Students Interact with International Performers through BYU’s OFF THE MAP

BYU’s annual theatre festival provided students with an opportunity to work with professional actors in an intimate setting OFF THE MAP BYU International Theatre Festival not only provided audiences with a taste of theatre from around the world, it also gave students the opportunity to work closely with professional actors. During the course of two weeks, BYU hosted three different productions as part of the festival. Performances included Ailie Cohen’s “The Secret Life of Suitcases,” “Macbeth” by Out of Chaos and “The Fever” by 600 Highwaymen. Members from each production took time during their visit to interact with students. “Macbeth” actors Paul O’Mahony and Troels Findsen Hagen worked with Theatre and Media Arts students in their voice dictation class. O’Mahony and Hagen took the students through a series of exercises that explored how to portray multiple characters in a single story, similar to their work portraying 20 characters in “Macbeth.” “The main thing we’re always trying to do in every show is to tell the story,” O’Mahony said. “We don’t want to confuse the audience because that just makes us awful people. We want to communicate the story. We want the audience to pick up on the visual clues we are giving them.”
TMA student Jenna Adams performs her pantomime in front of the class.
TMA student Jenna Adams performs her pantomime in front of the class. Photo by Rebecca Sumsion.
O’Mahony and Hagen demonstrated exercises and had a few students perform a pantomime in front of the class where a fisherman accidentally kills a bird. The students had to switch back and forth between portraying the fisherman and the bird. TMA student Jenna Adams volunteered to perform for the class. “They’re kind of out-of-the-box actors and I had an out-of-the-box idea, so I performed it,” Adams said. Of the overall experience she shared, “It’s good to be exposed to different cultures and different worldviews of how people perform art and what art is to them. It’s important to have those interactions so you can gain new skills and perspectives you would not have gained from one teacher at one university. Instead, you receive it from performers who are working and are from different parts of the world.” The “Macbeth” actors also participated in a forum panel joined by designer Claire Browne, “Secret Life of Suitcases” director Lewis Hetherington and performers Ailie Cohen and Samuel Jameson. During the forum, panelists shared their experiences participating in their respective shows and their experiences from their career in theatre.
OFF THE MAP performs address students during a former. From left to right: Lewis Hetherington,Ailie Cohen, Samuel Jameson and Paul O'Mahony. Photo by Rebecca Sumsion.
OFF THE MAP performs address students during a former. From left to right: Lewis Hetherington,Ailie Cohen, Samuel Jameson and Paul O’Mahony. Photo by Rebecca Sumsion.
“I’ve always been excited about telling stories unconventionally and not always being text driven,” said Hetherington, co-creator of “The Secret Life of Suitcases.” “When Ailie and I met, it was a natural match because we’re both driven by story and character. I enjoyed the opportunity to work with puppets and objects. The theatre can tell visual stories well. It’s immersive and invites the imagination and that’s why I enjoy puppet work — it asks you to suspend your disbelief and believe in something bigger.” “The Secret Life of Suitcases” ensemble also spent time workshopping with students and talked to the audience after each performance to reveal some of the secrets behind manipulating the puppets in their visually stunning show. The second week of the OFF THE MAP festival brought theatre troupe 600 Highwaymen and their show “The Fever” to BYU. 600 Highwaymen creators Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone gave a presentation to a TMA class about contemporary theatre works and the process of creating their own productions.
600 Highwaymen creators Abigail Browde (left) and Michael Silverstone (right) talk about contemporary theatre to TMA students. Photo by Max Atwood.
600 Highwaymen creators Abigail Browde (left) and Michael Silverstone (right) talk about contemporary theatre to TMA students. Photo by Max Atwood.
“There’s a lot of artistic struggle to figure out what we are doing,” Silverstone said. “It’s a lot of throwing stuff away, breaking things apart, putting ourselves and our ideas on the line and a lot of digging. For “The Fever,” it took us a long time to figure out what we’re going to say and how we’re going to do it. Those aren’t easy things to figure out. You don’t figure out what you’re going to say by simply stating ‘I want to say dot dot dot,’ you figure it out by trying to find your voice in a moment in time.”