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Meet A Noise Within’s New Director of Education, Lea Madda

By A Noise Within
July 10, 2024

What were your first impressions with the Summer With Shakespeare program?

The education program here at A Noise Within (ANW) is so robust. In my opinion, what truly makes a theatre education program high-quality and impactful are the folks on the front line, also known as the teachers. I will happily share that we have an extremely skilled teaching staff in the Summer With Shakespeare (SWS) camp, and that’s truly all that an education director can hope for in a program. That was one of the very first things I noticed. Another thing that I noticed that I find really moving is how many returning campers we have, and how present this sense of returning to the theatre every year is a part of the Summer With Shakespeare identity. That’s really great and I hope something that continues on for years to come. 


Have you encountered any surprises this summer thus far?

This is going to sound hilarious, but a surprise for me is how well acquainted our campers already are with the theatre and sometimes even with the Shakespearean language itself. In a lot of the education spaces I’ve been in, it’s assumed and proven true, that when I’m working on Shakespeare with them, it’s their first experience with it. But so many of our campers are coming in with an already sturdy working knowledge. They have jokes about Shakespeare. And there’s a rumor going around with the 6-to-9-year-olds that the ghost of Shakespeare is currently residing within our walls. Multiple campers asked me throughout the day if I had seen the ghost yet! 


Do you have a sense of how the SWS program might evolve next year?

I have so many ideas, but the primary way I plan to grow this program will be by consulting the community. At the end of this summer, I’m going to be instilling a pretty robust postmortem series. I’ll be having meetings with the teachers to hear their thoughts. I’ll be having meetings with the five-week campers to hear their thoughts. I’m also going to be sending out optional—but highly encouraged—surveys to the parents. I want to hear about experiential topics that might sound basic but deeply impact the flow of a camper family’s day – how does the start time and end time work with your family, is bringing your own lunch cumbersome, and are the attire requirements that we’re setting easy for you to meet? I am also extremely curious to learn about campers’ impressions of programming – what do you want more of? What could be more rigorous? 


What is on the horizon when camp ends this summer? Are there any new programs coming online through the Education department in the 2024-25 season? 

 We’re in the process of planning our Educator Extravaganza right now, which is our free annual professional development day that we offer for teachers of all grade levels. We have our selection of workshop leaders and speakers planned out. I’m particularly excited to welcome members of The Wall Las Memorias, who will be giving a presentation titled ‘LGBTQ+ Toolkit Training’ in honor of our season closer A Man of No Importance. And for students, I’m in the middle of creating a new program right now. It’s a hybrid observation and mentorship program tentatively titled ‘Behind the Scenes.’ Five selected high schoolers will be invited into closed rehearsals at different key points throughout the rehearsal and production process; they will also be assigned a mentor from the creative team involved in the show. One thing that high school-aged theatre-makers deserve access to (but don’t necessarily have the time to commit to), is seeing firsthand experience of what the life of a professional theatre-maker looks like. This is a less time-intensive opportunity for them to see that and potentially meet those people involved. 


Student matinees at ANW have always been a huge part of the Education program and 18,000 students were served last year. How are the student matinees shaping up for next year?

It’s been amazing. The second show in the season, The Piano Lesson, was fully reserved within three weeks of being posted and open to the public, so we immediately added a fifth additional date in order to accommodate. And then that filled up pretty much immediately as well. We already have a long wait list. Also, from interviewing teachers during our student matinees in the 2023-24 season, asking them about how our matinees blend with their language arts classes, multiple teachers shared with me that they had integrated August Wilson into their classes simply because ANW was mounting that material! Specifically, pulling August Wilson plays into their school curriculum was inspired by us producing the American Century Cycle. It was humbling and hugely fulfilling to hear that. I am excited for what this new year will offer to our ANW community! 

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