Tuesday, May 31, 2016

MIDDLESEX COUNTY VOCATIONAL & TECHNICAL SCHOOLS TO PRESENT “STEAM PLAYS PROJECT”

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STEAM PLAYS PROJECT
a collection of plays inspired by science, technology, engineering,
arts, and mathematics

Magnet Arts School performances developed in collaboration with Princeton’s McCarter Theatre Center and NJIT’s Theatre Program

WHEN: June 2nd through 4th, and June 9th through 11th at 7:00 p.m.
WHERE:
Middlesex County Vocational Technical School auditorium, 112 Rues Lane, East Brunswick
TICKETS: Pre-sale tickets can be purchased by contacting mcvtstheatre@gmail.com, $15 for adults and $5 for students.
Tickets at the door are $17 for adults and $7 for students. Teachers and administrators K through 12 are free.
The show will run approximately two hours with intermission.
Free parking at the venue.

Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools The STEAM Plays Project is a collection of performances developed and created by the students at MCVTS Theatre, in collaboration with McCarter Theatre Center and NJIT Theatre Program.  The students spent the 2015-2016 school year exploring individual senses of identity and creating pieces inspired by
and developed with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) tools and ideas. By adding “Arts” to the STEM equation, a “STEAM”-powered way of thinking emerges.

Four original pieces will premiere in this production:

All Possibilities As True, written by guest artist Jessica Dickey, forces a bunch of teenagers to face their greatest fears during a during a quantum mechanics lecture in their physics classroom.

Packing, by MCVTS Junior Michael Villanueva, deals with the friction between two friends when one of them has to move to a predominantly white suburb.

Support Group for Weirdos, written by guest artist Nathan Alan Davi, is a dark comedy of three high school outcasts who band together with the help of a prosthetic arm.

ID is a devised piece of theatre created by the sophomore and junior students that explores personal disconnection, fears, and aspirations surrounding the idea of America.

The pieces will feature four projectors, a live camera feed, kinect technology, robotics, movable lights, and wearable tech, all of it developed by students under the guidance of several resident artists.

The STEAM Plays Project began when Princeton’s McCarter Theatre Center In Schools Program approached Maria Aladren, head of the Theatre Program at the Middlesex County Vocational Technical School (MCVTS), to collaborate on a project. Ms. Aladren proposed creating a production that combined
science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with theatre as the focus. The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) was invited to participate in the project as an advisor. 

At the launch of the process, MCVTS Theatre brought in three professional playwrights to guide the students in writing exercises and begin the year long process of developing written material.  Soon after, the Theater Arts and Technology Program (THaT) at NJIT and the McCarter Theatre, brought
together five NJIT faculty members from the Biology, Industrial and Digital Design, Humanities Departments, and three designers closely associated with the McCarter, to present a panel of their most exciting work for the students of MCVTS Theatre- East Brunswick Campus and the students at NJIT and Rutgers University-Newark (Joint Theatre Program). The panel delved into the interaction of Art and STEM in
a professional environment. 

As the project gained momentum, the McCarter Theatre Center brought in a number of administrators and several local artists to train students on arts management, budgeting, marketing and other fields.

Early in 2016, the Joint Theatre Program at NJIT and RU-N hosted an afternoon workshop with the goal of rehearsing and further developing the students’ work. Louis Wells directed and Michele Rittenhouse dramaturged play readings in order to guide the students toward further story development. Based on this foundation, MCVTS students began to collaborate with the professional set, light, sound and costume
designers the school had engaged for the project and, under the direction of Maria Aladren, they started to rehearse and create the four productions which form the STEAM Plays Project.

The student involvement, creativity, learning and enthusiasm could not have been more rewarding.  According to director, Maria Aladren, “while a basis in science, technology, math and engineering may provide skills that are needed in today’s job market, the addition of the arts with its highly metaphorical, critical and abstract thinking provides a framework to give the students the needed flexibility to move learned skills from an existing platform to one that has not yet appeared. Because of this, we approach
this curriculum with the performing arts as a starting point. Its inherent laboratory structure lends itself to problem-solving using many of the STEM skills that a high school curriculum would want for its students. It presents a series of problems involving physical and mathematical challenges to be solved using current technology.”