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For the past seven months, I’ve been working with a talented and creative group of artists in a workshop called the Protégé Program with Shattered Globe Theatre. We have met two to three Saturdays a month in four-hour increments and collaborated with a devised showcase being our end goal.

During the first half of the program, we brought in instructors who gave us crash courses in various theatrical techniques, such as Suzuki, Laban, Grotowski, contact improv, and stage combat. It’s been a fun and challenging experience, to say the least. I mean, getting up at 7:30 on any given Saturday is challenging enough! (Fortunately for me, in exchange for a ride to rehearsals, another protégé bought me a coffee every morning. I think I got the sweet end of that deal, but don’t say anything.)

I was first introduced to Shattered Globe theatre when I saw The Whaleship Essex back in August of 2014. It was a truly stunning experience. The actors in this production were a part of something whole. The ensemble was strong, and in being so, they were able to create a beautiful, unified moving piece of art that took me out of Theatre Wit and into the ship right with them.

I went home that night and did some research on Shattered Globe. Here is their mission statement:

We are dedicated to the philosophy of ensemble and it is our mission to dissect, challenge, and revel in the globally derived diversity of American culture in general, and Chicago in particular; to inspire social discourse by raising questions rather than espousing philosophy; stimulate artistic growth and broaden the perspectives of both artist and audience; and push the boundaries of excellence in ensemble-based theatre.  

Ensemble-based art that makes me think but doesn’t tell me what to think.

After further research, I found information on Shattered Globe’s Protégé Program, something of which I knew I wanted to be a part.

The first few workshops were surreal. There we were, 13 artists with two instructors and one writer, being asked to be vulnerable. Yes, actors are always asked to be vulnerable, but this was different. Because we knew we would be devising a show with very few rehearsals and up to two weeks between each rehearsal, we didn’t have time to be shy. During one of the first activities, we were asked to describe the moment you felt most alone. Needless to say, we got to know each other very quickly.

About halfway through the program, we started devising our own piece, which has since become one that poses the following questions:

  • What allows you to break down your walls?
  • Why do we censor ourselves?
  • What causes the tipping point from censorship to letting it all out?

It has been a joy and a challenge to collaborate with other artists on such an intimate level. Here’s what others have to say about the program:

It’s like a ritual; every Saturday you wake up super early and craft art with a group of people you know intimately. It feels very insular in the best way, like going on an artist’s retreat every weekend. It’s very much a program that requires you to do everything: write, direct, act, but also engage in physical and emotional risk, navigate group dynamics, network, etc. Nothing is off the table, but nothing required either. It’s as useful and as meaningful as you make it. And in general, I think we got lucky with a good mix of people. Everyone’s smart and driven and buying into this strange conceit that we can meet for a dozen Saturdays throughout the year and make a play. As much as it is an individual decision to commit what you want to Protégés, good group dynamics are really what have made this such a rewarding experience for me.

– Anonymous (Protégé Ensemble Member)

The Protégé Program was something I really wanted to do because of how it mirrored my experience in college. My BFA in acting at Texas State University was very much about ensemble work and physical work. As an actor (and human being) I get into my head a lot so focusing on physical work really helps me get out of my head. All of the work we’ve been doing has touched on that in a variety of forms, and the more I can practice that, the better for me as a performer. Being an actor can be a very lazy art, but we must continue to mold the clay or it will dry up. The Protégé Program is a great molding of my actor clay.

Texas State University was a while ago. I am 30 years old, and the average age in the group is 24. This aspect has just been one of those interesting moments in my life that I didn’t expect. It has forced me to check in on myself, where I am, where I have been and where I should be. It has also continued my growth in the skill of listening. This lead to my learning the importance of not qualifying everything I say with “I’m sorry”. I think it’s important for actors, and especially women, to just say their thoughts with conviction and confidence, no matter whose feathers it might ruffle. If the listener respects you, they will listen. If they dismiss your thoughts, they’re poison in your life. Push them out. It’s tough, but it’s worth it! I’m trying to take “sorry” out of my vocabulary. I trust and take people more seriously when they don’t apologize all the time. In the theatre business, you have to be trusted and confident or no one will trust you with the theatre work they may be offering.

The Protégé Program has been a great exercise in my acting skills, but also in my skills as a creator/business owner because my acting career is my own business. It’s taught me to trust my instincts still and present them in a way that has strength. It’s nice to be able to check in on your skills and see that you still “got it”. Especially in this business full of 100 “no’s” before 1 “yes”.

Amber Snyder (Protégé Ensemble Member)

This is my third year being the director of the Shattered Globe Protégé Program, and I think it just gets better and better. We had such an amazing turnout of talented actors for auditions, and these 13 really stood out, shined, and have continued to impress each week. By this time in the process, I’m always in awe of the commitment and talent of the Protégé ensemble. It’s crazy to think a group of strangers can get together twice a month, train, and build a show from nothing. It’s inspiring.

One aspect that makes this year different from the past ensembles is that we worked with a guest writer to help assist in our showcase. And so, within the year, the ensemble, in collaboration with our guest writer, assistant director, and I, devised a moving piece about relationships and what it takes to break down walls.

I love being the director of this program. It’s ambitious, intense, unpredictable, and incredibly rewarding. I just love it. 

– Cortney McKenna (Protégé Ensemble Director)

Our devised piece entitled We’re Fine runs May 11th-13th at 7:30 pm at Theater Wit. For tickets or more information, click here!