Getting creative to bridge artistic disciplines

Sims theater productionPhoto/Mike Lovett

Amy Ollove '21, Mark Dellelo and Anderson Stinson III '21

For Anderson Stinson III '21, changing course is nothing new. He started on the pre-med track at Brandeis, but in his sophomore year, he switched to focus his studies on what he cares about most.

Now, he’s a double major in theater arts and film, television and interactive media, and a true jack of all trades.

“Being able to act and produce media is why I became a theater and film major,” he said. “I can be in front of the camera, behind the camera, on stage, off stage. Finding ways to combine those two majors has been something I've wanted to do since I declared.”

Stinson had planned to do a thesis in the theater arts department, an undertaking that normally involves intensive in-person rehearsals and a live performance. He hoped to examine different philosophies of acting, from Stanislavski to Chekhov.

When COVID-19 became a global pandemic and the live theater scene collapsed, Stinson’s thesis plans were dashed, and he started to worry about his future.

“I was freaking out because once COVID hit, I had several internships that I lost.”

Without a summer internship opportunity, Stinson felt he had to make an opportunity for himself.

Although Stinson was upset by the lost internships, the prospect of a Zoom thesis was worse. With the unreliable internet connections and inconsistent audio quality inherent to Zoom theater, Stinson and his fellow seniors didn’t want to risk sacrificing their projects' quality in a virtual format. He realized his filmmaking skills could make a difference.

Stinson works at the Sound and Image Media Studios (SIMS), a part of the Brandeis Library that provides Brandeis community members with support for video production and multimedia projects. “Right away, I suggested, like, 'hey I work at SIMS, how can I help?'” he said.

Stinson attended meetings with SIMS Director Mark Dellelo, and JB Barricklo, director of production for the Department of Theater Arts. Dellelo paired up each thesis maker with a SIMS staff member who had the skill set and sensibility to translate each project into video.

According to Dmitry Troyanovsky, the Barbara Sherman '54 and Malcolm L Sherman Associate Professor of Theater Arts, the resulting collaboration blurs the boundaries between once-distinct disciplines and brings Brandeis into a long tradition of experimental theater.

“Some of the most experimental theater artists have been blurring boundaries between theater, film, and video for decades,” he said. “COVID pushed these experiments into the mainstream.”

Stinson hopes that, through this collaboration, people will be able to see theater isn't just an on-stage production. He has been working as a production assistant with Amy Ollove '21, who also occupies the dual role of thesis maker and assistant production manager for the department. Ollove’s project, “Foolish Sanity,” is what Stinson calls the “perfect middle point” between theater and film. The performance combines scenes and monologues from various plays and television shows, examining the archetype of the Fool and its use as a comedic device. The project borrows fromKing Learand “Fleabagalike.

The environment at Brandeis is unique in fostering this sort of collaboration.

“Brandeis is a place where students are very entrepreneurial and driven to make things happen,” said Dellelo. As a staff member, he thinks university staff can be helpful “if we keep our ear to the ground and listen to what students are planning, and then help guide them, remove barriers and connect them with one another.”

That approach is reflected in the SIMS staff support for the theater projects, Stinson said.

“No one had the money to hire professional people to edit and shoot for them, and no one had the money or the resources to do it themselves. It's very nice to see people's ideas coming to life when they didn't think they were actually going to. It makes people feel more confident in their projects,” he said. “Seeing SIMS come in handy, I feel like it really helped save the day.”

Despite the internships he lost last spring, Stinson found that this collaboration has been everything he could have hoped for. “It ended up being the internship I wanted and more,” he said.

Finding the middle ground between film and theater has become Stinson’s calling. Once he graduates this spring, he will start work with the Gloucester Stage Company, where he’ll be able to work on both his acting and his media production skills as a marketing apprentice and understudy. The position fits his experience and interests almost perfectly.

“They’re asking for such a specific thing. If I didn't have this experience of being a SIMS production assistant, but also a SIMS support specialist, I don't think I would have gotten this opportunity,” he said.

With a job lined up and the theater projects now wrapping up, Stinson has a lot to look forward to.

“I’m doing everything I want to do, and I’m going exactly where I want to go,” he said. “If I told myself as a freshman that I was going to be here, I would not believe that at all.”

While this collaboration started in the pandemic, it will likely lead to future collaborations.

“Though there is common ground between producing for theater and film, the logistics of ‘putting on a show’  in each medium are different,” Dellelo said. “It’s been inspiring to see the students agree to take on the challenge and risk of fusing these processes and to see them follow through with the amount of work that has been required to lead them to success. I hope these projects can serve as a model for future creative collaboration.”

The Senior Festival projects will be streaming on the Theater Arts Productions website from April 29 through May 5, 2021.

Categories: Arts, General, Student Life

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