The Devin Diaries: Letters From Juliet

 Kennesaw Mountain High School

Kennesaw Mountain High School

Devin Tupler

My Life in Theater in New York

Hi There, I’m Devin Tupler. I’m a working actress specializing in Shakespeare and musical theater (but mostly Shakespeare…I love Shakespeare). Right now, I’m working with an off-off-Broadway theater company here in New York City...but before I made the great leap to Manhattan, I grew up in the sweltering heat of South Florida. Here, I was introduced to the worst addiction imaginable, live theatre, at the age of three and started Shakespeare, dance, and vocal training at age five. Since catching the theatre bug, I started working professionally at 14 and haven’t slowed down since and have donated a significant part of my adult life to being a theater educator for underprivileged children.

Returning to the South Florida Community for the Winter

While living in New York, I worked at numerous companies dedicated to helping the next generation of theatre artists by touring schools across the state. While working in educational theatre, I reminisced on how theater (and especially the classics) shaped who I was as a child and who I am now. I remember seeing Romeo and Juliet with my fourth-grade class (Shout out to Fort Lauderdale prep for being rare, and awesome, and beautiful and actually showing elementary kids real theater!) and seeing Mercutio streaking across the stage, not caring what anyone else thought.

AlI I remembered thinking was how confident he was and how I wanted to be brave like him (in retrospect, he’s a really a really bad dude with a severe anger management issue. Kids, please don’t grow up to be Mercutio!!!!). I used to work for an arts camp for underprivileged children during the summers. Every summer I’d be shocked to find out that the children had never seen live theater, let alone Shakespeare (which should have gotten less and less shocking every summer but it didn’t. I realized that while New York had a myriad of affordable options for exposing children to high-quality theater and even Shakespeare (gasp!,) South Florida has none. Currently, just a handful of theaters, other than us, offer theater for young audiences as part of their regular season. Most focus almost exclusively on upbeat musical theater. While there is one company performing highly simplified renditions of select Shakespeare scenes during a single day of the school year, I longed for a means of getting quality theater (preferably Shakespeare) consistently into schools. That way, students of all ages didn’t have to pay for transportation or insane ticket prices to experience the classics I have come to cherish so dearly. That’s when I called Peter Galman.

My Relationship with Peter Galman and Shakespeare Troupe of South Florida

Peter Galman is a highly trained Shakespeare performer, Broadway veteran, and one of the most genuinely talented and kind people I have ever met. I have had the pleasure of acting in numerous productions with his company over the past two and a half years. They tour local theaters and communities, performing at halfway houses, retirement homes, hospitals, equity theaters, non-equity theaters, children’s theaters, and literally anywhere else that Peter thinks will inspire the community.

About six months before I joined, Peter and his troupe did, probably, the closest thing to my idea that has ever existed in the South Florida community. He took a group of actors to a high-school called the Cushman School and directed their students in a staged reading of one of The Bard’s works. When I contacted Peter about my idea, he loved it but also mentioned how much joy was brought to those kids when they got to participate on stage. We brainstormed together for a few months and finally, together, came up with (in my humble opinion) the perfect touring school program.

The Touring School Show Program

Our program ended up being an abridged (barely) cut of a Shakespeare’s show followed by a fully interactive workshop. The goal was to suck the students into the magic of Shakespeare by not merely relegating them to idly watch the show, but giving the students the adjacency to participate in the work itself. Once we determined the base of our program, we were faced with the sizable task of choosing our shows and designing our workshop. After talking to educators throughout South Florida, we decided that Romeo and Juliet and a Midsummer Night’s Dream were the two best options for the school shows. Both show’s workshops involve an open-forum talkback, where students are free to interact directly with the cast and crew. After that, the fun begins. For Romeo and Juliet, the main focus of the workshop is on learning from the characters mistakes. To complete this task, the students brainstorm better choices the characters could have made and improvise those revised choices. They take on the role of Benvolio, Romeo, or The Friar and see how one person’s actions can affect the entirety of the plot. For Midsummer, the workshop is a little more theater-based.

We play various theater games, such as Zip, Zap, Zip, as a warmup before moving on to “Shakespeare translator.” Half the students take turns acting out brief scenes. As they perform, the other half take turns “translating” the text to modern English. It takes everyone working as a team for the game to work. The “actors” must be extremely expressive and tell a story with their Shakespeare’s text, while the “interpreters” must diligently pay attention to their partner’s scene. It’s honestly a ton a fun! I love working with the kids and seeing them grow each time they participate.

The Impact of Shakespeare on the Local Cultural

Well... the impact I’m hoping it has on the local culture is the same impact that it already had on my life. I hope it inspires the next generation to fall in love with theatre and the classics but, most importantly, to embolden these young theatre-makers to become better, braver people, the way it has done for me. But that’s just my hope… you’ll have to keep reading my blogs to find out if my hopes and dreams for the program come true.

To Sum, it All Up . . .

So just to recap., I’m a working NYC actress who’s going back to Florida for the Winter to fill a hole in the theatre community. With the help of an incredible theater artist named Peter Galman, my goal is to make people fall in love with Shakespeare and theatre, and I am super excited to share this project with you! Ok, so next time I post I’ll be covering the audition process, casting decisions, and getting started on costumes, sets, and props all from hundreds of miles away (it’ll include pictures, videos, and a lot more fun! I promise!!! I just had a lot of info to cover in this first blog!!!!!). Anyway…thank you guys so so so much for reading my blog. I’m so excited that you want to come on this journey with me!!!!! Goodbye (for now!)