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Thursday, Feb 6, 2014

Turning a dream into a career goal

Stephan has a creative mind and a dream that will make good use of his creativity. As a Twombly Leadership Academy student enrolled at Berkshire Jr./Sr. High School, Stephan is passionate about the performing arts and is very interested in choreography. But he had never been directly exposed to theater . . . until now.

Last summer, David Bunce, Teacher/Artist-in-Residence with the Theater Institute at the Sage Colleges in Albany, gave Stephan a real taste of what a choreographer does. Bunce made it possible for Stephan to attend Sage’s Summer Shakespeare Institute, three weeks of performance-intensive activities for high school and college students, and Stephan’s passion and talent came alive.

The students explored Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies, tackled some of Shakespeare’s most exciting scenes in public performances, and learned about vocal technique and scene study. They also learned about physical comedy, including carefully choreographed and directed sword fights.

imageStephan hopes to major in performing arts after he graduates from high school, but until he met David Bunce, Stephan had never actually met a choreographer or a director. Julie Brennan, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, saw an opportunity to connect Stephan with Bunce, who arranged for Sage to waive the tuition so Stephan could attend the institute for a full week.

Stephan worked with students from other schools as well as with David Bunce. What really got Stephan’s attention was a chance to learn about staged combat choreography –in this case, Shakespearean sword fighting.

“I was so impressed as I watched Stephan interact with the other students and with Mr. Bunce,” said Brennan, “He really engaged and had a blast!” David Bunce was apparently impressed as well. He selected Stephan to help create the choreography for fellow students to learn.

“Stephan was very shy when he first joined us,” said Bunce. “We were working on a monologue from Richard III and he was clearly intrigued. On day two he jumped right in.”

Discovering that Stephan loved Hip Hop, Bunce gave him a very special assignment—to create and perform a Hip Hop version of the monologue. “Two days later, Stephan performed the monologue, Hip Hop style,” says Bunce. “He had memorized, choreographed, and recited it for the entire class. It was a very confident, updated Richard III.”

Bunce says he didn’t know what to expect when he agreed to have Stephan join the class. “Instead of a tough or angry kid, I found Stephan to be curious, full of warmth and enthusiasm,” said Bunce. “All he needed was a chance.”

Bunce also volunteered to meet with Stephan outside of the summer institute to discuss the importance of a college education for anyone interested in becoming an actor or choreographer.

Brennan says David Bunce’s generous gift has had a greater impact than first expected. “Not only have we seen Stephan’s self-esteem rise now that he’s back in school, but we are witnessing first-hand how much the program and the time Mr. Bunce spent with Stephan, talking about the importance of a good education, has positively influenced his behavior and academic success! We are very grateful for the opportunities that Mr. Bunce and the Theatre Institute at Russell Sage College have provided.”

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