Last month, two Emma Willard School acting students finished up a six-week program at the YouthFX Open Lab. Manyi L. ’23 and Evangeline W. ’23 attended weekly sessions after school, collaborating with peers and professionals in the industry to learn almost every step of the creative theatrical process.
Located in Albany, NY, the YouthFX
program is a way for students “to be creative with their peers, and for others it is an introduction and immersion into a potential career path.” The program
introduces students to hands-on technical experience in crafting a piece for performance, including writing, acting, and lighting.
Evangeline W. ’23 heard about the opportunity from Theatre Instructor Faith Lawson, and Practicum Director Bridget McGivern. “I’ve always been really interested in acting in general,” Evangeline said, “and I really wanted to go [to the YouthFx intensive], so I convinced my parents and here I am!”
Just before the holiday break, the students were only a few days out from performing a piece they worked on over the previous six weeks. Made of a group of about six to eight students, the play took shape through discussions and collaboration: “We’re a really compatible group, we are really easy listening to other people’s thoughts, and we work really well together. Everyone is really supportive,” said Evangeline. That sense of collaborative community is a theme that underscores our conversation with both Emma students who attended the program.
That the performance would be a play was itself an evolution, and a testament to the intangible appeal of artistic collaboration. Initially, the plan was for students to perform a monologue, but the group wanted to interact with each other and work on building out the theatrical performance from the ground up. Beginning with one scene or idea, often stemming from real-life experience, they began to fill out the play together, one scene at a time. Occasionally, a scene was scrapped because it just didn’t work, or in an effort to work around the schedules of six busy high-school students taking on an entire production. Manyi L. ’23 cites this process as something she enjoyed. “I have not done playwriting previously [...] I loved writing the play with other people!”
Evangeline, who wrote a novel this past summer, has thought extensively on how writing and acting intersect, and the importance of articulating the life that informs the character without leaning on text alone. “It’s really unique how people can present their emotions in a way that can’t be captured on paper,” she says. “That’s a really different part of acting in terms of expressing oneself. In a play, I would probably spend more time figuring out what’s the desire, really trying to understand the mindset. A play for me feels more that every character is alive and has a story behind them.”
Evangline’s main takeaway centers on the people she has worked with. “I am really, really drawn to the passion of the people there, the passion for acting and doing the production, and helping other people. It really amazed me how excited our instructor was when it came to the play and how encouraging she was.”
Considering the intensive as a whole, Manyi characterized it as “a fun program and I met a lot of new people. I love how people are working together and exchanging different experiences on acting too.”
Thank you, Evangeline and Manyi for sharing your experience with the YouthFX program! We can’t wait to see how you continue your theatrical endeavors!