My nephew was only about ten years old when he got into science fiction horror movies. Being a caring and sensitive guy, he ran into some conflict between his emotions and the stories he was passionate about: I tried to get him to watch Starship Troopers and he has never forgiven me. So when he showed a desperate interest in the movie Alien, his mom told him he could only watch it if he got through all of the “making-of” special features first. It worked. Once he knew what all the props were made of, how the puppets were operated, and most importantly, how the actors felt about their time filming the movie, he could experience horror from the safety of knowing the facts.
The principle of the 9 CIRCLES pre-and-post-show workshops is the same: it is my goal to offer our students a way to make the conscious choice to turn on their critical thinking brains rather than allowing their empathetic imaginations to run away with their emotions.
Casey Hoekstra (who plays main character Daniel Reeves in 9 CIRCLES) and I were actors together during last season’s BLOOD AT THE ROOT. I was delighted with his exuberance in the classroom during workshops. Once high school classrooms started signing up for the 9 CIRCLES matinee, I knew I had to get Casey on board with our education programming. It is my intention that, if there are moments in the play that get too emotionally difficult for our youngest audiences, they can focus on Casey the actor rather than Reeves the character.
I’m thirty two years old this year, and just reading 9 CIRCLES was emotionally tough for me. It is not my intention to shield our students from these emotions, or spare them the journey, but rather to give them the coping tools and resilience they need to make it through.
P.S. My nephew is now 18 and hasn’t strayed from his passion for filmmaking. He majored in it at his arts high school where he directed his final project “Space Snakes”, a spoof on sci-fi action adventure movies. He is, in a word, the coolest.
Grace DeWolff is Next Act’s Education Director, having established the new position in 2019. Grace heads NAT’s education outreach efforts, which include school workshops, study guides and an annual student project. She is also the Director of NAT’s flagship student program, The Next Actors: Summer Theatre for Teens.