Strong Society with the New Hampshire Theater Project

Photography by Matthias Wagner

FW: Improv?

Recently a friend emailed me a link to a virtual program offered by the New Hampshire Theater Project (NHTP) and just said “Laura! See below and then DO THIS!”. Below was a link to Game Night! Online Improv Playground. Why did my friend send this to me? Because I have been talking, for quite a while now,  about how much I wish I could learn to be more comfortable with public speaking and performing music. I also often have mused aloud about how fun acting appears to be. It was always a tucked-away little dream of mine. But I couldn’t explore that now, in my thirties, could I? 

Well of course I can. Nothing is holding me back but me. And there is certainly not a shortage of creative communities in New Hampshire, so I have no excuse. Since my friend was kind enough to think of me when seeing this upcoming event, I dove into learning more about it. 

What’s It All About

The NHTP provides a nurturing professional environment for youth, artists, and community members to be inspired and transformed through the art of theatre. They have a wealth of programming that involves productions, guest artists, classes and professional development, and artists-in residences. Since 1988, this non-profit has touched the lives of so many with community, collaboration, and education.

Catherine Stewart in the rehearsal room for The Niceties, which was part of the NHTP season this year. Photography by Dan Derby.

I decided to reach out to Catherine Stewart, Artistic Director of the NHTP, as I was curious to know how the current pandemic climate had affected them. Her words were inspiring: 

Our work is community building, and we do that through theatre. Strong societies have less isolation, suicide, depression and anxiety – generally better health outcomes and more productive citizens. In this time of immense challenges, we need to come together to ensure that everyone is cared for, supported, and strengthened. We’re biased but we think theatre-making is the best way to do that. And it doesn’t matter if you are 6 years old, or 96 years old. Whether you face physical challenges, or have additional needs that often close certain doors to you. The door to the rehearsal room and to the theatre is always open for everyone. And that’s not changed in the time of Covid-19; we just have to innovate how we gather. But the gifts of theatre –  collaboration, tackling difficult subjects, empathy, compassion, speaking the words that we find scary, or finding a way to understand big ideas – are still available to us, even now.”

And just like that, Catherine Stewart and the NHTP had won me over: I’m going to try the upcoming improv night! This community is welcoming and supportive, and I have no doubt they are going to be guiding me along as I nervously stumble through this first experience. And I will be nervous, but perhaps trying this out virtually will be just the ticket to exploring this new world a little easier. It also could be a wonderful way to not feel so alone right now. 

Resident Artists at NHTP in Constellations. Photography by Dan Derby.

All By Myself… Not Necessarily! 

My creative passions – art and music – have been focused on heavily while in isolation, but they do not require others. While I love pursuing these endeavors, I am missing people in general. Joining in on an event put on by the NHTP means I will be interacting with more folks! The NHTP has had people from all over the world join in their classes and experiences, so I can interact with locals and global citizens alike. 

It sounds like Catherine is enjoying this creative connection online as well. She has been leading a program called the Writers’ Room, every Wednesday at 8:30am and Sundays at 3:00pm. This is a free program, that requires registration, for anyone who needs a collective quiet space to reflect on the written word. Catherine stated:

People might be writing letters to friends, or their next novel or play – it doesn’t matter. But for an hour or so we sit, quietly, distanced together to focus on writing. It’s been very powerful to me. We usually start with a prompt for the day, then we write and then we discuss anything we discovered. We’ve discussed legitimacy, the notion of “why today?” and the things we KNOW to be true. Every day I’m inspired by meeting with others and for just an hour we connect. It’s simple and it demands very little of us, nothing more than just showing up. It’s very powerful.” 

Photography by Thought Catalog.

Happenings

If you’re interested in exploring more of what NHTP has to offer, here are some things to check out:

  • Couch To MicNHTP’s adult stand-up comedy class Couch To Mic had its final performance recently, so seven students braved the virtual stage to share their new sets. The performance can be seen on their Youtube Page. NHTP’s next session of this program starts May 5th.
  • Date Night! Unlocking Shakespeare’s Text – Participants will be guided through an introduction to Shakespeare’s approach to poetic drama. The gathered community will learn how to analyze and break down iambic pentameter, and begin to understand how to apply these tools to understanding his characters on a deeper level.  
  •  Game Night! Online Improv Playground – A 90-minute fast-paced session on improvisation. Participants will have a chance to explore improv fundamentals through a variety of games. Game Night! offers a ways to release and connect with others – a chance to unwind at the weekend while learning skills through theatre technique. Open to all experience levels.
  • The Civil Discourse Society  – A sort-of debate club for adults that uses the theatre’s greatest scenes to get people talking. In a year where political discussions are so divisive, or we struggle to find common ground with our co-workers or family members, this super fun experience is there to empower people to use their words to create more understanding. 

Actors rehearsing at NHTP. Photography by Dan Derby

Let’s Do This!

Whether you’re checking out to watch or to participate in, you should explore the NHTP. There are many opportunities here to be moved, to be entertained, to participate, and to connect, all in the comfort and safety of your own home. And if you’re interested in trying improv too, I would welcome some more nervous newcomers to join me!

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