This week, we asked four of our undergraduate theatre students to reflect on their experiences so far working with European instructors. How is it different? What surprised you? Read on to hear from Taylor B, Jake, Felice, and Jane!
Taylor Beckman (Muhlenberg College, PA) on Theatre:
One of the greatest powers of theatre is its ability to tell stories through physicality that evoke emotion despite language barriers. I have learned how to do this and more in Nhandan’s movement class. English may not be her first language, but when she is able to demonstrate movements, words become obsolete and the body becomes its own form of communication. I leave her class feeling energized and very sweaty. Nhandan grew up in Milan, so when we went there this weekend she was able to show us the street she grew up on and where she went to secondary school. I had the pleasure to speak with Nhandan during our tutorial time and she told me about her time studying with Grotowski when she was about my age. She believed in his idea of “Poor Theater” and she just went for it. She has taught me to move my body in ways that I did not think were possible. An American professor might give constructive criticism, but I have noticed that European professors are more direct in what they expect from us. In the same vein, it feels like Nhandan truly cares about the improvement of her students with this work. I came to study in Italy to immerse myself in a different culture and to do things outside my comfort zone. I am able to do this in Nhandan’s class in an environment where I feel safe because of the nonjudgmental atmosphere that she created in the space.
Jake Parisse’s (Muhlenberg College, PA) interviews with Music Students:
“Esther’s approach to music focuses on pulling the most beautiful sound from the singer – through the singers individual color and sound, instead of just basic technical work. Because of that I’ve made so much progress in such a short amount of time.” – Lilla Keith, Vocals
“Naturally I’m a strong technical player, so Marco and I focus a lot on artistry. Which is really nice because once a week, I have a solid hour devoted to developing another important aspect of my sound.” – Lattie Reddoch, Piano
“In describing sound – it’s sometimes easier for us to communicate by actually playing the music. The lesson has so much more doing rather than talking. It’s very relaxed, and very nice to explore the music together.” – Caroline Owen, Piano
“My lessons with Oreste are focused on getting out of my own head, and not over-thinking things as I play them – but rather reflecting after the piece is finished. I think the language barrier is really unique – sometimes he has no other way of expressing his notes other than exactly how he feels – no sugar coating! This is a really rewarding feeling, having a teacher be so honest.” – Paul Haarala, Tuba
“Esther is VERY genuine, so when she congratulates you, you know you’ve done a good job. But at the same time she isn’t constantly drilling us for little mistakes. I think she’s been really successful at establishing a mutual respect with her students. She never has to exercise her authority – it feels like we are all on the same team.” – Sandy Sharis, Vocals
Felice Amsellem (Muhlenberg College, PA) on Italian 2:
Studying Italian in Italy with a native speaker is probably the most immersed I could be. Even though I have been studying Italian for the past year, it’s a completely different experience here in Italy. Maybe because I know I’ll be putting it to real use here, or maybe it’s because learning from someone who is a native speaker is the best way to learn a language. Learning from Lorenza is a great experience here because not only is she helping us with the more “academic” Italian, but she is also helping us learn gestures and vocabulary commonly used out in the real world of Italy. So far it has been a great experience learning Italian here in Italy!
Jane Bertelsen (Muhlenberg College, PA) on Italian 1:
I have Sylvia for Italian, and she is probably my favorite foreign language professor I’ve had. She makes the class fun, plays games with us, and makes the class enjoyable, which really helps me learn. The fact that she is Italian has meant that she has been able to not only teach us about the academic structure of the language, but she has an insight into the culture that an American professor would not be able to provide. She is able to teach us phrases and colloquialisms that are not in the book and provide insight into how we can use what we are learning in this country that is entirely new to us. What other Italian professor introduces her class to 80’s Italian pop music to help them learn describing words? She is a positive energy that is perfect for the first class of the day. Like the other professors here at ADA, I am so grateful to be learning from her.