I got to interview a group of youngsters well-versed in the art of experimental theater! Reminded me of my summers teaching musical theater to middle schoolers. The following article appeared in the most recent issue of Backstage magazine, the must-read “Backstage 30” issue! Read it on Backstage.com!
IRT Theater’s Westside Experiment is not your average summer camp.
Instead of mounting a musical or learning to tap dance, teenaged actors immerse themselves in the art of devised theater, developing original work with a professional downtown company. “I think a lot of theater [education] programs are about the spectacle and making sure that the kids have really great costumes for the parents,” said Kori Rushton, producing artistic director of IRT. “This is about the work, this is about the process, this is about the nitty-gritty of the core of the art form.” As evidenced by their exuberant July 19 showcase, teens and experimental theater are a perfect fit.
An offshoot of IRT’s 3B Development Series, the Westside Experiment has for the last three years paired middle school- and high school-aged kids with a theater company for two weeks of unstructured collaboration, physical expression, and improvisation training. This summer’s teaching artists were Qui Nguyen and Robert Ross Parker, co-artistic directors and founders of the Obie Award-winning “geek theatre” group Vampire Cowboys. Their wacky genre-blending approach to devised work matched the youngsters’ bouncy energy, and culminated in three original mini-comedies dubbed “Inquiries of Time Space and Robots.”