Tag Archives: Heidi Abbott

Interview with Theater Teacher: Heidi Abbott

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ms. Abbott and learn more about her wonderful life in theater. Ms. Abbott has been teaching at Hamlin for 18 years. During that time she has directed roughly 126 plays.

What is your background with theater/performing arts?

I tried to do theater in high school and college, but I was kind of a repressed theater geek. I went to college (at Middlebury) and majored in English. I then went on to teach English and coach sports for 9 years at different private schools in the Midwest and East Coast. When I was 28 years old I started to question whether I was doing what I truly loved. I was cast in a summer theater play (Mother of Us All by Gertrude Stein) and that experience helped convert me to theater. I had a Master’s in English (also from Middlebury), but took a huge risk, quit my job, sold my horse (I had been a competitive rider) and went to New York City to train at the New Actors Workshop. I loved embodying language, expressing possibilities as I demonstrated compassion and empathy for the characters that I played. There is just so much personal and emotional growth that goes into portraying a character in a play.

What is your favorite role as an actor?

I loved playing Amanda in The Glass Menagerie. I learned how to deeply empathize with her difficult circumstances. She’s a broken person who I profoundly cared for.

What do you like most about working with Hamlin theater students?

I love seeing students build their confidence and take risks. They are great raw material for theater. They are willing to publicly speak and be on stage. I admire their courage, and love their excitement to try new things.

What is a favorite play of yours and one that you loved doing at Hamlin?

One of my favorite plays is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; I saw it both on Broadway and in San Francisco. I directed The Curious Savage at Hamlin twice; it is one of my favorites. The play questions what it means to be normal and what it means to be an individual.

Who are some of your favorite actors?

Meryl Streep is such a classic actor. Emma Stone is insanely talented. I also really like Bradley Cooper.

How do you incorporate mindfulness into your theater work?

Mindfulness is at the foundation of our theater work. You have to be able to pay attention to everything that is happening right now. The breath is an anchor for mindfulness and for an actor it is a vehicle for everything you need to do. We start every class with mindful breathing. Practicing mindfulness can be the difference between being a good actor, or being a great one.

Hamlin Thespians Thrive in State Competition

In February our 15 Team Hamlin thespians did us proud. Competing with almost 300 students (Grades 6-8) from 18 different Middle Schools from all over California at the Middle School Theater Festival in Pleasant Hill, California, our students earned 14 gold medals, 10 silver medals, and 4 bronze medals from the adjudicators for their monologues, scenes, musical solos, and musical duets.

The CETA Middle Stage Fest, now in its seventeenth year, is an exciting event for middle school drama students. At the festival, students perform monologues and scenes for panels of adjudicators and compete to earn bronze, silver and gold medals. In addition, while judges are tabulating the scores, students get to participate in high-energy theatre games. Unlike involvement in sports, it is rare for theatre students to have the opportunity to meet peers from other schools, share their passion, showcase their talent, and learn from one another. This festival brings together hundreds of students to do just that. All participating students qualify to attend CA YOUTH IN THEATRE DAY, where they meet and perform with other award-winning students from throughout the state.

Watch an award-winning monologue by Kennedy here:

To learn more, please visit: http://cetoweb.org/ceta/ceta-middle-stage-fest/

 

Oregon Shakespeare Festival Visits Hamlin

Over recent summers our highly talented theater teacher, Heidi Abbott, has been taking students to see Shakespeare plays onstage in Ashland, Oregon. For the past three years Hamlin has also been hosting visiting actors from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival traces its roots back to the Chautauqua movement, which brought culture and entertainment to rural areas of the country in the late 19th century. Ashland’s first Chautauqua building—erected in 1893, mostly by townspeople—saw its first performance on July 5. In 1905, the building was enlarged to accommodate an audience of 1,500. Families traveled from all over Southern Oregon and Northern California to see such performers as John Phillip Sousa and William Jennings Bryan during the Ashland Chautauqua’s 10-day seasons.

The Oregon Shakespearean Festival was officially born on July 2, 1935 with a production of Twelfth Night. The Festival presented The Merchant of Venice on the 3rd and Twelfth Night again on the 4th. Reserved seats cost $1, with general admission of $.50 for adults and $.25 for children.

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