Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Intern Spotlight: Heddy Lahmann

Program Associate Heddy Lahmann is a California native and a graduate of San Diego State and the University of Connecticut.  

All Roads Lead to Bond Street

Heddy strikes a pose.
I was 11 when I got my first theatre bug. As a shy kid in a new school forced to take a drama class, my first “solo” assignment filled me with terror. Much to my surprise, however, my classmates gave me a resounding round of applause when I finished my performance and suddenly I was receiving recognition and even praise from peers that were waaaaay cooler than I. That happenstance drama course gave me a confidence I'd never experienced before, and ultimately changed the course of my life.

I pursued my education in theatre with a fervor that took me through college and graduate school and ultimately brought me here to New York City. And while that little 11 year old narcissist within is still alive and well, my outlook on the application of theatre and performance in my own life and the lives of others has changed in the years since middle school.

As a grad student, a teacher of mine spoke about his experience working with an organization whose focus was international humanitarian outreach through theatre. I'd never head of such a thing! Something stirred inside and I had to get to know more. I wound up traveling as a performer with Clowns Without Borders to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake and performing in tent camps, schools, and hospitals. It was that trip that solidified for me that theatre could be used in more dynamic ways than I had ever imagined, and this was work that I wanted to pursue.
Go Heddy!

I stumbled on Bond Street Theatre's website via and knew I had to be a part of what they were doing somehow. In March I met with Joanna and one week later I found myself in the loft space of BST, working alongside superheroes. One week after that, and they had me traipsing around the office on stilts! (These particular superheroes have no qualms about sharing their superpowers.) The folks at BST continue to blow my mind with their unwavering generosity of spirit, passion, dedication and drive to bring theatre to the most remote and sometimes dangerous of places-- boldly going where no one has gone before as pioneers for change. A day "at the office" may consist of watching/editing videos from the latest journey to Haiti or Afghanistan, booking the Stilt Band at a new venues, aiding in the preparation of grants and final reports, watching and learning the Young Audience Program DVDs, or a trip to the illustrious basement to gather another collection of treasures to take to Materials for the Arts. There's a lot of pieces to the puzzle of what it takes to run such a uniquely small and yet global operation. I am a happy little sponge during my hours here, taking as much knowledge, skill and swagger as I can possibly absorb.

Most recently, preparations have been underway for another Bond Street journey to Afghanistan, this one specifically to bring theatre by Afghan women (trained by BST) to Afghan women in the prison system.  The empowerment I felt as a timid adolescent that sparked my own love of theatre, that's what BST takes to the most seemingly impossible of locations to the most seemingly impossible of populations. On my own theatrical journey, I aspire to have the bravery, gusto, and even a jot of the kind of impact that Bond Street has had on the world. It's an epic and marvelous adventure to be learning about this invaluable work and the special folks who do it.
Singing On The Stilts....

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Intern Spotlight: Charlotte Drover

This week, BST spotlights our Production Intern Charlotte Drover!  Charlotte is a senior at Drew University with a focus in Theatre and Middle Eastern Studies.

In my overactive imagination, I've always fancied myself a xenophile wanderlust Queen: I conquered the world's most temperamental volcano in Sicily, dabbled in Arabic in high school, harboured a rather conspicuous obsession with India, and left my heart and soul in Londontown. I first learned of Bond Street Theatre's fascinating method through my mentor and friend Olivia Harris and readied myself to join with this creative force. My first toe-dip into the vast ocean of applied theatre began my sophomore year with the Drew University -- Marion Bolden Center Collaboration with Newark high school students. I concluded the semester and second Collaboration year with a growing storm of questions to bring to BST: 
What are their international collaborations like? What challenges do they face? How do they overcome those? How can I absorb this as an applied theatre facilitator-to-be? 
Learning the ropes her first time up.

When I began my first day at BST, Joanna and Michael bounced to greet me with spritely enthusiasm, an eagerness to teach, and Afghan pistachios. They nourished my curiosity of stilt walking, flag twirling, acrobatics, and the dynamics of a physical theatre stage picture. My dance and theatre background enriched, I have learned so much in this whirligig of a dramaturgical and production internship and specified my preference of production execution. 

From Day 1, I was enamoured by the work I was fortunate to do, obnoxiously gushing to my NYC friends and NH family about my assignments. I devour my work: researching the reality of the Afghan woman and her nation's progress towards equality, investigating the horrid detriments of the 1984 Bhopal gas explosion and cataloging the images, video and data which illuminate the disaster's chronic presence for Indian citizens, and distilling the most effective means to measure the impact of theatre within a community. Delicious.

Charlotte shows off her moves!
Yet what I am really savoring is how I'm maturing into a more effective theatre practitioner. On only my second stilt lesson I decided, with a Gemini's reckless nature, to start turning, balancing on one leg, and skipping all on stilts. Two young ladies, neighbors of BST, shyly crept by Shinbone Alley and peeped out a desire to learn to do what I garishly did. Verbose reflection aside, I am really proud of the fact that I was able teach them this skill that I just acquired, and kindling their confidence and passing on the BST good mojo.

Through acrobatics workshops lead by Joanna I am more confident in my ability to articulate why I love physical theatre: its ability to use the body's specificity and eloquence to transcend the barriers of language. I direct a play by Harold Pinter, a playwright who hates language, in Spring 2013, and I will naturally adapt my learning to the production and my final year as Bolden Collaboration mentor.

The other night I cruelly tortured myself by researching what real-world, post-graduate programs in London offered degrees in applied theatre and its cost (adding a few more links to the chain of my school debt and misery). Yet I realized that it wasn't self-torment, but me solidifying my faith in the power of Applied Theatre and what I can offer that field from my BST internship. I've grown into the big girl pants of my ambition by contributing real work for my dream company.

 Although I'm no clairvoyant, I can predict this with certainty: it will be nothing short of an adventure.

The 2012 summer interns!