Mentorship Program

A Day in the Life of a Mentee: Weekend Intensives

A few weekends ago the Mentees at Third Rail gathered in the basement of Imago Theatre to begin a weekend-long intensive exploring vocal techniques for actors. Led by certified Fitzmaurice instructor and Company Member Michael O’Connell, the group would spend the next few days loosening, relaxing and letting go of unnecessary tension in order to “free” the voice.

“All recent voice pedagogies aim to free the actor to connect to their impulses, reduce tension, and allow the body and mind to work together rather than in opposition,” explains O’Connell. “What separates Fitzmaurice from the others is the use of the Destructuring sequence to bypass the Central Nervous System and reintegrate the breath to the Autonomic Nervous System.”

Madeline Shier, a Mentee, shared her expectations of the intensive before it began: “Working with Third Rail on other workshops, I’ve come to realize how entwined the body and the voice are, and how my struggles with both stem from the same root causes. I’m excited to approach that from a perspective of voice, and hopefully learn some exercises…to help me with my breathing and alignment.”

At 6pm on a Friday evening, the Mentees gathered in Imago’s basement, amongst yoga mats, cushions and zafus, to start the intensive. Michael warmed up the chilly evening by asking the group to practice some “Fake Tai Chi” with him. Laughter trickled through the group as Michael facetiously described his time in China with a Fake Tai Chi Master. Warmed up and smiling, the Mentees then got down to business.

Over the course of Friday evening and most of Saturday, the Mentees explored Fitzmaurice’s “Destructuring Sequence.” Destructuring involves “a series of poses or movements that may induce a tremor, which, if invited, can interrupt chronic breathing patterns that hold the actor back from exciting vocal possibilities.” In the midst of doing this work, Shier described how she was “pleasantly surprised by how much [she] liked this work! Voice work [had] been frustrating for [her] in the past, but [she was] really enjoying the challenge this weekend.” Before the weekend, the mentees had each prepared a monologue from a Greek play. They explored their text using the Destructuring positions, discovering the ways in which releasing breath could help to find a vibrant truth in their speeches.

By Sunday, the group was ready to present their monologues as works-in-progress, using their favorite Destructuring positions to dive into the text. The Company and Third Rail Members alike were invited to a rare glimpse into an actors’ behind-the-scenes process. By the end, several mentees expressed how much this work had affected them not only as an actor, but in other parts of their lives as well. “The practice of putting our vulnerability to work,” offered Lisa Guerricabeitia, “is one that has endless application both personally and in performance. The technique provided clear and repeatable efforts to deepen self-awareness and marry the impulse of the body to the release of sound. It was a welcome opportunity to get out of my own way.”

Tune in for our next sneak peek into “A Day In The Life Of A Mentee”, when we’ll explore the before, during and after of a Scene Study session with Company Members Rebecca Lingafelter and Michael O’Connell.

Don’t Miss the Mentorship Company’s Presentation

At 11:00 am on the morning of Monday, September 6th, Third Rail Company Members and any Members who wish to attend will be treated to a brand new theatrical presentation created in 36 hours by our new Mentorship Company. They will have been working hard (and sleeping little) to bring us this fully produced performance in answer to a question posed by their mentors Michael O’Connell, Rebecca Lingafelter, and Kristeen Willis Crosser.

These actors, directors, and designers will be a presence with Third Rail for the next year and this performance will be a beautiful way to meet them and let them meet you! These Mentees have come from all over the country and, in past years, many Mentees have decided to stay in Portland and have become valuable, active members of our community.

Please come show your support for these emerging artists and be able to gloat about how you knew them when! But remember – this event is for Members only! So, first, become a Member and then spend the first of many mornings at your new, dynamic artistic home!

Introducing The Mentorship Company

Labor day weekend. Many people are taking last camping trips for the season. Many people are having barbecues and drinking Mai Tais. Many people are shopping at Back-to-School sales. But not our Mentorship Company! They will be spending their weekend working hard together as they start their year with us.

On Friday evening, they will join Company Members Michael O’Connell, Rebecca Lingafelter, and Kristeen Crosser. After some introductory exercises, the three Company Members will give the Mentees their project for the weekend. They will have 36 hours to create a complete, fully produced performance with a beginning, a middle and an end. In this performance, they introduce themselves and answer a question posed by their Mentors. Then, at 11 am on Sunday morning September 6, the Mentees will perform their work for the Company and for any Members who join us!

In the past, we have been blown away by the outcome of their projects and we have been inspired by their work. This group of Mentees is a wonderful collection of artists, so we expect we will once again be sincerely impressed! Expect surprises and high voltage energy from this talented group of theatre makers.

This event is for Member only! Not a Member? Join here.

Meet the Mentee Class of 2015/2016 part 2

This upcoming year will be the fourth of Third Rail’s Mentorship Program. We’ve had 33 emerging theatre professionals participate in the last three years, and we’ve watched them move on to many exciting projects locally and beyond. In just a couple of weeks we’ll be welcoming the newest group of developing theatre-makers into Third Rail’s Mentorship Company. We lovingly call them our “mentees”. Recently we introduced you to the first five and now we’re happy to be able to share the rest of the group with you. Meet the remaining Members of Third Rail’s Mentorship Company of 2016!

Caitlin Lushington - Mentee 2015/2016

Caitlin Lushington

Most recently from Southern Oregon, Caitlin has just moved to Portland and has already begun offering Jane Austen workshops to local high schools and colleges. With her theatre company, Enso Theatre Ensemble, she’s currently directing and producing a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that uses “ensemble-based movement and language that moves between contemporary speech and Austen’s words to bridge the gap.” She is interested in “the creation and performance of physical theatre (for example, Viewpoints and Contact Improvisation) and how it relates to meditation and Buddhist philosophy.”

Corey O’Hara - Mentee 2015/2016

Corey O’Hara

Corey’s play Middle Names premiered in the 2014 Fertile Ground Festival (co-produced with Mentorship alum Nate Cohen). He was awarded the Distinction in Playwriting from Lewis & Clark College upon graduating in 2013. In the future, he hopes to start his own film company, while continuing to independently produce theatre in a company-type setting.

Lisa Guerraicabeitia - Mentee 2015/2016

Lisa G.

A recent transplant from Boise, Idaho, Lisa describes herself as “driven by an internal standard that requires [her] best effort at all times,” (which is incidentally one of the common factors among all Third Rail company members). She’s worked as an actor, director, props master, stage manager, and more, from Idaho to Seattle. She articulates the core of her passion, and I think what drives many of us in this line of work, in saying, “theater is how I best express my humanity.”

RaChelle Schmidt - Mentee 2015/2016

RaChelle Schmidt

RaChelle is currently in the process of getting her Master’s degree, and is augmenting that education with the hands-on approach of our Mentorship program. She hopes to become “a comprehensive theater artist,” with interests and skills ranging from acting to directing, dramaturgy, and more. With 20 years of theater experience, she’s worked throughout Portland, and we’re excited to have her as a mentee!

Sarah Yeakel - Mentee 2015/2016

Sarah Yeakel

Having just graduated from Portland Actors Conservatory’s 2-year Actor Training program, Sarah is deeply invested in telling stories. She’s studied with Portland Shakespeare Project, and very recently appeared (alongside fellow mentee Madeline Shier and former mentee Jahnavi Alyssa) in Anon It Moves’ Cymbeline. When asked where she’d like to be in five years she said, “Wherever I end up, I want to be a voice for theatre. A voice that says, ‘it’s okay to feel what you feel. You’re human.’ ”

Meet the Mentee Class of 2015/2016 part 1

Each year Third Rail selects a group of emerging theatre professionals to join our Mentorship Company for a year long residency. It’s been tough to say goodbye to the brilliant group from last year. In fact, we’ve even kept one of them – Nate Cohen – to be Chief Resident who will serve as a liaison between Company Members and our “Mentees“.

Now we are delighted to introduce you to our 2015-2016 Mentorship Company. Each one of them successfully made it though the audition process and demonstrated a passion for theatre and a strong interest in exploring what it means to be part of a company of theatre professionals. They have a rewarding and challenging year ahead which will include various workshops, training, collaboration, engagement with the rehearsal process, work on the administrative side of the organization, the running of our National Theatre Live presentations, and creation of their own performances and final showcase. They’ll create an ensemble based on Third Rail’s model of an artist-driven ensemble who are leaders among equals. We invite you to join us in welcoming them and following their progress over the next 12 months. So, with no further ado, here are the first 5 (out of a total of 10) of our newest Third Rail family.

Alan Cline

One of the founding members of overunder arts (recent participants in the 2015 Fertile Ground Festival, with their piece “down”), Alan is interested in the intersection of new media, live performance, and narrative structure. He says, “Politically and socially engaged theatre is central to my identity as an artist, and being able to grapple with those issues with artists and audiences alike is, of course, its own reward, but being able to do this work for a living? That’s the dream.”

Anthony Arnista

Making his way through the Canadian Fringe circuit (in the esteemed company of Mentorship alum Jenessa Raabe) with his show Perpetual Wednesday, Anthony is an MFA graduate of the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theater. He currently works as a teaching and performance artist at Echo Theater. In his future he hopes to “create a new piece of work to show every month in a cabaret style setting,” as “a founding member of an ensemble of Portland-based theater makers that specializes in new and devised work.”

Chelsea Burwasser

A recent grad of company member Rebecca Lingafelter’s very own Lewis and Clark College, Chelsea plans to pursue an MFA in directing. She wants “to find ways to give a voice to communities that typically are silenced and to portray [theater] from their lens.“ She aims “to discover how theater can be used to bridge social gaps and expose systems of injustice through activating all of the senses and making it feel alive.”

Kensie Sempert

Kensie is a graduate of Linfield College, most recently acting as a dramaturgical intern for Portland Shakespeare Project’s production of The Tempest. Although she’s experienced in many aspects of theater, costume design is her passion. She’s been accepted to Boston University’s MFA program, but has deferred for a year in order to gain more professional experience – starting with us!

Madeline Shier

Most recently having appeared in Cymbeline (alongside Mentorship alum Jahnavi Alyssa), Madeline is an experienced actress, as well as having dabbled in stage management and directing. In her time at Third Rail, she hopes to work on becoming “a confident, competent, compassionate artist, sharing transformative, moving work in a place that [she] love[s].”

Clearer from a Distance: Themes of Belonging in Middletown, Frankenstein and the Life of a Mentee

by Joellen Sweeney

I’ve been thinking a lot about belonging recently. It’s something that’s been on my mind since May when I graduated college, but it wasn’t until I watched Third Rail’s production of Will Eno’s play Middletown that I was able to finally put a definition to it the feeling: Belonging is the sense of being woven into the fabric of your environment—threads stitching person to person and heart to heart. The Middletowners spend the majority of the play desperately seeking these connections as they round-peg-square-hole-it through their daily lives. Eno makes a convincing case that the sense of belonging is most clearly understood when it is absent from our lives. Early in the play, the Astronaut views his hometown from space and discovers the profound in the mediocre. In Act II, the Mechanic finds he feels most connected as he revisits a dance from his childhood. In each case, it is the distance that allows these characters to examine the connections that once made them part of a whole.

This outside-looking-in perspective on belonging was evident again at last weekend’s National Theatre Live performance of Frankenstein. The creature cries out, “I am the one who stands outside the door. I see inside. But I daren’t go in.” Like the Middletowners the Creature strives to make meaningful connections with others; in nearly every case he is violently rebuffed. He eventually opts out of society, choosing instead to commission Frankenstein to build him a sense of belonging, corpse-by-corpse, organ-by-organ. The play never gives us a chance to find out if it works, but the idea is certainly intriguing. Can belonging be crafted? Can you will yourself to feel it? Can others create it for you?

I’m finding many opportunities to examine these questions as I transition haltingly into my adult life. As an approval-hungry overachiever, I found it easy to belong in college; affirmations and accolades abounded. My graduating class of theatre majors numbered only five, so we got to know each other well over four years of collaborating. I was a known quantity with them, and that’s how I liked it. Then came May with all its pomp and circumstance, and suddenly I was unknown again in a world that seemed to have little interest in a friendly meet-and-greet. I never realized how much I belonged at college until I left.

I returned home to Portland, only to find that things had shifted in my absence. Like the Astronaut, I viewed home from a new perspective and found that I could no longer relax into the worn-in routines of childhood. Like the Creature, I spent the summer peering in doorways, seeking belonging in new places with new people.

These days I’m a mentee at Third Rail and I’m testing the waters of belonging again just a toe at a time. My fellow mentees are a lively bunch and we’re already cooking up mischief together. The Core Company members each have their own mystique; from the warm and wise to the gruff and grumbling to the sharp and sassy—each one personifying the cool cousin you want to be like when you grow up. It’s inviting to imagine belonging to this zany, noisy, loving family of artists, and with each passing day of rehearsal observation, scene study and office hours, it feels more and more possible. We’ll see what the future holds. For now, we remain—the Creature, the Middletowners and I—huddled on the doorstep, not quite daring to go in.