LOHS teacher earns a place in Juilliard workshop
Bob McGranahan chosen from a national pool of applicants
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 Schools Bob McGranahan earned a place in the schools Directing Workshop for Theater Educators, held in New York. The LOHS drama and health teacher receives continuing education credit for participating in the program but thats 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. Hes learned about teaching methods before, but not about teaching drama and directing plays.
Every now and then, something comes along thats just for what I do at a place and a time I can do it, says McGranahan, 56. Its 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 hes 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.
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 oclock at night. If I didnt 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.
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 McGranahans two letters of recommendation, which were required for the workshop.
Stan Foote, Oregon Childrens Theatre;s artistic director, wrote McGranahans 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, a 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 wasnt 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.
Footes 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.
Hes brilliant; hes studious, Foote says. He takes the craft seriously its not a recreational thing for him. He has fun when he does it and he loves it, but its 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 its 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 plays blank verse. The renowned, Elizabethan-era playwrights works contain three styles: prose, which is unrhymed, arrhythmic, regular speech; verse, which is rhyming poetry; and blank verse, which is poetry that doesnt rhyme but has a rhythm, usually iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is a way of matching up syllables to create a rhythm.
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 theyre really saying is, I hate you, McGranahan says. In Shakespeare, the talking is the action in their universe. Thats why, in a way, it is its own style of acting.
Thats 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, its not like hes 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.
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