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An Interview with Barbara Colaciello

Last month we sat down and talked to our guest instructor for the FALL into FALL Education Program, Barbara Colaciello of BABS' LAB.

Q: What is your strategy behind teaching kids how to act? How do you make them feel comfortable?

A: I begin with the childrens’ relationship to themselves...So, I begin with teaching the kids self-awareness, self-motivation, self-confidence, but all within the group dynamic. So they’re encouraging one another and because they’re all vulnerable at the same time, realizing that some have different strengths than others, and different weaknesses, I’m already promoting a team feeling so that when we move into the process of making a play, they’re already going to support each other.

Q: How is the first day of class with Barbara Colaciello structured?

A: I get them in circle pretty fast. We introduce ourselves, we “check-in,” which is “What are you feeling right now?” And we can already get a sense of what people want to share. And then, still in circle, we start with games. Games for vocal projection & vocal energy, getingt them into their body, and out of their head, so we’re warming up the instrument. And it’s also a way for me to read the kids so I can see their resistance. But in terms of the way I work with the kids, is that they start to balance their energies, they get to see who’s in the circle, their humor, and then you get to laugh together. You get to know each other just through games.

Then we do story relays. They share early on. Every body has a story. We hear little bits and pieces of peoples’ story. It’s nothing you can prepare for. My philosophy is “You are prepared, you have everything that you need.” Showing up is the hardest part. 

Q: With the kids you see coming in to work with you, how is it to see their growth coming in and not saying a word and then a few classes down the line, seeing them open up and then they blossom?

A: It’s great. That’s why I do it. I see it with adults, too. I do adult 6-week classes. And I’m not the only one who’s seeing it. People will come up to me and say, “I can’t believe this is the same group.” I mean, people were trembling to get on the stage. They were nauseated. These are adults who are scientists and moms. They don’t know how much courage it takes. They don’t like not knowing. And that’s why I encourage them to do it. Because we don’t know. We know what we know and then we forget what we know. So, playing the game, you have to learn how to play again. And that is, not sensoring yourself, taking ego out of the process. Not looking at yourself and saying, “I was the worst.” But instead we should be proud and say, “Hey, I just tried something. I never got to practice it.” We’re doing this all the time but we’re not calling it improv. We’re covering it all the time.

Q: So, can you tell us a little bit about CUT and working with these kids at Players?

A: Yes, so working on this, I have a very different approach. It’s a play, within a play, within a play. I liked it acting-wise, because the kids get to play different parts and they’re being challenged. Because a lot of them are comfortable playing basically themselves. We’re doing a really good job with having them play actions and using emotions. That was the beginning part, the first couple weeks, talking to them about what that meant: having emotional investment and how to attack a scene with an action, and we worked on staging.

After those couple of lessons, I’ve been letting them move around the set and make their own choices. You only move if there’s a reason. If you walked across the stage, you would need to tell me why you walked across the stage. I’ve been letting them stage themselves.

Every class we warm up, we learn a lesson & play some games – that’s the first hour. And then the second hour is the actual play. So this next week we’ll be working more directly with the script and blocking.

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