"As a 30-year veteran of the theatre arts, I can safely say that few people have impressed me as much as Stephanie. Her immense talent, boundless energy, and true passion for her craft meld in perfect harmony and are clearly visible in every one of her theatrical and educational endeavors. For Berkeley Playhouse, she created and taught courses for our conservatory that were engaging, insightful, and tons of fun for our students. Any organization — theatrical or otherwise — could only benefit from Stephanie's participation."
(Rik Lopes, Education Manager, Berkeley Playhouse)
Macbeth: Something Wicked This Way Comes (Community Shakespeare, February 2017)
This one-day exploration of the Scottish play allowed students to explore theatre basics (levels/conflict/power) while interpreting the witches scene through unique treatments. I am always so impressed at the fresh perspective young learners bring to Shakespeare. Who else would think to try the scene as "snotty cheerleaders" or "immigrants from another country" or "fire demons from hell" or "alien robots"?
The Tempest: Exploring Humanity Through Text (Cal Shakes, November 2016)
This semester long residency with third through fifth grade students aimed to connect Shakespeare's language and story to valuable social skills. Students explored the nature of bullying, and the body stances we use when we have pain, confidence, fear, and freedom. They created an enchanted Island of their own hopes and fears, and they eventually crafted their own creative responses to the text (including dances, raps, standup comedy, original songs, and news broadcasts). They performed for the kindergarteners on campus, introducing even younger learners to the joys of Shakespeare. I was so proud of these students and all that they shared with me.
Shakespeare for Kindergarten (Marin Shakes, February 2016)
This seven–week kindergarten course taught young performers storytelling while using Shakespeare as a foundation. A fond memory for me is the number of ways they came up with to say/interpret our morning warm-up phrase "to be or not to be". The course culminated with a dramatic interpretation of Titania being put to sleep by the fairies, Oberon casting spells, the fairy queen falling in love with the unthinkable, and the recovery of sanity. The kids were fantastic, and because no one told them Shakespeare was supposed to be hard they embraced the text as fabulous and fun. I was so proud!
Othello (Marin Shakes, August 2016)
What do you do when the first day of camp reveals a cast of sci-fi nerds? Why, Othello in outer space, of course! Complete with space battles, galactic makeup, and cast-generated space door sound effects, this was one of the most creative and student-driven productions I have been able to lead. I was especially excited about our double casting of Othello (an Arabic student and a black student—two different examples of "Moor" as well as "Other"), and with the doubling of Iago (a white male and a black female). Playing with gender is always a highlight of dealing with these versatile texts! I also appreciated our set of stars, on which students wrote the things for which they were most grateful (gratitude being an opposing quality to jealousy—a strong negative force in Othello). One of the most memorable elements of this production, for me, was that Marin Shakes gave me the green light to direct while keeping my infant daughter with me. I know that both the children and Harlequinn enjoyed the process, and I was blessed to work for an organization that actively supported me in my ability to be both a mother and a Teaching Artist.
Acting the Dream (St. Mary's School, Merredin Australia, April 2015)
Three workshops across three age levels helped to introduce Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream to the students at St. Mary's, helping them to better enjoy the performance by their peers the following month. This was part of an ongoing effort, spearheaded by the Shire of Merredin and the Historic Cummins Theatre, to bring Shakespeare to the community. We had a blast!
A Midsummer Night's Dream (The Historic Cummins Theater in Merredin Australia, May 2015)
In this installment of the Shakespeare, Shall We? Workshop, Australian students in the Merredin community from ages 8-18 spent ten days rehearsing their own abridged Shakespeare performance. Many had never before appeared in plays, and all were a joy to direct. I was especially excited to have such a diverse cast, and to have the opportunity to explore gender bending with the help of some talented young women in the roles of Demetrius, Bottom, Snug, and Peter Quince. These students were tireless in their preparations, even in the midst of the seeding season—a very busy time of year for the community. I am told that the supportive audience turnout for their debut performance was one of the largest in Merredin history. I was so proud of this cast and hope to someday work with them again.
Here is what community members had to say:
"It’s such a valuable and enriching program for children. They learn, have fun and it contributes towards a positive and holistic development of the child. Also, it seemed to bring the community together."
"A wonderful way for students to be introduced to the arts especially drama and especially in a rural area where it is not so accessible."
"The confidence built in 11 days will prove invaluable."
"My daughter has grown in confidence and has thrived on being part of this production."
"Looking at the excitement and joy it has brought in to my grandson's life was worth the trip to Merredin from Perth."
"Every child should have the opportunity to try this."
"It has made my son so happy and proud of himself."
"Fabulous experience for the kids and the community as a whole."
"Unbelievable amount of learnt lines and confident performances."
"Excellent opportunity for our youth to develop as an individual socially, creatively, emotionally and physically."
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown! (Berkeley Playhouse, March 2015)With this eleven-page version of the script (packed with six songs!), my 2nd-3rd graders performed their rendition of the classic cartoon and comic characters. I incorporated use of the claves (wooden percussion instruments) to keep our show zipping along, and we used a verbal signal for "blackout" and “lights up”. I was so proud of our female Charlie Brown for proving that she was an excellent choice in the role, and of all of these young beginners who worked so hard on solos and even on the artwork that decorated our performance space. Special thanks to our talented accompanist Christopher Hewitt who stepped in to replace a missing pianist and proved that he is FANTASTIC with youth. I will miss this talented bunch!
Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock (StageWrite, "Stories on Stage", March 2015)This was my first official teaching/directing work with StageWrite, and I was so impressed with their work in literacy and the arts. I was able to adapt the script of this traditional story to suit our specific groups (always a plus), and we were able to incorporate three separate classes into one performance. One of the most memorable decisions was re-thinking the narrator roles so that instead became the "Story Tree". We also devised a very quick classroom-friendly face-painting technique in which performers could choose either "curly-q's", "warpaint", or "BOTH". There was lovely animal work, partnering, and music incorporated into the show. Special thanks to Miss Rebecca for teaching the first half of the class, and to Miss Jenny Rosen for being the most supportive and fun-loving co-teacher imaginable.
Mary Poppins Main Stage (Berkeley Playhouse, December 2014)With this class the Berkeley Playhouse offered a fabulous opportunity for students to rehearse a play from the main stage season, and then to perform it using the professional set pieces from the main stage production. It made the students feel very special to watch the professional cast perform and to see professionals making some of the same choreography and blocking choices. For me it was also an opportunity to adapt a full musical for youth. Special thanks to Rik Lopes for running lights for us, and to all of our supportive parents!
Mary Poppins Studio Show (Berkeley Playhouse, December 2014)
In an abbreviated version of our main stage production, these students rehearsed and performed their own classroom production of Mary Poppins. One of the things that excited me most about this production was the resiliency and can-do attitude of the class. When our accompanist stepped out in the final week they learned a new comedic opening scene to explain the situation, and then they rehearsed and performed to new backing tracks—they were fabulous!
The Comedy of Errors (Cal Shakes, November 2014)
In this studio production six home-schooled students met once a week to stage their own Shakespeare play. Every student took on at least two roles, with some playing as many as four. The actors rose to the occasion and put on a fun show, complete with slap-stick sound effects. They even covered for a missing performer at the last minute. I was very proud of them!
Improv Jam! (Cal Shakes, November 2014)
This class of 2nd-5th graders met once a week for two semesters, and we had an absolute blast! We used improv as a means to explore creativity, public speaking, and basic acting skills, and I watched as this group became increasingly skillful and confident in their abilities. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the class was an activity we created called "30 Second Expert". This game (which increased in difficulty to one minute, two minutes, and three minutes) taught students the basics of forensics competitions as they watched for timers and flag signals. Students left the class prepared to compete in forensics later on in their speaking careers. The parent showcase that we staged was a joyful experience!
Writers of the de Young (StageWrite, October 2014)
This all-day event was a brilliant volunteer opportunity. I was able to help student writers clarify their observations on the modern art displayed at the de Young, and then watch and assist as teaching artists led them to develop characters and plots around the paintings they observed. One young writer in particular impressed me with his originality. Later on in the process students will have their scripts performed by professional actors, and I'm eager to be a part of that process as volunteers are needed. I hope I'll see more of this wonderful group in the future!
Frozen (Berkeley Playhouse, August 2014)
This was another fun opportunity to adapt material for children's theatre (one of my favorite aspects of working at the Berkeley Playhouse). By the end of our camp we had told Elsa's entire story—complete with our own frozen river, ballroom dancing, magic bubbles, and freezing-unfreezing rock trolls. Assistant Direction was provided by Renee LeVesque and Mary Zildjian D. Pigao.
I acted as assistant director in this production, under the direction of Anna Smith, and I could not have been more impressed with the cast. It isn't every group of elementary students that can handle Hamlet, and these students tackled the material with aplomb and zeal. I was especially impressed with their mature handling of stage combat, suicide, and with the work of our two Ophelias—both of whom remained on stage together in all scenes. What a beautiful production.
Teaching Artist Fellowship (Cal Shakes, Summer 2014)
This fellowship gave me the opportunity to work with Shakespeare learners across various age ranges at two summer camps. I observed some fabulous teaching artists in the classroom and then was able to design curriculum of my own. The most memorable of these was the Epic Wizard Battle. Under the mentorship of the vivacious and tough Carla Pantoja (Dueling Arts San Francisco) I designed a combat experience for fans of the fantasy genre. Another highlight was the voice class I taught on accent features (under the guidance of Michael Shipley). This was an unforgettable introduction to Cal Shakes.
Into the Wild Kingdom (Berkeley Playhouse, March 2014)
These two youth classes/shows were a chance to flex those script-writing and musical theatre muscles. The premise was that a group of children who had grown tired of the human world formed the Wild Kingdom Club so that they could run away from home and live with bears, and birds, and dragons. My two favorite aspects of this show were that we incorporated a backlight into our song "Puff the Magic Dragon," and that several opportunities for each child to use his or her imagination and create lines were built into the script.
The Arabian Nights (Berkeley Playhouse, December 2013)
Two winter camps based on The Arabian Nights ("The Fisherman and the Genie" and "Ali Baba") were my introduction to teaching theatre in the Bay Area. This was an excellent demonstration of how having multiple age levels in a class (K-6) can lead to peer mentoring and teachable moments. I enjoyed helping the students to design their costumes and to master basic elements of stage combat. I also loved teaching them about new cultures; we learned about henna, and also about menorahs when one showed up in our cave of wonders! I was given the freedom to write my own script, and the support of an excellent co-teacher, Rik. It was a lovely experience.Watch Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves Watch The Fisherman and the Genie
Pericles (The American Shakespeare Center, July 2013)
What a delightful opportunity! Working with nine talented young performers, I directed a touring-style version of the neglected Shakespeare gem Pericles. We rehearsed in three locations and then performed in the beautiful Blackfriars Playhouse, making use of original staging techniques in the three-entry space. I treasured the experience and look forward to great things from these young performers!
A Midsummer Night's Dream (Yongsan International School of Seoul, April 2013)
Our YISS Drama Department's first Shakespeare! This production was informed by the Vietnam War and the aesthetic of the '70s. In a makeshift space due to renovations, it was also an exercise in perseverance and creativity as students constructed and struck their own theatre each night.
The Importance of Being Earnest (Yongsan International School of Seoul, Feb 2013)
Our first attempt at a challenging period text, and dialect work. The students tackled these challenges very well. In keeping with our department's strong history of gender-blind and cross-gender casting, we had a male Lady Bracknell and a female Reverend Chasuble.
Read-a-Thon Play: Books are the Golden Ticket (Yongsan International School of Seoul, February 2013)
This year's read-a-thon premise was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Poor Mr. Wonka's factory has been turned into a library. How shall we save him when all we have are these books...wait a minute! It's crazy, but it just might work! This show was fun to write, perform in, and direct.
Madrigal Dinner (Yongsan International School of Seoul, April 2012)
This combined event with the Band and Choral departments was a chance to teach Renaissance choreography for the large-group dances that we staged, and to lead the Drama students in performances of beloved Shakespeare monologues.
Aladdin, Jr. (Yongsan International School of Seoul, April 2012)
In keeping with my dedication to make casting as merit-based as possible, I allowed one very special middle school student to prove that a girl can play the Genie! After the show, Princess Jasmine worked diligently on her audition pieces, flew to New York to show them, and is now a BFA Theatre major in the states. Well done, lovelies!
Read-a-Thon Play: Poppin' Thru Books (Yongsan International School of Seoul, February 2012)
For this year's Read-a-Thon kick-off assembly I was given Popper's Penguins as a premise. Due to growing student interest, the cast size increased again this year. I had a great time directing and writing for these students, and we all especially enjoyed learning the choreography for the closing penguin party scene. Huzzah, literacy!
A Little Princess (Yongsan International School of Seoul, Oct 2011)
I adapted this script from the beloved children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and published it online under a pen name. It was our department's first drama, our first full-length production requiring an intermission, and our first chance to use the flats that we constructed. We aged the character of Ms. Minchin in order to allow a very tallented Saudi student to keep her hair covered by a grey wig. She did fantastically!
Wind of a Thousand Tales (Yongsan International School of Seoul, May 2011).
This was a great multicultural piece with opportunities for several small ensembles or for fun doubling. I was especially proud that this production made strong use of elementary, middle, and high school students, and that we were able to make community relationships (some costumes were loaned from the Mexican Embassy, for example).
Read-a-Thon Play: Night at the Library (Yongsan International School of Seoul, February 2011)
Another Read-a-Thon kick-off assembly that I had the opportunity to write, perform in, and direct! This year the cast size doubled, and I was given the premise Night at the Museum. I incorporated mime techniques into the play, as students portrayed storybook statues that came to life and tried to rewrite themselves. As with all the Read-A-Thon plays, audience interaction was expressly written into this piece.
Into the Woods, Jr. (Yongsan International School of Seoul, Nov 2010)
This was our second musical at YISS. With few boys in the department, some very talented young women stepped up to play both the Baker and the Wolf––and had a great time! We designed and built several set pieces that became staples of our department. This was our first chance to use the new sound system that we fundraised and campaigned for, and I think that the students put those wireless mics to very good use!
Once on this Island, Jr. (Yongsan International School of Seoul, May 2010)
My first musical with YISS! Using young women as Ton-Ton and Agwe, we performed with only one wireless mic and two handhelds. The students rose to the challenge and mastered the art of mic-trading using small labeled wooden blocks in rehearsals. We proved that our still-budding department could handle a full musical. I was very proud!
Read-a-Thon Play: Up with Reading (Yongsan International School of Seoul, February 2010)
I've always been passionate about literacy, so when administrators asked me to get involved I was very keen on the idea of creating a fun Read-a-Thon kick-off play for elementary aged students. I was asked to adapt the script of the film Up and created a story about a library that needed to be air-lifted to safety by a group of eager scouts. We had a lot of fun!
At the Core: A Collection of One-Acts About the Motivations that Shape Us (Yongsan International School of Seoul, Nov 2009)
This was the first show I directed with YISS. It included The Apple, The Bridge Watcher, and The Giving Tree. At the time, our department had almost no set pieces, few costumes, and only a handful of performers who could act in each segment. Despite all of these obsticles, I think that we created something moving; we proved that strong performances are enough. Well done, everyone!
Other Projects (Yongsan International School of Seoul)
During my time at YISS I also directed three Drama programs that were performed on campus and then toured to our sister school (ICS Uijeongbu) where we led improv workshops after the shows. Performance elements included human videos, blacklight choreography, and student-written skits. Other fun shows staged by the department were: Shakespeare Snippets, a chance to share Shakespeare with our elementary students, Fractured Fairy Tales, an irreverent version of the classics, and the black light workshops that we held for elementary students. I also flew to the Philippines to visit the orphanage Samaritan's Place where I helped to lead a week-long camp using song, dance, and drama techniques. The best part of this process was training young performers so that they, in turn, could be teachers.
Covenant Players (International Drama Company)
I toured for four and a half years with the Covenant Players Drama Company, performing and leading drama workshops for user groups. I directed groups of three to four in material that ranged from comedic to intensely dramatic. During this time, I worked in fourteen west coast states, New York, Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Mainland China, and South Korea with a total of 3,426 appearances. We toured in schools, churches, military bases, and prisons. It was a formative experience, and convinced me that theatre can be powerful in any space, and with any audience.