The Hippo


Jul 23, 2019








Jocelyn Duford addressing a group of theater students. Courtesy photo.

Theatricks of the Trade

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Spreading the love
New youth company to bring theater back to schools

By Kelly Sennott

 Southern New Hampshire resident Jocelyn Duford is starting a new theater company, TheaTricks of the Trade, with the goal of the sharing her love of theater with area elementary and middle schoolers.

Duford, who grew up in Pinardville, has been immersed in theater since age 5. At her elementary school, she performed in plays regularly — one year, the kids even wrote a musical — and it was through drama clubs that Duford made friends and developed skills that would help her learn other subjects, using songs, rhymes and mnemonic devices to remember facts.
“For me personally, most of the things I remember from history or math class are music-related, like Schoolhouse Rock or the songs from Animaniacs. Those are the things that really stuck with me,” Duford said during a recent interview at the Bridge Cafe.
Theater also taught her how to speak and communicate in front of a crowd, so it’s troubling for her to see local schools cutting drama programs.
“Theater at any point in your life is positive, which is why I’m appalled that theater and music is going away [in schools],” she said. 
She’ll bring TheaTricks of the Trade to public schools across the state, presenting straight theater workshops and programs that connect drama to other subjects. One Language Arts-esque workshop incorporates Mad Libs and helps teach the parts of speech. For history, programs might require kids to impersonate famous people from the past.
“My cousin just did a project — and I know I did it in middle school — where you impersonate somebody from the past. She was Florence Nightingale. … That’s theater right there. … Yes, for a project like that, you have to do research, but you also have to be able to talk and think like a character. And that will stick with you,” Duford said.
Even math and science can lend themselves to theater because, like those subjects, most plays and stories have problems or conflicts that need to be resolved. 
In addition, Duford has two camps planned for this August in Salem and Londonderry. One is all about making and performing with puppets, for which she draws on her experience performing as Kate Monster in Avenue Q with the Winthrop Playmakers. The other is a “grab bag” dedicated to learning improv, musical theater, Shakespeare and mime work. 
“I co-taught a Shakespeare camp before, which was really successful. The thing with Shakespeare — it’s not this lofty, amazing thing we have to kowtow to, but it’s something to play with, and something that’s fun,” she said. “One of the first things we did was, we had a picture of Shakespeare you had to color. You could draw on him, and make him look ridiculous, and this is what Shakespeare is. It’s not something you have to color in the lines for. You can really take it and expand it.”
Duford, who earned her BFA at Dartmouth College, drew inspiration from Mad Science, where she works part-time as a children’s educator/entertainer, traveling to schools to lead science workshops, summer camps, birthday parties and special events. She’s also a part-time substitute teacher and has acted in New Hampshire with Not Your Mom’s Musical Theatre, the Palace Theatre, theatre unmasked, Jean’s Playhouse, the Majestic Theatre, the New London Barn Playhouse and the Nashua Actorsingers.
She began envisioning TheaTricks of the Trade in January when groups began advertising for summer camps. Having felt like an outsider teaching with many local youth companies, she wanted something all her own.
“I had all these ideas for some really cool programming, but it’s hard to implement them in a place that already kind of has its own stuff going on,” Duford said.
Focus will be on process, not productions. 
“I think, sometimes with kids’ theater camps, it’s just a production. Like, we’re going to put on Annie Jr. So you’re only learning the skills for that production. You’re not necessarily broadening your range for other things,” Duford said. 

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