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Revolutionary Arts Education Plays with Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Catawba College

June 12, 2016

Category: Academics, Events, Theatre Arts


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NOTE: The June 18th performance has been cancelled.

Creatively Independent, a revolutionary arts education company based in Virginia, recently began their two-week residency at Catawba College exploring Shakespeare's most popular comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream. 

This joyful production focuses on how a playful spirit enriches how we create and experience art. Audiences of all ages are invited to this free event for one performance only Saturday, June 18 at 2 pm (performance cancelled) in the Florence Busby Corriher Theatre. Come enjoy the highly engaging world of magic and mayhem, where love makes fools of us all! Following the performance will be a short Q&A with the company about bringing creative ownership on stage and into the classroom.

Creatively Independent's focus on empowering ensembles through ferocious play creates theatre more akin to a roller coaster. This special production with a cast of teaching artists — from middle school to graduate school — highlights their varied gifts of clown, dance, acrobatics, music, and mask. These talented arts educators, including Catawba College's Meredith Fox, are participating in the last stage of a five-year research project to create "Shakespeare's Ensemble", a book to inspire student ownership and empower teachers to build playgrounds with Shakespeare's text.

"In our twenty years as teaching artists touring Europe and America," says Jess, "we have witnessed the disturbing effect of dwindling resources in our schools. It's pressuring educators to teach to the test, which in arts education translates into focusing on product and not process."

"But our research shows it doesn't have to be that way," continues Chris Beaulieu, Education Director. "Shakespeare can illuminate the current moment by focusing on the performers first through mindfulness, ensemble devising and play."

logo-creativelyindep.jpgCreatively Independent
Co-Founders, Christopher Beaulieu and Jess Pillmore, began teaching and creating together in 2001, but the traditional format of teaching artist wasn't enough. In 2005, Creatively Independent was born from a desire to promote sustainable artistry and activate the arts in education, bringing back a balance of education – drawing out that which is latent – and training, passing down proven techniques.

CI travels internationally tours 250+ days/year engaging students from toddler-professional in residencies, keynotes, consultations and physical theatre performances. Combined, Chris and Jess have directed/choreographed over 60 shows from Off-Broadway, Fringe, International, Regional and Educational.

When not on the road, CI is expanding their 7-acre retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Every summer, CI develops new works and offers professional development in teaching artistry and play.

Jess Pillmore (Co-director) is co-founder and artistic director of the revolutionary arts education company, Creatively Independent. Using the performing arts towards self-efficacy, Jess has toured the past 20 years as an international guest artist (K-post grad, professional development, conferences), director/choreographer (International, Off-Broadway, fringe, regional, educational), singer/songwriter (3 Nat'l releases, 1 musical), sustainable artistry coach and published author. Her Sustainable Artistry series, a provocative essay on ageism towards children in education, appeared in Psychology Today. Her book, Creatively Independent, was supported by international best-seller and frequent Ted speaker, Seth Godin. Currently, Jess is workshopping A Fire Just Waiting (working title), a Joan of Arc rebirth featuring Ani DiFranco's music and lyrics. She is also co-writing "Shakespeare's Ensemble" with Chris Beaulieu, activating an ensemble focused process within classical theatre. 

TRAINING: MFA Interdisciplinary Arts (Goddard), BA Theatre (FSU), Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Movement Studio (NYC), Society of American Fight Directors, Pilobolus

AWARDS: Best Female Actor Combatant (Nat'l SAFD), Founder's Award (Nat'l SAFD), Best Musical (Dir. /Chor., Minneapolis Fringe w/ Neo-Futurists)

Christopher Beaulieu (Co-director) is co-founder and education director for Creatively Independenttouring internationally as a trickster hell-bent on provoking and supporting an individual's passion for living artfully. Over the past 25 years, Chris has worked as a director-actor-educator with fellow revolutionaries Shakespeare & Co., Williamstown Theatre Festival's Greylock Project, Dell'Arte, Circus Smirkus, ISTA, and presented national and regional conferences, including the Kennedy Center (KCACTF – SE), SETC (2015-16 Movement Committee Chair), Performing the World (NYC), State Thespians (NC, FL, UT) and teacher training.

Last year, Chris co-directed and performed in CI's first alt. Shakespeare show To The Breach, a high-octane adaptation of Henry V, making its world premiere in Germany.

TRAINING: Shakespeare & Co., Dell'Arte International, Society of American Fight Directors, Pilobolus

AWARDS: NEA grant, Paddy Crean Award (Society of American Fight Directors)