This is the type of story any student here would preface with the phrase: “So today I had a total Bennington moment.”
This Field Work Term, I set out to write a play with my free time. Basically, my goal is to have a solid draft with a plot that makes sense and characters that have at least begun to be developed. Right now, for me, its more about having a complete work than about having something that is stylistically brilliant. I sent what I’ve got to a few friends for feedback and at the beginning of next term (or whenever I’m comfortable enough with what I’ve written) I am hoping to organize a reading of some sort. I love play-readings and its a great opportunity to get other people’s opinions.
Anyway, my play is about how identity is constructed in the gossipy climate of high school, specifically for gay men. Just as I was losing momentum in my writing, I stumbled across a book — actually, because someone mentioned it on admissions material — that was a sociological study of masculinity in high school. I cannot put it down. It’s called ‘Dude You’re a Fag’ and its by C. J. Pascoe.
My Plan at Bennington is in Linguistics and Drama (more specifically playwriting). The driving question is sort of “How can the role of language in every day life inform art?” and vice versa. I like to think about how people understand one another and interact one another in daily life, how they form ‘meaning’ and how that can be translated onto the stage. Similarly, how does an audience member learn a theme? How can a writer (or director, or actor, or set designer, etc.) communicate those ideas most clearly?
Now, through the most beautifully serendipitous moment, I have a perfect example of how this could work. Through the book, I am learning about how norms were established in one particular high school through the language used by students, teachers and faculty. I am planning on adapting these real life, meaningful moments onto the stage, turning them (hopefully) into literary tools that can further my point. I’ve already started scouring Crossett library for similar books. More importantly, I got my groove back and I can’t wait to keep writing.
The short answer is no, you do not need to audition, but you are welcome to send us whatever supplemental materials you would like. The admissions office decides whether or not you get into Bennington, and then you get to decide what you want to study and how you want to study it once you are here. Bennington students, in the performing arts especially, are all about collaboration. Within departments (and really across disciplines) people form connections and start working together, both for classwork and self-driven projects. Freshmen can engage in this community quickly; for instance, we had some first-year students on stage in the faculty’s fall drama production. Another thing that I think makes Bennington unique is that our drama program allows students to engage in all aspects of production that interest them, from acting and directing to playwriting and costume design. These classes are available to all students regardless of primary interests, although advanced courses within these fields have pre-requisites.
45 minute phone conference at 8 o’clock at night with a playwrighting professor about the song cycle I’m writing for a joint dance/drama class that I’m taking as a music student.
If I had to think of one story that summed up as many of the reasons I love Bennington as possible, I’d be hard pressed to find a better one.
engage lyrically, painterly, spiritually. do it all. the more you know, the more you will see. your eye will become a different eye.
Sherry Kramer, emailing the members of her lovely Tsunami Wave Clouds class where we’re creating performance in all mediums based on “what it means to live under a sky filled with water.”
Hey! I’m not a drama student but, surprisingly, I actually know the answers to all these questions, so I gotcha.
1 - Not for admission to Bennington, no. If you have footage of your acting/other drama work and want to include it in your application supplement, then that’s great, but it’s not a necessity. As far as wanting to study drama once you’ve arrived at Bennington, you will likely be auditioning on a production-by-production basis, as well as for certain advanced classes. Intro-level drama classes don’t require any auditions as far as I’m aware, so it’s easy to get your feet wet.
2 - Yeah, totally! The availability of certain classes changes depending on what day of the week it is but I’d imagine that, once the semester starts back up, there’s at least one acting class you could sit in on for any day of the week. You can always schedule a visit around classes you want to sit in on, so if you decide this is something you wanna do once classes start this year, give the Admissions Office a call at (802)-440-4312 to talk about scheduling a visit.
3 - Yes, there are definitely video/film classes. Rather than bore you with a long list of them in this answer, I’ll just link you through to the visual arts curriculum on our website, which shows a good selection of video/film courses from the past couple of years (you might have to scroll down a bunch; there are loads of visual arts courses to choose from, although they are separated by discipline).
No need to apologize! Glad I could actually answer a drama question for once!
So here’s the skinny on the theatre program. We offer classes in acting; directing; dramaturgy; playwrighting; theatre history; and costume, set, sound, and light design (I think that’s everything). Theatre concentrators are asked to study broadly within the discipline, so focus in one area and then take some classes in at least two others. The acting program specifically is focused on studying a broad variety of techniques and pulling from each of them what works for you to create your own “practice”.
As far as your specific question, mass auditions for all the shows going on over the term are held about a week in, and students can specify what productions they’re interested in being involved in. If you’re involved in one of the main, faculty directed productions, those are 4 credit classes and generally rehearse for a couple hours 4 to 6 nights a week. So they only conflict with night classes, but they do create a considerable challenge as far as finding time to do homework. Other productions are less demanding time wise and rehearsals can be scheduled around student conflicts, but you don’t always get credit.
Glad to hear it!
I think the theatre production program is great. The general theatre program is all about studying broadly within theatre, so even I, as an acting student, am asked to take things like theatre history, playwrighting, set design, etc.
So here’s the skinny: we offer all the things you mentioned in your post and more - here’s a sampling of the kind of drama classes we offer. And there are constantly productions going on, so there is ample opportunity as you become more advanced as say a lighting designer to apply your skills in a production environment, whether it’s working officially for credit on a main stage faculty directed production, or designing a set for your friends show that she wants to do in the woods behind Jennings.
If you have more specific questions about drama, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com
Drama Forum meets weekly for 1-2 hours. It’s less of a group and more of an information session. The drama department has two SEPC (student educational policies committee) reps, and they organize the weekly meeting. Most importantly it is a time to announce upcoming drama events (readings, performances, speakers) to drama students and faculty. But it is also a time to show works in progress and get feedback, and occasionally the drama department will have a visiting speaker (like Alan Arkin!) come to drama forum.