“Did you know that our hands are actually the part of the body that shows age the most?” asks Stephanie Bateman ’13 (Neshanic Station, N.J.) excitedly.
Bateman is documenting the creation of the theatrical production On Aging, which is being staged by students in the interdisciplinary Making Theater: On Aging course. Taught by Suzanne Westfall, professor of English, and Jamila Bookwala, professor of psychology, the class will perform On Aging in May.
Westfall developed the idea for the course after seeing a production of On Aging in London directed by David Harradine and performed by schoolchildren from kindergarten through 12th grade. Pairing with Bookwala, who specializes in gerontology and teaches the psychology course Adult Development and Aging, made perfect sense. They received a portion of a grant the College received in 2011 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to infuse arts throughout the curriculum.
Bateman, an English major with a writing concentration and minor in film and media studies, is working with Westfall through the EXCEL Scholars undergraduate research program. Though she is not taking the course, she has full access to attend class meetings, including for guest speakers, and class content through online course software.
In addition to filming a behind-the-scenes look of the course and the production, Bateman is creating projections and film to be used during the show. For example, she is capturing different photographs, including advertisements for products like Olivio, an oil-based butter substitute, that focus on aging. She also is designing a logo and poster for promotion.
“There’s nothing better than collaborating with students, getting to know how they think, and guiding them through professional research and production,” says Westfall. “I can get into so much more detail one-on-one, without time limits or grades and assessments. It’s real, pure teaching.”
Bateman discovered her passion for graphic arts after taking a typography class in her junior year. Working as an EXCEL Scholar has given her a taste of what it is like to have clients as a graphic artist. It also has helped her gain confidence in her ideas.
“Professor Westfall is easygoing and allows me to make creative decisions on my own,” says Bateman, who plans to work in a media-related field before applying to law school. “Not only am I learning more and more about film and graphic design, but the course topics are really interesting, too. I love how interactive the class is and that all the students are involved in making the performance happen.”
This isn’t Bateman’s first foray into graphic design. She created the posters for College Theater’s productions of Dog Eat Dog, Noises Off, and Arabian Nights. She made puppets for the Arabian Nights performance and is working on an archive of College Theater photographs.
Bateman also is learning about the aging process and cultural views of aging and the elderly. Her favorite class activity so far was the visit by makeup artist Erin Hopwood, who discussed what happens to the body as people age and shared some tricks of the trade to disguise the effects of aging as well as how to make someone appear older with makeup.
Other visitors included Broadway and cabaret star Martín Solá, Lafayette’s Pesky Artist-in-Residence for 2012–2013, who helped the class shape the production, and yoga instructor Katie McHugh-Connolly of Sundari Yoga in Stroudsburg, Pa., who discussed what happens to aging bodies and how people can offset the effects of aging by taking care of their bones and muscles through regular physical activity. The class plans to incorporate many of the movements she demonstrated into its show.
Students from Bookwala’s Adult Development and Aging course are working with the Making Theater: On Aging students to create an ethnographic narrative by interviewing alumni, Easton residents, and family members who are 60 and over to learn their life stories. They also have collected various images of how the elderly are portrayed in the media. The information they gather is providing the raw material for the theatrical production.
This is the first time Bookwala has team-taught a course, and she’s hooked.
“I think team-teaching a course is a fabulous opportunity to bring together faculty members with different approaches, pedagogies, and expertise,” she says. “This offers students a unique perspective on and understanding about a topic or issue. Also, I am learning so much about theater production—in that sense, I am also a student in the course! And I am loving it.”