Pasquerette, Education Doyenne of the Geffen Playhouse
in Los Angeles
Pola Rosen, Ed.D.
of Hollywood and the silver screen, Los Angeles would seem
a natural place to cultivate children’s interest in theater.
Yet, the education department at the Geffen Theater (named
after its patron David Geffen, principal in DreamWorks SKG)
was only started four years ago by Debra Pasquerette, bringing
her expertise as a director of a theater education program
modestly with just a few matinee programs for students, the
program has expanded to include workshops for teachers, study
guides and activities that become part of the curriculum. “We
try to have artists join us,” said Pasquerette, a warm, effusive
woman whose passion for the theater and students is clear. “For
example, several years ago we did a show called, “It Ain’t
Nothin but the Blues and we had several blues musicians
come and talk about the history of blues music, the effect
of blues on race relations and how whites came to see black
music. It was one of the first times that black and white cultures
started mixing and that’s a really important message for kids
to hear,” continued Pasquerette.
the performance of Uncle Vanya, Chekhov’s play dating
to about 1897, Pasquerette underscores the part that alcohol
plays in the characters’ decision-making. She states, “When
we did the teacher workshops, we talked about the effect of
drinking and alcohol in making choices today. We brought the
play into the modern world.” Unique at the Geffen is that schools
(primarily middle and high schools) don’t have to pay for any
of the programs or the transportation. That translates into
the Geffen becoming one of the only programs that is affordable
to students at this time of shrinking arts budgets. The school
programs reach predominantly Latino and African-American populations,
a more diverse group than the traditional Geffen theater audience.
matinee family programs target younger children and have swelled
to 20 in number with sellout and waiting lists becoming the
norm. An integral part of the matinees is an in-depth question
and answer session with the actors, who are required to talk
to the kids after the show. This has become so popular, in
fact, that the theater is expanding, adding an additional 120
seats to the tune of a $25 million renovation, thanks partially
to the largesse of Geffen. According to Pasquerette, the new
arena will be used for smaller programs such as readings, smaller
plays and theater of a more experimental nature. Pasquerette
would love to expand the education program so that actor-teachers
can go out into schools providing two or three free sessions
before students attend the play. She would also like to provide
services to elementary schools. “We’re not touching them at
all and that really bothers me,” avers Pasquerette. “I think
it’s really important for children to start going to the theater
as early as possible.”
relatively new part of the Geffen is bringing the Parsons Nose
Productions, a touring company whose specialty is adapting
classics to a one-hour format, to about 8,000 children throughout
California. The tour shows this year are Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and
Moliere’s School for Wives, adapted for elementary and
intermediate schools. Teachers get study packets written primarily
by Pasquerette who also is the liaison between teachers, company
and producer. All the performances are free.
shares a wonderful theater anecdote with us: “Isaac is eight
years old and volunteers in the theater. He helps the stage
manager, my assistant and me. He truly loves the theater. He
came to my attention when he began coming to the same Shakespeare
show every week. We offered him a job that he takes very seriously.
you planning a trip to Los Angeles? The Geffen Theater is remarkable
for its outstanding productions for adults and children.#
programs visit www.geffenplayhouse.com
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