The Paula Vogel Mentors Project was the first experience I’d had of its kind, working with people outside of my school (let alone professionals) to create a fully developed production of a play I had written. Looking back, a whopping 18 weeks later, I feel truly blessed to have been a part of it and I can only hope there will be similar opportunities in my future. From start to finish, the project presented me with joys and challenges like none I’d had before. I was exposed to parts of the theatre world I hadn’t known existed and to a part of myself as a writer I hadn’t known existed. I was writing at an unprecedented pace and with a renewed passion. And I think I owe it all to the people I was surrounded with, committed artists on the same wavelength as me. Not only were they dedicated to my own work, taking the time and energy to pore over it and bring it to life, they were also willing to teach me what they knew and guide me in navigating my craft in general. I’ve already caught myself reminiscing about our conversations and experiences together, centered around the things I cared about most and how they were expressed through art. The Paula Vogel Mentors Project showed me the corner of the world I want to live in—one where I can produce art that’s the best it can be, work capable of making a tangible difference. But that’s not even the best part—I get to see the work of others, too, and be the one affected by it, and become part of an inspiring cycle. I was already nostalgic as I edited the footage of this piece, finding it difficult to choose between clips of each moment from each of the two performances. I was again filled with the same feeling that rushed through me during rehearsal—that I’d taken part in creating something to be proud of, but it certainly wasn’t entirely mine. When the dry cleaning shop lived inside my head, when I sat on my bedroom floor and wrote furiously for hours on end, it belonged to me. But the second I printed my first draft and handed it to the members of my newfound community, it became a team effort. Nearly Famous couldn’t have been what it was without the Paula Vogel Mentors project, without the dedication and passion of the entire team behind it (at Philadelphia Young Playwrights, Found Theater Company, and Writers Theatre of New Jersey). And for that I’m forever grateful.
BY: SHAVON NORRIS
PHILADELPHIA YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS
2016 THE BUTTERFLY PROJECT
On May 28th and June 4th I had the pleasure of facilitating workshops for Philadelphia Young Playwrights. As an educator and an artist, I share the everyday and the extraordinary aspects of moving and movement. I was asked to help the participants in this project explore the ways movement and moving could deepen the development of their characters and plays. After talking with Janine Merolla about the project and the participants needs, I proposed a workshop lesson that would explore the body as resource to story and character and environment. The project participants would investigate time, shape, size, space and relationship, to create and establish meaning.
As a movement educator, I have taught a wide range of bodies and movement capabilities. Using the body as a source of information and creative expression delights some and scares most. The butterfly project participants were collectively willing to be bold and lean into their discomfort to explore something new. The participants collectively inspired me with their willingness to see themselves, each other and their characters in new ways.