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Earlham theatre professor recognized for innovative teaching

January 30, 2020

Lynne Perkins SoceyAssociate Professor of Theatre Arts Lynne Perkins Socey, M.F.A., has received national recognition for innovative teaching.

The Association for Theatre in Higher Education and Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for Region III presented Perkins Socey with their Prize for Innovative Teaching earlier this month.

The award, which was given during the Region III festival in Madison, Wisconsin, recognizes individuals or organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the teaching and production of academic theatre.  It is one the festival’s most prestigious honors. Region III includes colleges and universities located in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and western Ohio.

“Lynne is a wonderful actor, director and teacher who has provided quality mentorship and service to our region for several years, ultimately to the benefit of student playwrights across our region” says Rick Walters, chair of the Region III festival.

Earlham student at Edinburgh Festival FringeBut it was Perkins Socey’s recent work in developing a new off-campus program for Earlham students at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland that helped her stand out as the award’s recipient, Walters says.

“The committee was really impressed with the initiative it took to make something like this happen — and to structure it in a way that really engaged students on the frontlines to realize their own creative capabilities,” Walters says. “I think she’s masterful at that. She has a unique ability to lead in a way that students really feel empowered. Ultimately that’s the thing that makes her teaching feel special.”

The yearlong initiative began during the 2018-19 academic year and resulted in 17 students attending the festival and performing Perkins Socey’s new play, The Misadventures of Martin Hathaway, which is adapted from the novel by Kathryn Clare Glen.

The Earlham College Theatre Arts Department students worked collaboratively to bring the production to life through theatrical staging, original music, and steam-punk style props — including a bird with a 16-foot wingspan.

In preparation for the performances, the students worked collaboratively with Perkins Socey on staging experiences, dramaturgy, podcasts, website development and a marketing plan. They performed the play on campus for local audiences before traveling to Europe in August 2019. The excursion is one of Earlham’s signature off-campus experiences funded entirely by The EPIC Advantage.

“My ultimate goal is for each student to recognize their unique gifts and potential areas for growth as they learn new ways of working, develop more effective methods for rehearsal and performance, and expand their range of expression,” Perkins Socey says of her approach to teaching. “By the time school began again this fall, it was clear that the EPIC Edinburgh students had developed more awareness, initiative, confidence, and clarity about what they want from the rest of their education. The whole department is benefitting from this energy and it is a joy to see students seeking additional opportunities that will move them toward their post-graduation goals.”

Perkins Socey has been a professor and student mentor at Earlham since2009 and has worked as a professional actor, director, casting director and producer for over 35 years.  She has directed a wide range of productions including Into The WoodsOthelloArsenic & Old LaceThe Laramie ProjectPinocchioA Midsummer Night's DreamThe Importance of Being Earnest, and Charlotte's Web. Her work has been featured by Actors Theatre of Louisville, Asolo Repertory, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Richmond Shakespeare Festival, the Human Race Theatre Company, Phoenix Theatre, Lilly Theatre at the Children’s Museum, City Center Children’s Theatre, Brown County Playhouse and many university theatres.

She teaches courses like “Foundations of Acting, Directing, Movement for the Stage, Devised Theatre, “Theatre for Change,” “Acting Styles,” and leads several applied theatre opportunities related to acting and stage management.

Student participation in Region III

Dozens of Earlham Theatre Arts students participated in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for Region III in Madison, Wisconsin, the first week of January where they attended workshops and performances, presented and competed in events and networked with other students from the region.

Four student actor nominees competed in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition, including Micaela Levesque and Fawzia Istrabadi for their work on the Earlham production of Company; and Jordan Wolfe and Brianna Miller for their work on The Misadventures of Martin Hathaway

Three students participated in rehearsed readings of Ten Minute and One Act plays: Theo Merback, Brianna Miller and Cameron Wooddy.

Levesque also was a finalist for the dance portion of the festival’s Musical Theatre Intensive.

Four other students presented work as part of the Design, Technology and Management Expo: Nicole Hankins presented her lighting design work and Arianna Higley presented her Stage Management books for The Misadventures of Martin Hathaway. Laurence Ruberl presented his sound design for the Earlham production The Poe Project.  Nicole Hankins and Chiara Bowker also presented theoretical designs as part of the Regional Design Projects. From these presentations, both Hankins and Bowker passed on to the final round and Bowker won as honorable mention.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Sarah White, M.F.A., responded to theoretical presentations by students from other schools and also coordinated Design Storm during the festival this year, which is a project where students from different schools throughout the region are put into teams to create theoretical production concepts that are presented in front of guest professional artists. Bowker and Laurence Ruberl represented Earlham in this project and Bowker’s team won an Honorable Mention for their final presentation.

Higley participated in the Stage Management Intensive, serving as a stage manager for the National Playwrights Program producing new works at the festival. During this year's Tech Olympics, Ruberl defended Earlham's regional title in a knot-tying contest with four knots in 40 seconds.

Four students also were awarded Certificates of Merit for their work on Earlham productions throughout 2019:  Ellie Gelser for Company Representation on Company, Hankins and Alex Sobczak for design and construction work on the Ruhk puppet for The Misadventures of Martin Hathaway, Ruthie Reichman for Assistant Costume Design work on The Misadventures of Martin Hathaway and Sobczak for Scenic Painting on Company.

Perkins Socey also presented an Expressive Actor Training workshop and served as coordinator and mentor for the National Playwriting Program directors.

— EC —

Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a College That Changes Lives. We aspire to provide the highest quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences. We expect our students to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success.

Princeton Review ranks Earlham in the Top 15 nationally for Best Classroom Experience, and U.S. News & World Report recognizes the College as one of the nation’s “Most Innovative Schools,” and ranks EC 7th for the percentage of international students on campus, 25th for “Best Undergraduate Teaching” and 34th for “Best Value.”

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.


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