Training in theatre at a liberal arts institution is about training the artist as a whole, cultivating students’ abilities to express all of their experiences in an effort to discover what it means to be human.

Anjalee Hutchinson

The traditional western approach to performance starts with a script, explains Professor Anjalee Deshpande Hutchinson, theatre and dance, whose expertise includes directing, the Michael Chekhov technique and the theatrical style known as devising, All scripts originate from a text, according to Hutchinson, but she says devising is different.

"In devising, my students begin with a question, usually involving social justice, ethics or an intellectual inquiry. They observe their world and then collectively decide how to interpret it through performance," she explains. "This may begin with a movement, a beam of light or a song. Text often comes last. In this type of organic process, themes emerge over time and allow stories to develop and grow."

Hutchinson notes that devising offers her students the opportunity to experiment with a variety of theatre skill sets and to draw upon their interdisciplinary knowledge. "There are often brilliant ideas and connections shared when it comes to student experiences in anthropology, psychology, gender studies or even engineering. These ideas inform, influence and sometimes inspire what performance will ultimately become," she says. "Training in theatre at a liberal arts institution is about training the artist as a whole, cultivating students' abilities to express all of their experiences in an effort to discover what it means to be human."

In addition to innovative approaches to production, Hutchinson uses cutting-edge technology to explore innovation in the classroom. Current initiatives include replacing traditional binders, notebooks and paper with online publishing platforms and websites. These applications allow Hutchinson's classes to communicate using images, sound and media as well as text, providing students with the tools they need to discover new pathways for technology and performance.

Hutchinson believes in the importance of a global knowledge of theatre and dance. She notes the department's commitment to connecting students to the international arts community, as evidenced by the abundance of world-class artists who visit Bucknell to offer guest residencies and workshops.

"We've had director and mask and commedia dell'arte expert Kali Quinn, theatre and film director John Plummer, dancer Matthew Neenan of Ballet X and musical director Paul Helm," says Hutchinson. "Next year we're hoping to bring in a dance company from China and a professional Broadway projection designer. It's all very exciting."

Posted Sept. 22, 2014

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