Georgette Kleier as Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Photo courtesy of Stage on Spring.
A Conversation with Georgette Kleier
By Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2016 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
If enthusiasm is the mark of a good teacher, Georgette Kleier must be counted as one of the best. As she speaks about her life in the theatre, and particularly about her 13 years teaching at the Youth Performing Arts School (YPAS), her joy is infectious. Her love for theatre informs every syllable and inflection as she talks.
For 12 of those years, she has been the chair of the YPAS Theatre Department, establishing the curriculum and spearheading just one arm of the performing arts program (there is also a dance track, as well as music AND musical theatre). There are 56 students in Kleier’s department, with two other full-time faculties, Katie Blackerby Weible and Brian Hinds, that help design the curriculum in accordance with the National Core Arts Standards introduced in 2014. “Happily, we found that we were already doing much of what was called for in the NCAS,” exclaims Kleier “…building collaborative creative teams, integrating cultural and historical contexts – it even says something in there about ‘devising’ productions. We pay attention to the NCAS, but it didn’t require a lot of adjustment.”
The Theatre Department coursework is broken down into four levels that concentrate on various approaches to acting, with a performance workshop at the end of each academic year as well as a jury for the faculty, both serving as, in effect, an audition to enter the next level of study. Fundamental work in diction, dialect, breath, movement, lead to more developed studies in Stanislavski, Commedia dell’arte, Laban Movement and Linklatter Vocal training.
There are also elective courses in playwriting, directing, musical theory, and others. Elective courses are open to any student in the YPAS/DuPont Manual enrollment, so that theatre students are encouraged to broaden their studies in other disciplines, such as visual arts courses.
One of the unique innovations within the YPAS theatre department is the development of a dramaturgy component to the directing and playwriting curriculums. A difficult word to define even in theatre circles, a dramaturg offers an objective eye and creative input, along with research to a theatrical piece. “It’s fascinating, necessary,” says Kleier “and THE hot career in the world of theatre right now.”
Dramaturgy serves the playwright in new productions and provides valuable research for the classics, illustrating what Kleier sees as the essential truth of theatre: “We create a real world environment. Theatre challenges the actor/audience relationship, and you cannot do that in film or television.”
Kleier worked for years in professional theatre, including a lengthy stint with Derby Dinner Playhouse across the Ohio River in Clarksville, Indiana, where she played in shows such as Yankee Doodle Dandy and Fiddler on the Roof. It was here she met and worked with actor and director J.R. Stuart, who is now directing her as Madge, the Stage Manager in Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser. It is this year’s production at Stage on Spring at St. Marks United Church of Christ in New Albany. It is a smaller role, but she takes on the task happily because, after working with Stuart in previous productions there, she joined St. Marks. All proceeds benefit St. Marks Soup Kitchen and The Clay Wrege Foundation.
Situated in a small sanctuary at the front of the St. Marks building, Stuart has slowly transformed the venue into a tidy performance space. Two years ago he directed Kleier as Amanda Wingfleid in a memorable production of Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie. It was the moment that Stage on Spring truly came of age, feeling less like a place of worship and more like a theatre, with Kleier’s luminous but stubborn Amanda baptizing the stage with proper thespian clarity. Make no mistake about it, Stuart’s efforts have always been an open and inclusive ministry that fits the Universalist aesthetic, and the subtle transformation of the space feels right without in any way violating the integrity of the church.
“It’s one of the few opportunities I have to act, but right now that’s fine with me,” says Kleier. “I consider myself a Director, Teacher, Actor – in that order.”
Stage On Spring presents
By Ronald Harwood
Directed by J.R. Stuart
September 7-12, 2016 8:00 PM
General Admission $10.
Reservations Recommended 502.380.6569
St. Marks UCC Chapel
222 East Spring Street
New Albany, IN
All proceeds benefit St. Marks Soup Kitchen and The Clay Wrege Foundation.
St. Marks Soup Kitchen and Clothes Closet Missions
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.