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Posts Tagged ‘teach’

Photo: Folger Theatre.
Actor/director Holly Twyford got interested in a new kind of theater project during the pandemic.

How many of us began pandemic activities that we liked enough to keep? In my case, being obliged to do my volunteering via Zoom showed me there is often a greater feeling of individual connection when I can see English students’ faces up close on screen instead of in a large room. What new way of doing things did you decide to keep?

In one example, an actress was invited to teach elderly shut-ins during the down time and found she liked it. Peter Marks reported the story for the Washington Post.

“In the courtyard of an independent living residence in Rockville, Md., Holly Twyford brought her acting class to order. With the script of Spoon River Anthology in front of them, one of her students, 93-year-old Shelly Weisman, recited the words of Lucinda Matlock, a character who speaks of a marriage that lasted seven decades.

“ ‘I spun, I wove, I kept the house, I nursed the sick. I made the garden, and for holiday rambled over the fields where sang the larks,’ Weisman declaimed, as Twyford — long one of Washington’s premier actors — listened.

“ ‘I love that piece,’ Twyford said at last.

“ ‘I do, too,’ Weisman replied. ‘I love her.’

“And so it went for an hour with Twyford and several residents of Ring House, in the Charles E. Smith Life Communities, off Rockville Pike. Organized by Theater J, an arm of the Edlavitch D.C. Jewish Community Center, the class wasn’t just an exercise to nourish the artistic spirits of theater-loving seniors. It was an invigorating lifeline, too, for Twyford. Sidelined by the pandemic from pursuing her customary evenings-and-matinees vocation, the actress was hired by Theater J Artistic Director Adam Immerwahr to teach enrichment courses and earn some needed cash.

“ ‘The pandemic has been a nightmare for us who depend on large, live audiences,’ said Twyford, a ubiquitous presence on Washington stages, in everything from Shakespeare to Sondheim. When covid-19 collapsed the theater industry, Twyford lost two acting and two directing jobs.

‘I can only say Adam subsidized many out-of-work actors and directors by saying, “Hey, you should teach a class.” … That’s what he did for me.’ …

“Theater J, with only a handful of full-time staffers, took on a sizable mission, hiring dozens of theater folk to teach more than 50 classes, most of them virtual. …

“Angela Hughes, a die-hard theatergoer who lives in Northern Virginia, has enrolled in 16 of Theater J’s virtual classes. ‘It was a way to have theater in my life,’ she said in a phone interview. …

“The combination of pandemic isolation, audience fascination and artist deprivation created highly favorable circumstances for Theater J’s initiative: From July 1, 2020, to June 30, more than 700 people from 23 states and Israel, Canada and Australia took the company’s Zoom courses, according to Immerwahr. During that period, he has paid out more than $40,000 in fees to his improvised faculty.

“That might not boil down to a king’s ransom — national philanthropic organizations, such as the Actors Fund, have doled out millions. But every extra paycheck helps when one is scrambling.

“ ‘At times, it’s been serious,’ Immerwahr said of the need in the D.C.-area theater community. ‘We’ve had people who couldn’t qualify for unemployment, because they worked in seven different states.’

“Naomi Jacobson, another familiar talent to Washington theatergoers, has taught six courses for Theater J, including ‘Inside the Actor’s Process’ and ‘Inside the Rehearsal Room: “Collected Stories,” ‘the latter with actor Emily Whitworth and Immerwahr. ‘I had nine months of work lined up, and it all went away,’ she said, noting that she took her pension early to make sure she and her husband, actor John Lescault, could pay their mortgage.

“While Lescault carried on in the recording booth in their basement for his side business, narrating books for the Library of Congress, Jacobson built up a coaching practice for actors and public speakers in other professions. How she’ll balance the pedagogical pursuits with her acting life remains an open question: She is scheduled to return to the stage in September to portray Ruth Westheimer in Mark St. Germain’s one-person Becoming Dr. Ruth at Theater J. …

“It so happens that Twyford is directing Jacobson in the piece, a process they began before the shutdown. When that assignment abruptly ended, Twyford [says] ‘I did apply for a job at a hardware store, and I was turned down,’ she said. ‘I know tools and I build things, and it was really harsh to get that rejection.’

“But Immerwahr came calling, which was why on this warm August day, Twyford had driven to Rockville to teach the weekly sessions of her monologue-preparation class to students in their 80s and 90s, one at Ring House and another at its sister building, Revitz House. …

“The students had been asked to choose speeches from the script, a compendium of the more than century-old poems that make up Edgar Lee Masters’s cycle of ordinary townsfolk, narrating their personal tales from the afterlife.

“Weisman wasn’t sure at first about the material. ‘I said, “Why on earth did you pick this? It’s people speaking from the grave! We’re close to the grave!” ‘ The teacher thereby learned quickly that these pupils were not shy about speaking up. …

“Over several weeks of talking and rereading, though, she came to understand the value of immersing herself in the persona and hardships of her character. ‘As I was reading it over and over, it became much more real to me,’ Weisman said. ‘Every life has disappointment and tragedies. Lucinda didn’t dwell on it.’ …

“[Says Twyford] ‘Shelly asked me, “What have you learned about 90-year-olds?” I gotta say, talk about some role models! … These folks, they just haven’t stopped learning.’ “

More at the Post, here.

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Erik passed along this story from the NY Times about a mini computer that outgrew its original purpose of teaching computer science students. Goes to show that it’s customers who tell inventors what the market for an invention is.

“The story of the Raspberry Pi begins in 2006,” writes John Biggs, “when Eben Upton and other faculty members at the University of Cambridge in Britain found that their incoming computer science students were ill-prepared for a high-tech education. While many students in the previous decade were experienced electronics hobbyists by the time they got to college, these freshmen were little more than skilled Web designers. …

“The Raspberry Pi — about 3 inches by 2 inches and less than an inch high — was intended to replace the expensive computers in school science labs. For less than the price of a new keyboard, a teacher could plug in the Pi and connect it to older peripherals that might be lying around. But because Pi initially ran only Linux, a free operating system popular with programmers and hobbyists, students would have a learning curve.

“The Raspberry Pi Foundation began selling the computers in February of last year. They soon could not keep them in stock.

“ ‘We honestly were thinking of this as a 1,000- to 5,000-unit opportunity,’ Mr. Upton said. ‘The thing we didn’t anticipate was this whole other market of technically competent adults who wanted to use it. We’re selling to hobbyists.’

“One Pi owner, Dave Akerman, of Brightwalton, England, even sent a Raspberry Pi to the upper atmosphere, floating it 40,000 meters up using a weather balloon.

“There he was able to take live video, photos and measurements.

“ ‘Now every primary school in the world can take pictures from near space,’ Mr. Upton said. ‘You give people access to this tool and they do great things.’ ”

More.

Photograph: Adafruit.
A Raspberry Pi computer, which is about the size of a credit card, was created to teach computer science students.

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