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Skidmore College

Powerful stage presence

May 30, 2017

Seeing a play as "a social document," actor and director Chris Staley '09 feels a sense of "responsibility and stewardship" to help foster creativity, mindfulness, and social change. Clearly he's come to the right place: the SITI theater workshop at Skidmore from June 3 to July 1.

SITI Company
SITI Company

Founded by theater gurus Tadashi Suzuki and Anne Bogart among others, SITI Company calls itself a "gymnasium for the soul" and an artistic collaboration that aims to make "a significant impact upon both contemporary theater and the world at large." Skidmore's monthlong SITI training includes rigorous physical practice, theoretical research, and the creation and performance of a new theatrical work by each participant.

To mark SITI's 25th anniversary, the June workshop will be preceded by an international symposium on the Suzuki method of actor training. The "Transformation through Training" symposium will bring together some 70 scholars, actors, and authors from Japan, the US, Denmark, and elsewhere.

The keynote address by Suzuki himself will be free and open to the public, June 3 at 11 a.m. in Skidmore's Bernhard Theater. And the symposium will be capped by two performances of the classical Greek tragedy The Trojan Women adapted and presented by the Suzuki Company of Toga, Japan (with co-sponsorship at Skidmore by the Stewart's Signature Series). Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. on June 2 and 3; tickets can be ordered online here or at 518-580-5321. Performed in Japanese with English supertitles, the play marries east and west, past and present, in an experience that has been called "seminal and shattering."

The impact of Suzuki's work has been especially powerful for Chris Staley, who says simply, "SITI has changed my life." Staley first participated in a SITI workshop in 2009, just after he graduated from Skidmore, and calls it "a watershed moment for me, personally and professionally."

A Periclean Scholar with a double major in theater and psychology, he was influenced by professors like psychologist Sheldon Solomon and theater artists Will Bond and Alma Becker, as well as by a semester at the Moscow Art Theater in Russia. After his 2009 SITI institute, he engaged in further Suzuki-related training, instructed others, earned an M.F.A. through Harvard's program with the American Repertory Theater and Moscow Art Theater, directed shows for New York City's Midtown International Theatre Festival, and took on acting roles ranging from Malcolm in Macbeth to Hitler in Drums in the Night to the caterpillar in Alice.

Currently a University of Pittsburgh doctoral student with an interest in theater anthropology and the intersections of performance and cognitive science, Staley maintains that, as a teacher, it's "important to remain somehow a student."

All are welcome to join Staley and the other workshoppers for SITI's free public events: a reading of a work in progress, June 23 at 7:30 p.m.; a showing of the participants' creations, June 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m.; and training demonstrations, June 30 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

[View the story "SITI 25 at Skidmore" on Storify]

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