For 15 years, professor Rebecca VerNooy waited tables while also producing and performing her own theatrical works in New York City.
“I feel like I was very successful because I was working all the time, doing my own work,” said VerNooy, professor of theater performance at Ohio University. “Did I make a living doing it? No, I waited tables, but I still felt successful because I was always in creative process.”
That’s part of a lesson VerNooy is imparting to her 14 students in the B.F.A. Theater Performance studio, as they prepare their final project made up of the students’ own ideas.
That work will make up Dancing in the Grey, performed by the senior class at OU on April 28 and 29 and, for the first time, in New York City in order to get a taste of what developing and performing an artist’s work is like, VerNooy said.
The multiple pieces in Dancing in the Grey have been created and refined as the last in a series of movement classes in which the actors learn about using their bodies and the spaces in which they perform.
The final class, called Physical Theater, is where the students put everything together.
“In their sophomore and junior year I’m basically teaching them how to walk and talk at the same time and how to use their body on stage creatively,” VerNooy explained. “This one is more about the creative process and making theater.”
The show examines the relationships between people, overcoming challenges and confronting different forms of oneself, said Chelsea Cannon, a senior studying theater performance.
“(Dancing in the Grey) is that space, that unknown space that we all have within ourselves and with others that we never really go into and look at,” Cannon said.
Jessica Savitz, a senior studying theater performance, said she found a direction for her own art throughout the creative process of the class. Augusto Boal, a political theater performer who wrote Theatre of the Oppressed, was a big influence in Savitz pieces.
“It really opened my eyes,” Savitz said. “I’m really interested in political theater and I want to be interested in political theater activism and I want to raise awareness through my art.”
To get to New York City, the theater studio set a goal of raising $5,000 to pay for the performance space, travel expenses and food.
So far, the studio has raised about $1,500 by setting up a gofundme account, selling grilled cheese and having two spa days in Kantner Hall, said Becky Markert, a senior studying performance.
A Buffalo Wild Wings event is taking place on April 30, and though the performances in Athens are free, they have a suggested donation of $10, Markert said.
Raising money and creating art was part of the lesson associated with the class, to learn the administrative side. Even if actors are not acting as their main job they will always be able to create their own work, VerNooy said.
“Working is not elusive,” she said. “You do it by doing it however you can do it. Create your own path.”
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Theater students to take work to NYC."