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Howard’s Gilman scholars stage combat workshop

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The opportunity to study abroad is a dream for many, requiring substantial financial investment for tuition, housing, meals, insurance, books, health and transportation. It can cost as much as $30,000 or more per semester, making it prohibitive for many college students; but necessary for students with eyes on the international marketplace.

The Benjamin A. International Gilman Scholarship Program offers awards of up to $8,000 to students who otherwise would not have been able to due to financial constraints, for undergraduate study abroad.

The program, funded by the U.S. Congress, is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and is administered by the Institute of International Education. The scholarship provides awards for U.S citizens eligible for federal Pell Grant funding at two-year or four-year colleges or universities to facilitate their participation in study progrtams worldwide.

Interestingly, the scholarship program seeks to provide funding for non-traditional types of studies abroad and students may apply for summer or fall programs.

Students who apply for and receive the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study abroad are then also eligible to receive an additional $3,000 Critical Need Language Supplement from the Gilman Scholarship Program for a total possible award of up to $8,000. Critical need languages include Arabic, Chinese, Turkic, Persian, Indic, Korean, Russian and Swahili.

Howard University’s acting senior, Liane “LiLi” Stephens-Henry longed to attend The London Theater Program at The British American Drama Academy (BADA).

“I learned about the BADA program during my sophomore year of high school at Frank Sinatra School of the Performing and Fine Arts as a drama major,” LiLi said.

“Excited, I approached my mother with all the pamphlets that my then acting teacher Mr. Rosenberg provided me. My mother made the necessary calls to find out about the application process and the cost of the summer session. Sadly, we were informed that I was too young to participate in the program.”

LiLi waited for her senior year to arrive when she could attend BADA’s summer program. “I waited patiently for my senior year, but for financial reasons I was unable to attend BADA’s summer acting program yet again. My mother suffered brain and cervical injuries and was disabled and unable to operate her business as a publicist and event planner,” she says.

In her junior year of college, representatives from The BADA program held an on-campus informational workshop to Theater Arts majors. The study abroad London Theater Program is held in consortium with Sarah Lawrence College and BADA. The program provides undergraduate acting students who are serious and dedicated, an opportunity to work and study with leading actors and directors from the British stage by providing a semester of rigorous, conservatory training in either fall or spring semester.

Another setback would initially present itself: The Sarah Lawrence BADA Program is not affiliated with Howard University’s Study Abroad program. This meant that LiLi’s financial aid would not be transferable to pay for the costs of attending the program estimated at $24,000 for tuition and housing and did not include meals, books, or transportation costs. But LiLi was not daunted by this challenge. She co-opted the support of her drama advisor and finally got a sign-off through the Office of the Provost.

One of the requirements of admission to BADA is an audition. “In scheduling the audition date with the acting faculty at Sarah Lawrence, I was told that I needed to prepare two opposing 90-second monologues --preferably one classical and one contemporary-- along with 16 bars of music.” Two days later, LiLi received the call that she was accepted into the program.

LiLi was now more focused than ever on finding ways to reduce the costs of attending BADA and found out about The Gilman Scholarship Program online while doing a Google search. The average award per recipient is approximately $4,000, which is what LiLi received. In addition, Howard University awarded her $8,000 to participate in the program and Sarah Lawrence awarded her a grant of $3,000.

One of the requirements of the Gilman Scholarship Program is that beneficiaries must provide a follow-on project at the time of application, which they must implement when they return from their study abroad. LiLi chose as her follow-on project teaching a stage combat workshop.

“Stage combat is currently not taught in our acting program at Howard, so I thought it would be useful and interesting to the Fine Arts majors to be exposed to this skill.”

LiLi recently hosted a three-hour basic hand-to-hand Stage Combat Workshop for Fine Arts majors at The ETS in which she provided warm-up exercises and demonstrated the slap to the face, strangulation and the shove. The workshop offered training in realistic stage combat with emphasis on safety, accuracy, control, and technical virtuosity when one is engaged in dramatic stage encounters.

Although LiLi learned over 16 techniques during the semester while at BADA, she was able to provide three techniques to her peers.

“The emphasis, she says, “was more on development of the technique and choreography containing the compulsory techniques rather than the performance.”

The students who attended expressed their appreciation for the workshop and hoped more seniors and former students would come back and host workshops of this nature to improve their technical skills. LiLi has also participated as stage combat coach for two on-campus productions.

“I had a great time at the BADA Program. I acted everyday and performed in the end of semester production, The Plague. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Phylicia Rashad who also attended Howard’s Theater Arts Program taught a session. So, too did British actress Fiona Shaw. I also had a chance to meet Sir Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf of The Lord of the Rings.”

Updated 5:03 pm, July 9, 2018
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