Six Bread Loaf School of English students acting in a play.

Bread Loaf incorporates the theater arts into the student experience at all three campuses.

Bread Loaf, since its inception in 1920, has made space in its curriculum for theater arts. The program in theater serves as a laboratory for acting, directing, playwriting, stagecraft, and design, illuminating the many intersections between theater, teaching, and literary study.

Complementing Bread Loaf’s courses in theater arts, in Vermont and New Mexico professional actors bring performance into Bread Loaf classes as a powerful vehicle for the interpretation of poems, plays, narrative, theory, and student writing.

In Vermont, the Acting Ensemble works with students and faculty to stage a major theatrical production every summer, along with smaller staged readings or events. Students have opportunities to attend rehearsals and participate in the productions in a number of ways.

In recent years, major productions have included Hamlet, Our Town, To Kill a Mockingbird, Blues for Mister Charlie, and Othello. For summer 2019, acting ensemble member Stephen Thorne directed a production of Shakespeare’s *All’s Well That Ends Well*.

Bread Loaf’s Oxford campus offers a rare opportunity to see some of the best theater in the world. Each summer, the whole school makes excursions to see at least one major play in places like London and Stratford-upon-Avon. Students may also take a page-to-stage course on British theater or join class trips to plays in Oxford, London, or Stratford.

At all three Bread Loaf campuses, there are many courses in theatrical literature.

Bread Loaf's Innovative Theater Program

Emily Bartels:              

So, there is an equity acting ensemble that comes up to the Vermont campus of the School of English every summer, so that what we’re trying to do is put on timely, pertinent, powerful theatrical presentations to create a community conversation. So, it makes perfect sense to have theater as part of the School of English in the sense that it carries on the dialogue and shows us the power of performance.

Speaker 2:                   

Suffer the kill. We must find someone.

Cindy Rosenthal:         

All my years at Bread Loaf, it’s one of my favorite things. Building community with the students, with faculty who participate in our productions, and of course, with the professionals who are thrilled to be able to work in this context and with this community.

Emily Bartels:              

The other side of the acting ensemble involves teaching, so these actors come into our classrooms. They work with faculty members around any text, so they’re not just coming in staging a scene. They come in and the faculty member and the actors talk about, what’s the goal of this particular class and assignment? The actors will basically put text on their feet.

Speaker 4:                   

This is quite literally, in terms of chandeliers and babies.

Emily McLean:             

And the actors would come in and the way that they would approach a text really illuminated the text in a way that couldn’t be accessed just from an academic discussion.

Douglas Jones:            

It allows for kind of release for the students where they see the actors experimenting, so maybe they can experiment in how they’re reading a text, how they’re analyzing a text, how they understand a text. And I think the discussions frequently come alive when the actors are there precisely because it’s not about being right or wrong, but it’s about play. It’s about experimentation and it’s about opening up new ways of reading, seeing, hearing a text.

Emily Bartels:              

It’s a one-of-a-kind pedagogy. There’s a very direct line from the graduate classroom back to the high school, or middle school, or even elementary school classroom.

Caroline Bicks:             

All of a sudden I started thinking differently about how I teach. So, I thought differently about assignments, so now, for my Shakespeare course, for example, the students imagine offstage scenes and work in groups to develop an offstage scene, and that becomes their final project.

Sarah Kate N.:              

I’m like, “How can I Rob my students of that experience by just having us sit at our desks and read this text?” It’s meant to be acted out and it’s meant to be interpreted with bodies and tones and gestures.

Speaker 9:                   

You only [inaudible 00:02:40].

Speaker 10:                 

Ah. God.

Cindy Rosenthal:         

That’s our job, to open up texts and ideas to interpretation, and then, activate them.

Emily Bartels:              

You have taken that student out of the classroom to a different level of understanding what the power of literature, of writing, of voice, of language is.

Sarah Kate N.:              

I find it to be a huge gift that I get to come here and, and engage in this community that cares so much about how to learn and how to teach.

Cindy Rosenthal:          Really fantastic opportunity.