PRACTICE WHAT YOU TEACH: Resident Teaching Artist Steve Gravelle on PYP's TA Writing Group, Studio 1219
BY STEVE GRAVELLE
In advance of Philly Theatre Week, Resident TA Steve Gravelle reflects on the writing group he founded to keep playwriting fresh in his own practice and in the classroom.
In 2016, I was working on a new script, but I didn’t have the motivation to work on it regularly. I thought starting a playwriting group with like-minded artists might help me to finish a draft.
At the same time, I was having this thought that we teaching artists (TAs) work in classrooms every day, asking students to write and share and be vulnerable, but we might forget what it’s like to share our own creative work in that same vulnerable way. So I asked the PYP TA community if anyone was interested in being a part of a group like this, and the resounding answer was YES! Thus, Studio 1219 was born.
So in the fall of 2017, I put out an email to our whole TA staff inviting them to join me for our first meeting and to help me to figure out how the meetings should work. The one thing I was sure of was a rule borrowed from my book club, which is that we put our phones on silent and put them in a box during the entire meeting. We spend so much of our lives starting at phone screens, and I was sure that having face to face interactions without phones would be important for the kinds of connections that I was hoping the group would foster.
Beyond that, we worked together to figure out some basics over the first few meetings:
We culminated our first year’s work in April 2018 during the Mouthful Monologue Festival. One evening during which PYP was only using the Drake for a Student Matinee, we gathered our playwrights along with some members of Resident Playwrights, PYP’s exceptional student playwriting group, and we all shared approximately 10 minutes of our plays-in-progress. It was a fun and powerful night full of shared ideas and a hugely supportive audience.
This month, as part of Philly Theatre Week, some of the core members of Studio 1219 are producing readings of some of our work. On February 10th, Emily Moylan–who was the 2017-2018 Teaching Artist Apprentice at PYP–will be sharing her play See You Next Week, and Brittany Brewer–Associate Director of Education and Program Services–will be sharing her play Sex Ed. On February 16th, Stephanie Kyung-Sun Walters–PYP’s Special Projects Fellow–will be sharing her play Esther Choi and the Fish That Drowned, and I’ll be sharing Chef & Robot.
Both sets of readings will be in the Learning Lab at the Arts Initiative, at 1219 Vine St, 2nd Floor. Tickets to both events are pay-what-you-decide, and are open to the public.
As we say to our students every day in the classroom, theatre is meant to be shared out loud with an audience. And the feedback we get from others is what helps us to make our work better. Please join us and support local playwrights in our development process!
*Studio 1219 is open to all PYP Teaching Artists. If you are interested in joining, contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org