miss Prism in “Importance of Being Earnest” 1976
I’d love to hear from you!
This is a continuation of three posts concerning recipes for an awards party. This is one of my favorites. Check out the others here:
I am excited to share there will be a stage reading of Act one, scene one of Bumbling Bea, the Play at Lawrence’s Final Friday on June 30! The event will be held at Greenhouse Culture Church in Lawrence, KS from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Copies of the book version of Bumbling Bea will be available to purchase as well. I’d love to have you attend. 😊
Here is the scene which will be performed this evening.