Arts in the News
Beginning with a single suggested word from the audience, “ravioli,”, the 3Peat improv troupe rolled out a series of hilarious scenes for students at King Theatre. Five members of 3Peat, an acclaimed part of Chicago’s vibrant improv comedy scene, came to Milton as a Melissa Gold Visiting Artist. They performed for students, held a master class in the basics of improv, and visited several classes, including improvisation and public speaking. Students had several opportunities to perform with the professionals.
“The students were way ahead of what I was expecting,” 3Peat member Torian Miller said. “They didn’t hesitate to get up and participate. As a group, we don’t judge one another. It’s a space where you can feel safe to be silly and just have fun.”
The 10-member team, which plays every Monday at Chicago’s legendary iO Theater, formed in 2012. The performers, who are all black, were friends and improv teachers involved in Chicago comedy, but felt pressured to compete with one another for a limited number of parts in theater and television. They decided to work together.
“We love one another, and we all know each other’s skills. It’s a very supportive environment on stage,” Nnamdi Ngwe said. Speaking to students after the performance in King, Mr. Ngwe encouraged future performers to “keep being great and stay humble,” saying that maintaining a reputation as a team player will help in any tight-knit arts community.
When they teach improvisation, the performers said, the worst thing for a newcomer to expect is to be “the funny one” on stage. Instead, they should come prepared to listen and to build upon what the other performers do. “You also have to listen to your audience, because you don’t know what they’re going to be like when you start,” said Lisa Beasley. “We have a responsibility to train them to understand what they’re going to see.”
The Melissa Gold Visiting Artist series commemorates Melissa’s life and interests by bringing internationally recognized artists to campus. To learn more about 3Peat, visit their Facebook page.
Watch 3Peat perform in King Theatre
Knowing who will help you along your life path is impossible, so it’s best to show kindness to everyone, television and film choreographer Danielle Flora told students on Monday.
Ms. Flora, who has choreographed sketches, monologues and performances for “Saturday Night Live” for 17 years, said that connections she made throughout her career as dancer and choreographer opened doors to incredible opportunities. “Be nice to everyone, from the person who gets your coffee to the director. Being respectful really makes a difference,” Ms. Flora told students. Leaving a good impression matters in the entertainment industry, where word about personalities and work ethic travels quickly.
“The set designer at ‘Saturday Night Live’ is the person who recommended me for ‘Lip Sync Battle,’” Ms. Flora noted, referencing a segment from “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” that became its own show on Spike. “You should always be professional, and try to find a way to relate to the people you meet.”
Ms. Flora started her career as a New York Knicks City Dancer after studying acting at Emerson College. A chance meeting with Beth McCarthy-Miller, the director of “Saturday Night Live,” launched her into her first choreography job at the NBC show. She has also worked on “The Tonight Show,” “30 Rock,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” and several televised awards ceremonies, as well as the feature films “Trainwreck,” “The Night Before,” and “Date Night.”
During her two-day visit to Milton, Ms. Flora taught a hip hop dance master class that was open to students and adults, and worked with students in drama and improvisation classes. At night, she joined students for an informal discussion about her work.
The world of professional dance is highly competitive, Ms. Flora said, recalling auditioning hundreds of dancers for 12 spots on “Lip Sync Battle.” Aspiring dancers should never stop learning, attending classes and watching peers’ performances, she said. “Pay attention and watch other dancers. You get so much out of watching somebody do something well—from their facial expressions, the angle of their hands. All those little details matter,” she said. “Entertainment can be a rough business, but a lot of the dancers I’ve worked with have been able to see the world while on tour with some of the most famous musicians. They get to spend their lives doing fun and creative things.”
Ms. Flora was the first Melissa Dilworth Gold ‘61 Visiting Artist of the school year. The series commemorates Melissa’s life and interests by bringing internationally recognized artists to campus.
Five-time Grammy-winning bassist, Victor Wooten, returns to Milton’s campus on Monday, December 5, from 7:30–9 p.m. to perform a fundraising concert in King Theatre to benefit the jazz program’s 2017 South Africa Tour.
Mr. Wooten first performed at the School in 2014 with his group, Bass Extremes. Music faculty member Bob Sinicrope is excited to welcome him back for this rare solo concert. “Victor Wooten has a new MIDI bass that allows him to produce sounds of different instruments,” says Bob. “This should add a special dimension to this performance.”
Money raised from the event will help support Milton’s eleventh trip to South Africa—creating scholarships for advanced jazz students wanting to join this year’s tour and adding to the $170,000 worth of instruments and materials already donated to school programs in South Africa in previous years.
Milton Academy Jazz 2015 South Africa Tour
Rounding out Milton’s fall performing arts schedule is this year’s 1212 play, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike. Written by Christopher Durang, the comedy is a nod to Anton Chekhov and features three siblings coping with the challenges of getting older. The student cast members include Nick Gistis (III), Matthew Tyler (II), Abigail Foster (III), Clara Wolff (III), Charlotte Moremen (III) and Emma James (II). Evan Jenness (II) is the stage manager and performing arts faculty member Shane Fuller is directing.
“There are a lot of emotional layers to these characters,” says Abigail. “We all put a lot of thought into understanding our characters. They’re surprisingly complex.”
The tradition of Milton’s 1212 Plays began over 30 years ago in room 1212 of Warren Hall. The performances evolved from play readings to fully staged productions under the direction of late faculty member Nina Seidenman. When Warren Hall was renovated, and room 1212 became an English classroom, the productions relocated to Wigg Hall. The space may have changed, but the philosophy is the same: intimate productions with small casts, minimal technical demands, and challenging material for both actors and audience.
Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike begins in Wigg Hall on Thursday, December 1, and Friday, December 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, December 3 at 7 p.m.
The Class IV play, Peter and the Starcatcher, features an ensemble cast, who unravel the back story of Peter Pan and Neverland. The play, directed by performing arts faculty member Eleza Moyer, is a “big production” filled with magic and humor. “It’s a really beautiful script. It’s funny, it’s poignant, full of nostalgia and wit,” Eleza says. “This cast has been doing a great job. We have a phenomenal group this year.”
The Class IV play is a long-standing performing arts tradition involving the entire class. Approximately 30 students will comprise the on-stage cast; students who are not on stage contribute to other parts of the production.
Peter and the Starcatcher begins in King Theatre on Thursday, November 17, and Friday, November 18, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 19 at 7 p.m.