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LOHS teacher earns a place in Juilliard workshop

Bob McGranahan chosen from a national pool of applicants


Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Lake Oswego High School drama teacher Bob McGranahan earned a place in The Juilliard Schools Directing Workshop for Theater Educators.When The Juilliard School — the private conservatory that is practically synonymous with “best drama school in the country” — put on an exclusive, weeklong course for 25 drama teachers from throughout the U.S., one of the participants was from Lake Oswego.

Lake Oswego High School’s Bob McGranahan earned a place in the school’s Directing Workshop for Theater Educators, held in New York. The LOHS drama and health teacher receives Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO: NAN MELVILLE - Bob McGranahan said there was lots of laughter and kindred spirits at The Juilliard Schools Directing Workshop for Theater Educators.continuing education credit for participating in the program — but that’s not why he applied.

“I did this because I really wanted the experience. It was about directing Shakespeare and teaching Shakespeare,” he says. “Anything that teaches me more about children, more about teaching, I need to be able to do.”

If McGranahan had wanted to, he could have attended a local continuing education course. But few of them focus on his job. He’s learned about teaching methods before, but not about teaching drama and directing plays.

“Every now and then, something comes along that’s just for what I do at a place and a time I can do it,” says McGranahan, 56. “It’s frustrating to not get more training on what I do specifically, which would be theater.”

He also went looking not just for a course on drama teaching, but also for his “karass” — a group of people he’s inexplicably, cosmically linked to. McGranahan found them.

On day one, the group gathered in a circle and found they had similar struggles. “Almost to a person, they said something along the lines of, ‘I really love what I do, but it gets so lonely,’ and I knew exactly what they were talking about,” McGranahan says.

He says it is difficult to be a department of one in a field that centers on creation via collaboration. The workshop involved laughter, he says, and labor he loved.Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO: J.D. SANDIFER - McGranahan recently returned to acting, in 2012 starring as astronomer Peter in the Portland-based CoHo Theatres production of In Continuum. His co-star was Matthew Diekman, who played Craig, a con man.

“I remember just having really great headaches,” he says. “Headaches are usually not a good thing. It was just like ‘Oh, wow, here I am talking about the theater in New York from 9 a.m. to 5 o’clock at night.’ If I didn’t learn anything else, just being with my people, with my tribe, was worth a week for me.”

At the hands-on workshop, the group worked together, participating in daily practicum sessions and taking turns at directing.

“The Directing Workshop is a program that allows theater educators to revisit their craft, learn from professional mentors and share with colleagues from around the country and the world,” says Danielle La Senna, administrative director of the Directing Workshop for Theater Educators.Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO: NAN MELVILLE - The Juilliard School chose 25 teachers from a national pool for the Directing Workshop for Theater Educators. They got support from young actors, who are shown in the front row. Bob McGranahan is in the black T-shirt in one of the middle rows on the right-hand side.

McGranahan did soak up teaching and directing techniques. That knowledge will be useful this coming school year, says Cindy Schubert, Lake Oswego High School principal.

“Bob is a great teacher who will take this opportunity at Juilliard, garner every nugget he can from the experience and put it to good use in the classroom,” says Schubert, who wrote one of McGranahan’s two letters of recommendation, which were required for the workshop.

Stan Foote, Oregon Children’s Theatre;s artistic director, wrote McGranahan’s other letter of recommendation.

Foote, who directs productions for many local theaters, recalls directing a play in the 1980s or ‘90s that McGranahan was in, aPhoto Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Bob McGranahan has been a teacher for 16 years and is a Lakeridge graduate. love story centering on Vietnam War veterans returning to the United States. McGranahan, who played a veteran, was performing the final monologue of the show when there came the sound that every actor dreads: the jingling keys of patrons about to leave, Foote says. But the sound audience members were making wasn’t what it seemed.

“They were crying so much they were digging for Kleenex: You could hear the rattle of keys as women were digging through their purses,” Foote says.

Foote’s not at all surprised that this veteran actor — who brings an audience to tears and who remains a member of the professional actors’ union, Actors’ Equity Association — earned a spot at The Juilliard workshop.

“He’s brilliant; he’s studious,” Foote says. “He takes the craft seriously — it’s not a recreational thing for him. He has fun when he does it and he loves it, but it’s a serious thing for him.”

McGranahan says the workshop helped shape an approach to directing he plans to bring to school this fall. As a director of students who are new to theater, he says it’s tempting to tell them what to do: how to behave, and how to move across the stage. But in a professional setting, an actor would bring his or her take on a character, and the director then would decide if it worked.

McGranahan also discovered how to more easily comprehend a Shakespearean play’s blank verse. The renowned, Elizabethan-era playwright’s works contain three styles: prose, which is unrhymed, arrhythmic, regular speech; verse, which is rhyming poetry; and blank verse, which is poetry that doesn’t rhyme but has a rhythm, usually iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is a way of matching up syllables to create a rhythm.Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO: NAN MELVILLE - Directing young actors was a part of The Juilliard Schools workshop for theater educators.

The last word in each line of blank verse is the most important and carries the meaning of an entire speech, McGranahan says. He says a Shakespearean play is all about the language and could almost be done with a person onstage in costume speaking the lines with no set or other trappings.

“In a really great contemporary play, a lot of it is subtext, so when the character says, ‘I love you,’ what they’re really saying is, ‘I hate you,’” McGranahan says. “In Shakespeare, the talking is the action in their universe. That’s why, in a way, it is its own style of acting.”

That’s different from the way McGranahan was taught when he launched his professional acting career in Chicago. “My style is American, rock ‘n’ roll, down-and-dirty, Chicago-style theater,” he says.

So, it’s not like he’s new to acting, directing or Shakespeare.

“Can I direct Shakespeare? Yeah,” he says. “Can I direct Shakespeare well? Yeah. But now, I can be better at it.”

Contact Jillian Daley at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




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