Out of School Program: Girls Ensemble

“[Girls Ensemble] opens up a conversation because a lot of people have these ideas but they aren’t sure how to communicate them and they aren’t given the opportunity to.”– Iris, Girls Ensemble, 2016-2017

Girls Ensemble is a performance group for girls aged 13-18. The criteria for participation is enthusiasm and the creative impulse to voice your ideas through experimental theatre. The ensemble creates an original performance using devised theatre methods. Girls Ensemble will performs with full production values for a public audience and takes their performance on a spring tour to area schools.

Devised Theatre

Devised theatre is a collaborative process where an ensemble uses a variety of techniques– writing, improvisation, games, movement, brainstorming, and more– to create original performance material.

Girls Ensemble 2017

After auditions in December, Girls Ensemble 2017 began rehearsals in January. Meeting on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, four ensemble members from Dalton, Lee, Pittsfield, and Richmond worked with WAM Theatre teaching artists to create an original performance.

The 2017 Girls Ensemble program presented a public performance of their original theatre piece, titled What’s That Sound?, on Friday, February 17 in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre at Shakespeare & Company and a second public performance on Saturday, April 8th at the Spectrum Playhouse in Lee. The show centered on a group waiting to board a bus to go to a protest. They explored identity, race, gender, fear, age, history, and protest.

Members of Girls Ensemble performed for their peers in a school and community tour from late March to mid-April. They traveled to Richmond Consolidated, Hoosac Valley, and Miss Hall’s School.

Thanks to generous support from the International Schools Theatre Association (ISTA), the 2017 Girls Ensemble members travelled to Atlanta in mid-March for a high school theatre festival. This festival used theatre to ask questions about race, inclusion, oppression, and prejudice: How far can art go to highlight injustice and hatred? Can theatre play its part?

Read here to find out what the ensemble members had to say about Girls Ensemble 2017. And, to learn about the program from a parent’s point of view, read here.

“I feel that Girls Ensemble will give girls a way to be confident in their skin… by learning about other people and how they feel and what they think about themselves.”– Debora, Girls Ensemble, 2017

Program Sponsors

Provided by multi-year grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Greylock Federal Credit Union, the Dylandale Foundation, the International Schools Theatre Association (ISTA) and Petricca Industries as well as grants from the Feigenbaum Foundation, Interprint, The Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation and various local cultural councils.

Additionally, this is an ISTA endorsed project. Based in the United Kingdom, ISTA brings together young people, artists and teachers from different countries in different settings to experience, create and learn about theatre. ISTA produces over 50 international arts events each year. WAM Theatre aims to bring our Girls Ensemble participants to an ISTA event within the first five years of our after school program being launched in 2015. www.ISTA.co.uk

Girls Ensemble 2015-2016

Read an interview with last year’s Girls Ensemble members to learn more about the experience.

The inaugural cohort in 2015 did their first sharing on December 11, 2015 at the Elayne Bernstein Theatre at Shakespeare & Company. That performance was followed by a school tour to Lenox Memorial High School, Richmond Consolidated School and Hoosac Valley High School ending with a public performance at the Spectrum Theatre in Lee, MA.

“We envision a world where young women aspire to become confident leaders in their communities.”

Amy BretanoAMY BRENTANO (Teaching Artist) WAM Theatre: Teaching Artist for WAM’s Girls Ensemble in Fall 2015 and for the 2016 Spring Tour. Elsewhere: She was the film and theatre director at Berkshire Country Day School for four years, and she teaches and directs theatre at Richmond Consolidated School. In the past she has worked for Berkshire Theatre Group, Barrington Stage Playwright Mentoring Project, and the Southern Berkshire Regional School District. Brentano was the Co-artistic Director for Red Earth Ensemble and Producing Director for Don Quijote Experimental Children’s Theatre at Lincoln Square Theatre. She performed under the direction of Moises Kaufman at Theatre for the New City; and at La MaMa ETC as an ensemble member of Teatron. Most recently she appeared in an original piece at Shire City in Pittsfield with Kickwheel Ensemble.

Barby Cardillo HeadshotBARBY CARDILLO (Teaching Artist and Education Associate) is a professional performer and teaching artist and also holds a BA in social work from MCLA. She came to WAM in 2011 having been cast in the mainstage production of “The Attic, the Pearls and Three Fine Girls” Also for WAM, she has performed in the Fresh Takes Series, The 24 Hour Theatre Project, the Word by Word Festival and the Ten x Ten arts Festival As a teaching artist, Barby has been creating and directing drama workshops and productions in the Berkshires since 1992. With Shakespeare and Company she has directed Shakespeare productions at many area elementary, middle and high schools. She worked for  “Shakespeare in the Courts” for 6 years directing productions with adjudicated youth as a part of an alternative sentencing program. For 10 summers she was the Director of the Theatre Program at Camp Hawthorne in Maine. She directed kids 10-17 in a full -length production every summer. For 8 years, Ms. Cardillo was the drama instructor at the Valleyhead School, a residential treatment facility for girls aged 12-20 who have experienced severe psychological trauma. Her work with the girls was part of a comprehensive therapeutic arts program designed to heal through creative expression using visual and performing arts. Barby has worked since 1999 with Community Access to the Arts (CATA) an organization who’s mission it is to celebrate and nurture the creativity of people with disabilities through shared experiences in the arts. She creates and implements workshops for adults and teens with developmental disabilities in multiple settings throughout the Berkshires. As an Artistic Mentor with the Barrington Stage Company, Barby has lead groups of teens in creating theatre from their own stories as part of the award winning Playwright Mentoring Project (PMP). Barby was also the creator and teacher for the K.E.W.L (kids entertained while learning) Beanz, high school improv troupes that she has taught at Drury High, Pittsfield High, Taconic High and Hillcrest Educational Center. She has been seen on stage in many varied roles with WAM Theatre, Aglet Theatre, Berkshire Theatre Group, Shakespeare & Company, Berkshire Fringe Festival, Mixed Company, Castle Hill Family Theatre and the Boston Playwrights Theatre as well as being a founding member of the Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe and a player with “The Majesters” an improv group in West Springfield.

Lia Russell-Self July headshot edit 1LIA RUSSELL-SELF (Teaching Artist Assistant/Teaching Artist) WAM Theatre: Teaching Artist Assistant for WAM’s Girls Ensemble Spring 2017 and Teaching Artist for Girls Inc. Spring 2017. Elsewhere: After graduating with a BA in Theatre and Creative Writing from Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Lia has explored theatre and film throughout New England with companies such as Riverwolf Productions (Amherst, MA), The Berkshire Fringe (Pittsfield, MA), and Plays in Progress (Hudson, NY), most recently appearing as Tituba and Danforth in Hubbard Hall’s rendition of The Crucible in Cambridge, NY. A trained physical actor and avid writer, Lia is also a co-founder of 84 Productions, an all-arts company dedicated to intersectionality.