“When you stop growing, you start dying.” This oft-repeated mantra, credited to Beat Generation writer William S. Burroughs, is used as a reminder to always be improving, always be learning something new and always be striving to be better than we were yesterday. Seeking to help adults living on the East End pursue this goal, Bay Street Theater recently announced the four-part Lifelong Learning Series, a free online seminar series sponsored by AARP Long Island.
“Now is the time to enhance your lifelong learning skills,” says Bay Street’s Director of Education and resident thespian Allen O’Reilly, who will be leading the series’ acting seminar. “Now is the perfect time because—and I don’t want to make a bold statement here—but it seems like most people have more time to devote to new initiatives. I know I have! I just finished a screenplay, and I’m not even a writer!”
Part of Bay Street’s online programming platform Bay Street To-Go, the series consists of monthly 90-minute seminars focusing on topics including stage acting, improv, creative writing and public speaking. “These specific disciplines were selected to enhance everyday life,” O’Reilly says, dispelling any thoughts that these seminars are intended solely for aspiring actors and writers. “These are life skills that you can take from these theater classes and use in your regular, everyday life going forward.” Each session—always on a Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m.—is taught by a different expert of the field.
Kicking off on September 17, O’Reilly hosts Intro to Acting, which will ease participants into the concepts of annunciation, delivery, staging, and pacing. “There are things that I will be imparting in the acting class that can help anyone in a business situation, in a presentation situation, in a confidence situation or in an interpersonal dealing with people situation,” O’Reilly says.
On October 15, students will get a taste of the “Yes, and…” improv method in actor-comedian Scott Baker’s IMPROVing Your Life with IMPROV! Participants will not only learn about the engaging, entertaining and inspiring aspects of improv, they’ll learn how these techniques can help them think quickly in any given conversation or meeting. “You don’t have to be on Whose Line Is It Anyway?” O’Reilly notes. “Being able to think on your feet is a great skill!”
Bay Street Associate Artistic Director Will Pomerantz’s seminar on November 12 switches the focus from the voice to the pen with his seminar Writing Your Life Story. In this unique writing class, students will learn how to access their creative writing skills to write their own story in their own words. “Being able to write your own life story, create a journal or write down your personal narrative and have that evolve into something more meaningful is a great thing,” O’Reilly says.
Ending the series on December 10, Tony-nominated stage and screen actor Paul Hecht hosts the Public Speaking seminar, which is intended to help participants overcome their fear of speaking in front of people, both in-person and on Zoom, by introducing a series of easy-to-use methods and techniques that will leave them feeling empowered. “With Zoom presentations, we’re even more vulnerable, because we’re in our houses and sometimes we’re not wearing pants,” O’Reilly says, emphasizing the cross-platform effectiveness of Hecht’s goal-centric method. “It’s about having a focus, having a direction, having an intention with who you’re reaching, and if you hold onto that, it’ll be effective on any medium, live or Zoom.”
While these classes are accessible to beginners, those who feel they’ve mastered these skills are encouraged to participate as well, both for the communal aspect and for the continued learning aspect. “When we say ‘lifelong learning skills’ it doesn’t mean that you’re just going to do it one time, it means that you’re hopefully going to come back and work on your craft or on the things that jazzed you about a particular offering,” O’Reilly says. “You can never study enough!”
Thanks to Bay Street Sales & Sponsorship Manager Paul Anthony Mongelluzzo, who got AARP Long Island onboard to support the Lifelong Learning Series, registration for the whole series or a single seminar is free, and space is unlimited. Anyone interested should email O’Reilly at email@example.com for registration details or visit baystreet.org for more information.