Academic Spotlight
Faculty Research, Performance and Exhibitions

Visiting Artist Electrifies Bowdoin Actor Training


Story posted February 06, 2006

There is an air of added excitement in Bowdoin's Department of Theater and Dance this semester, as students immerse themselves in rigorous theater training with one of the nation's leading theater innovators, J.Ed. Araiza, of the Saratoga International Theatre Institute (SITI).

Araiza, an actor, playwright and director, is at the College as the Coastal Studies Center's Spring 2006 artist-in-residence. He is teaching two courses, which will result in a public performance of a student-generated work, May 4-6, 2006, tentatively titled, "The Water Project."

Audio Interview

Theo Salter '07

Listen to a Podcast Interview of J.Ed. Araiza and Theo Salter

Find out more about these revolutionary actor-training methods in an interview with Araiza - and hear from a Bowdoin student who is immersing himself in this exciting work.

"What I want to do more than anything here at Bowdoin is to give students the tools to create their own original work," says Araiza, "The training that we do is very specific and extremely strenuous ... and even though some students might not ultimately be interested in being theater artists, they'll have more respect and understanding for what it takes to write a play, or go up before an audience eight times a week."

Araiza is introducing Bowdoin students to the Suzuki Method of Actor Training and The Viewpoints - both are innovative actor-training methods derived from his longtime work with the SITI Company, an ensemble-based company located in New York. The company has received international acclaim for its original works, and through its ongoing training for young theater artists is transforming the way many actors and ensembles now approach their craft.

"The Suzuki Method is a very rigorous, holistic approach to breathing, speaking, and training for the stage that teaches you to focus your concentration," says Araiza. "It's very physical and involves work from the center and lower parts of the body."

Actors Do Suzuki Students in Araiza's "Training, Acting, and the Body: A Physical Approach to Training for the Stage," develop their discipline through the Suzuki Method.

The Viewpoints is an increasingly popular training for theater artists, particularly at the university level. It is an improvisational technique that encourages ensemble work and helps to free actors' instincts.

Together, the disciplines are designed to "train world-class artists for a world-class stage," says Araiza.

Thus far, Bowdoin students are immersing themselves in the actor-trainings during an intensive morning session. In the afternoon, they become playwrights and actors - writing and exploring material that eventually will become "The Water Project."

"Creativity in writing is a muscle that can be exercised. It's a discipline like the Suzuki Training," notes Araiza. "So we start every class with some writing exercises. Eventually, students collaborate on some lines of dialogue or a scene, which we discuss as a group. We'll talk about what it was about - symbols and motifs and themes. That's all a part of opening up our imagination to see what might interest us. What we're looking for is a hook - something that speaks to the students, something that is both personally and universally interesting."

The Water ProjectKathryn Anderson '08, right, and Theo Salter '07, left, explore material for "The Water Project," an original work being staged May 4-6, 2006, at the Pickard Theater.

"We are so fortunate to be able to bring a world-class artist like J.Ed. to the College," notes CSC Director Anne Henshaw. "He brings a level of performance training and experience that adds breadth to our coastal studies program in the arts, and offers an incredible opportunity for our students of theater." Past artists who have come to Bowdoin through the CSC scholar-in-residence program have included landscape painter Lucy Barber and photographer Nigel Poor.

The community is invited to learn more about the Suzuki Method for Actors on Friday April 7, 2006, at 2 p.m., when Ellen Lauren, associate artistic director of the SITI Company, delivers a public lecture/demonstration at Bowdoin's Pickard Theater, sponsored by the Freeman Foundation.

"The Water Project" will be performed at the Pickard Theater May 4th and 5th at 8 p.m. , and May 6th at 7 p.m. The show is free and open to the public. For more information, call 207-725-3663.

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