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A Look at Drew University’s Partnership with the Tectonic Theater Project

Collaboration provides professional guidance, experiences for students

March 2021 – Each year, Drew University students are able to partner with the Tectonic Theater Project through the school’s New York Semester on Theatre.

The partnership with a professional theater company allows students to explore different opportunities within devised theater. Tectonic’s artists train Drew students and guide them through the process of creating and producing an original work.

This spring, students in the New York Semester on Theatre created Monstress, a work of three thematically related tales of “monstrous”  women told in contrasting styles, including traditional Chinese shadow-puppetry, Gothic melodrama, and a modern slant on Greek mythology. Although performed virtually via Zoom, students were able to gain the same experience as if they were in New York City.

The partnership between Drew and Tectonic—a renowned theater company, which has produced influential works like The Laramie Project since it was formed 30 years ago—began in 2016 and allows students to reach higher professional levels and experience hands-on, immersive training atypical of an undergraduate education.

The company develops plays using trademarked theater-making methods and a rigorous-yet-influential process of research and collaboration between students and faculty. Students are given guidance at the same time as they are encouraged with creative freedom, as they hold leadership positions within a given production.

Monstress was created using Tectonic’s Moment  Work™ process of writing performance, as opposed to writing text,” explained Alyssa Sileo C’22, who served as the production’s dramaturg.

“It starts with a hunch, or a topic that the ensemble is excited by and compelled to explore through the elements of the stage like lights, sound, props, and costumes. Our student ensemble’s training was conducted virtually but throughout each workshop we found compelling new ways to deliver our content.”

By allowing students to have control of the experience producing a play, Tectonic offers a taste of independence for students striving to find their place within the theater world, both as undergraduate students and in their future careers.

“Drew is so fortunate to train with Tectonic,” said Lisa Brenner, professor and chair of the Theatre & Dance Department. “Their method for creating new plays teaches students to think theatrically and explore all the elements of the stage, from design to movement, creating shows that are exciting and engaging.”

The fruit of the partnership’s labor can be seen at the end of each semester, as the productions—virtual or otherwise—are performed for the Drew community.

After performing for the Drew community, Monstress is watchable via Broadway on Demand through Monday, April 12.

This story was written by Linsay Arnold C’23.

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