Anne Bogart knows something about Harvard students.
Joy Fairfield ’03 and Austin Guest ’03-’05, participated in her summer workshops at Skidmore College—the Saratoga International Theater Institute (SITI)—as part of a group of sixty theater artists from around the world. While most of the other artists were above college age—“we were very young,” says Fairfield—both Harvard students agreed that the experience changed their artistic viewpoints.
Bogart, who also worked with student apprentices who observed her work on La Dispute at the ART through a Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club-sponsored program, is widely known for her unique and chalenging approach to acting. Her training programs explore the intricacies of her methods in depth.
Participants in the summer SITI program receive intensive training in the Suzuki method, a physically intensive form of training that focuses on the concentration of energy in the actors’ lower bodies.
Fairfield calls this “a kind of theater we need at Harvard,” where she says dramatic arts focus on about interpreting texts. At SITI, the approach was more visceral.
But SITI’s training is not all physical; participants also performed “composition work.” Guest and Fairfield were given instructions to write ten-minute plays, based on Marivaux’s work, containing particular elements—say, a surprise entrance, a man disguised as a woman, or a slap. “The first one literally had forty things,” Fairfield comments.
According to Fairfield and Guest, Bogart is famed for the prepatory research she does for plays.
Fairfield was impressed by both “how hard they [the company] work in their minds and how hard they work in their bodies.”
“Each of the actors is a fully qualified dramaturg, fully qualified director,” Guest said of the extensive background work. The company members don’t divide up the work the way many theater companies do, instead performing the necessary tasks collaboratively.
While Bogart can assign demanding amounts of work, Guest calls her working style “dialectic” rather than dictatorial.
All three are grateful to have worked with Bogart. Guest says that the experience gave him the drive he needed to create and direct beckettproseplay, an adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s prose works.
Fairfield laments the fact that participants are not allowed to attend the summer workshop two years in a row.
“The experience changes your aesthetic forever,” she says.