Student Voices: Jaclyn Silvestri ☆

Elizabeth Sanders | August 7, 2012

Jackie SilvestriStudent Voices features the writing of English Education students at Teachers College.  Jaclyn Silvestri is currently pursuing her MA through the INSTEP program at TC, and graduated magna cum laude from New York University. After college, she worked at Comedy Central as a writer’s assistant. She also coached the nationally recognized speech and debate teams of Stuyvesant High School and the Hun School of Princeton. Jaclyn hails from Syosset, NY, and is a regular performer of sketch, standup, and improv comedy.  Jackie is currently a theater teacher and improv coach in New York City.

Jaclyn, on her INSTEP experience:
My background in theater has been incredibly helpful for me in the INSTEP program, and has inspired me to reevaluate so many texts and how I can make them more accessible in my classroom. The philosophies of Teachers College and the approach to literacy and Aesthetics Education is an approach to learning that I wish I was offered more in my own classroom experience growing up. This program has provided me with new perspectives to texts and approaches to reading and writing, which not only makes my own coursework exciting and self-reflexive, but also adds a richness to my students’ understandings of both text and performance.

Robot Theater Teacher: An Imagined Monologue

Welcome Human Students.

Thank you for registering for Intro to Theater. All algorithms guarantee this will be a fun, educational course.

I sense periphery movement indicating someone entering the classroom post start time. Please place your late pass in the Central Processing Cavity located in the upper third of my External Expression Unit.

(Pause.)

Please enter your late pass in the cavity that sits roughly where a human mouth would be.

Processing. Welcome. Please take a seat.

Before we get started, allow me to introduce myself. I am the most recent upgrade of the VORTEX-K-879-CPK. It would be appropriate for you to call me Mr. V-K-879-CPK. You may recognize me from my work as an extra in the very recent blockbuster REAL STEEL. I have a secret of Tinseltown regarding REAL STEEL that most humans do not know. Believe it or not, most of the robots used in the movie REAL STEEL were not made of steel, but cheaper composite metals including Cadmium and Nickel. Ha. The NAACP is still investigating this misrepresentation of non-steel Robots in a major motion picture. After all, not all Robots are cut from the same sheet metal. Ha. I myself am 47% Cobalt and 36% Aluminum. The other 17% of me consists of recycled plastics, glass bulbs, and electrical wires. I can’t wait to learn each of your respective manufacturing specifications and properties.

I inherited my passion for performance from my mother. You may recognize her as Roomba Model 780 from her ongoing web-series with cats. She is my inspiration.

My antennae are picking up more periphery movement. Either someone has left his or her seat, or someone is raising his or her hand in the periphery of my motion sensor. For future acknowledgement of questions, please clap twice. I will –

Processing Question. Please wait. No. I was not made in China. I was manufactured –

Processing Question. Please Wait.

No. I have never met Steve Jobs, but I do have his autobiography stored in my hard drive. I was manufactured –

Processing Question. Please Wait.

Did you mean: “Yo’ momma so archaic she got outbid on eBay by a Microsoft Zune?”

Processing: No, you meant to insult my mother. Emotional Recognition Unit acknowledging sarcasm and disdain.

Proceeding with course.

Today we will be working through these short scenes with a standard acting exercise based on the techniques of Sanford Meisner for an authentic and human experience. Please retrieve the short scripts that are printing from the crevice in the bottom two-thirds of my Core Structural Unit, behind the Impact Bumper and above the mounts for my Pelvic Actuators. Work with one other partner –

Processing Question. Please Wait.

If you are so interested in knowing when Meisner was alive you could have taken Wikipedia-Bot’s Intro to the Internet. Have you heard of Google? For trivial nonsequiturs, use it. For the art of acting, listen to Mr. V-K-879-CPK.

Proceeding with course.

Meisner technique asks each actor to access his or her character and the subtext of each line with repetition. The Human Student in front of me and I will demonstrate how you can explore this popular and influential technique. Human Student, say something that describes me and I will repeat it back to you. You will then repeat it again back to me, and we will authentically feel these lines of dialogue through slight variances of voice and/or inflection. We will feel great emotion using this process. Great human emotion.

(Pause.)

Human Student, say something aloud describing me. We will repeat it back and forth for a while.

Your bulbs are blue.
Your bulbs are blue.
Your bulbs are blue.
Your bulbs are blue.

Thank you -

Processing Questions. Please Wait. Oh, you don’t have questions. You were applauding. Thank you.

Proceeding with course.

Meisner can be applied to any style of scripted performance, including Shakespeare’s Hamlet converted into binary. The iambic pentameter of Shakespeare’s dialogue enables actors who use Meisner technique to get to the very core of authentic emotional states. Observe my own performance of Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy, otherwise known as “11,0011”:

11,0011,1100:

11’00001110
0110110110,
0110101110,
110001:11,00
01;1110,1101
100,0011101
10011?‘10011
101101.1010,
10,0010;1,110,
010101,1010,
1100111001,
00101.1010
00110101010:
10101010101,
111111,00000,
1010111,010,
01110101,100
00110101001,
10011111010
10101?11100,
10010101010,
10001111010,
111001101,11
001011,0000,
10101010011.
10011011010,
10100110011
01101,101001,
00110101011,
10101011100,
1001110.101,
101011?1,101
0100110.

Processing Questions. Please wait.

Oh, you weren’t asking questions. You were applauding again. Thank you. If I could bow without cracking my chest plate I would. I like to think that this performance channels Sir Ian McKellan or Sir Laurence Olivier, but every time I check these channels to confirm human authenticity of feeling and relatability, I am redirected to the radio frequencies of the local police station.

(Pause. He listens.)

Sounds like one human has stabbed another human in Queens. I hear humans are sensitive to the weather and are also not resilient to stabbings.

This is an excellent observation for our own performances. External environments can certainly influence our behavior. If the room temperature gets too cold, your systems could freeze up. It the room temperature gets too hot, you could explode. For HW, write a journal entry about how this relates to performance.

This concludes today’s class. I will leave you with one of Shakespeare’s most famous farewells: “10011001011”. Mull it over as you power down tonight and, of course, extra credit to anyone who can name its context next class. Don’t forget to review the map of stage directions I have lazered into the floorboards. There will be a quiz later this week.

Good Luck, humans, and I look forward to learning from your authentic human experiences this year.