In January, five William Jewell students and one alumnus traveled to New York City as part of a project created by Natasha Lee Martin, the College’s artist in residence and Dr. Joshua Hoops, communications professor. The project was a solo show written by Martin, who also performed in the production, titled “Confessions of a Synesthetic Sailor.”
Natasha Martin premiered her work June 2013 after working on it for about five years.
“That was really the first attempt to put it in front of an audience, and I didn’t feel at that time it was ready to be funded,” Martin said. “I really just wanted to see what the audience reaction would be.”
After working with her dramaturg, Noreen Barnes, Martin revised “Confessions” until she started her application for a Kauffman Grant.
Dr. Hoops became involved in Martin’s project during a conversation in October.
“Something just kind of clicked, where I had the thought ‘Maybe I can do something to be a part of this and get students involved,’” Hoops said.
Both Hoops and Martin applied for and were awarded Kauffman Grants.
“[Applying for the Kauffman Grant] is a pretty streamlined process. The proposal needed to explain how is this particular pedagogical choice unique from traditional classroom methods,” Hoops said.
Hoops said the proposal also needed to include how students would be involved, the budget for the project overall and how the project would be shared with the Jewell community.
Martin explained that proposals for the Kauffman Grant were intended to create a different environment in which students could learn in their chosen discipline.
“I thought that the process was very accessible. However, they were definitely looking for projects that were reflecting a high level of innovation in your field,” Martin said. “One element that was very vital to emphasize was how was this particular production going to be more innovative, and so that was very challenging.”
Martin went through several drafts of the proposal, she said that those at the Kauffman Center were “extremely monumental with helping hone the vision of the proposal.”
After being awarded the Kauffman Grant, the artistic director of the New York City-based Theatrelab proposed the idea of Martin’s show being performed at the venue.
“I was very open to the prospect of doing the show in Kansas City, however, I felt that I had a stronger relationship and professional network with people in New York City,” Martin said, “I felt like my students would benefit more from my own network.”
The Jewell students that were chosen to work on this project through the theater department were Annette Dauster, senior and production stage manager; Raquel Shaw, junior and graphics / art manager for the pre-show; and Curshion Jones, alumnus and video editor for the production and website .
“The students were interviewed quite extensively. They had to write a proposal about how they thought it would benefit their studies and their future goals,” Martin said.
“They helped me in designing and executing a media plan. My plan was to not have the roles clearly delineated as to give them an opportunity to try different things, but each student adopted a different role and made it their own,” Hoops said.Jewell students Erin Melton, first year; Morgan Allen, sophomore; and Erin Christiansen, senior, were part of the media and social networking team.
Allen’s responsibility was creating and building the website for the show. Melton coordinated the social media effort, and Christiansen drafted and sent out press releases to media outlets in New York City.
“Having very little experience in theater and even less in publicity and marketing, this was largely an educational experience for me,” Melton said.
Hoops said that students who were interested had an application process then subsequent interviews.
“I reached out to students in my media writing class and reached out to those that had taken media writing in the past. Then I also presented it to students who worked with the Hilltop Monitor,” Hoops said.
Pre-production meetings were scheduled multiple weeks in advance before the group left for New York. Martin, Hoops, and the six Jewell students landed in New York City January 4, and “Confessions of a Synesthetic Sailor” was performed from January 7 to January 11. Pat Duffy, author of a book about synesthesia, attended the performance and held a discussion with the audience following the closing of the show. Carol Steen, the co-founder of the American Synesthesia Association, accompanied Duffy, who is also a co-founder.
“This experience is one that will form both my future professional and personal projects,” Melton said.