One Play

One Play

A Hartford Stage and Capital Community College Partnership That is Transforming Lives

by Theresa MacNaughton, Community Engagement Associate

“I really liked the experience; it opened my eyes to issues that I have not experienced.”

“It was amazing because I never in my life have seen a live play. It was so interesting how energetic it was [compared to] watching a movie.” 

Capital Community College students on One Play

Members of the Hartford Heritage section of American Literature with playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes at Hartford Stage for the inaugural season of One Play (Fall 2011) L to R: Students Latisha Abraham and Ruth Pagano, Hudes, student Noel Brito, Humanities Chair Dr. Jeff Partridge, and student Dr. Herbert Silver Photo by Ruth Pagano (courtesy of Capital Community College)

A unique and exciting partnership between Hartford Stage and Capital Community College is helping to enrich the lives of local students.  One Play has become an integral part of The Hartford Heritage Project, which incorporates Hartford’s many diverse cultural and artistic institutions, landmarks, and neighborhoods into the learning experience at Capital Community College.  Hartford Heritage courses aim to connect course content with Hartford in order to enhance learning and increase awareness for both students and faculty of all that our capital city has to offer.

The Hartford Heritage Project was created when Capital Community College received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities under the leadership of Dr. Jeff Partridge, Humanities Chair. A team of 14 Capital Community College faculty members then embarked on a two-year study program which included 17 full-day seminars, along with readings and field trips.  One Play was added to the Project shortly after a Hartford Heritage faculty workshop held at Hartford Stage in the spring of 2011. The first production featured was Water By the Spoonful by Quiara Alegria Hudeswinner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  Two Hartford Stage plays are selected each year – one for the fall semester and one for the spring semester.   The entire college community comes together around the play – with faculty integrating it into classes, and students and faculty attending special lectures and events connected to the play.

One Play was successful from day one, according to Partridge.  The program has become deeply embedded into the college culture and is being used by an increasing number of faculty members to reach more students. Last spring, 371 Capital Community College students and faculty attended Somewhere at Hartford Stage.   This fall, students and faculty will be attending Ether Dome.   

Partridge worked with the Education Department at Hartford Stage to select which play to feature; and Ether Dome, a play about Hartford’s own Dr. Horace Wells and the discovery of anesthesia, was selected because of its direct focus on Hartford history.   The play has already been sparking interest among the faculty, especially those in allied health and science.  Partridge notes that one faculty member at Capital Community College became so immersed in the story of Dr. Wells that he did extensive research and wrote an article which he submitted for publication in a historical periodical.

Professor Kevin Lamkins enjoys conversation with his students at Hartford Stage (Fall 2012) Photo by Julie Bidwell (courtesy of Capital Community College)
Professor Kevin Lamkins enjoys conversation with his students at Hartford Stage (Fall 2012)
Photo by Julie Bidwell (courtesy of Capital Community College)

Ether Dome is the story of a man who lived and worked in Hartford – and of a major innovation that revolutionized the field of medicine,” Jennifer Roberts, Director of Education at Hartford Stage, explains.  “It offers a perfect opportunity for students to take a very human look into the history of our city.”

One Play is comprised of three parts.  The first component is the “Critical Eye Workshop” – a professional development program for Capital Community College faculty to explore the production and discover creative ways to integrate the themes of the chosen play into their curriculum.  Hartford Stage teaching artists offer theatre techniques to faculty, and a scholar is brought in to discuss the subject of the play.  A member of the production team will also speak.

The second component of One Play serves as an introduction to the play for students – usually a pre-show discussion with the playwright or director of the show.  The students and faculty are then provided with a range of dates to allow them see the show at a special discounted rate.

Once all students and faculty have had an opportunity to see the play, the final component of One Play is a post-show discussion held on campus which allows for direct interaction and discussion with actors from the production. 

One Play is enabling Capital Community faculty to incorporate theatre into their courses in creative ways, with more disciplines using the program to get students excited about learning.  This fall, Roberts will be teaching a Hartford Heritage Learning Community course, along with Capital Community College Faculty member Peggy Schuyler, titled Perseverance and Ambition: An Analysis of Three Notable Hartford Figures (Horace Wells, Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe).  The course will offer English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) students an alternative to traditional ESL courses by enabling them – through acting – to become more proficient and comfortable with speaking, word pronunciation, poise and body language. 

The Hartford Heritage Project continues to open up new worlds for Capital Community College students and increase faculty awareness of the many opportunities and resources in Hartford.   Capital Community College is a federally-designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, with a student body comprised largely of Latinos, African-Americans, and immigrants from Europe, Africa, and Latin American countries.  For many Capital students, theatre is not often something that they have been regularly exposed to in their lives; and some report this is their first time seeing a live theatrical performance.  Since the Project’s inception, the college has created Institutional Memberships with six local arts and cultural organizations, including Hartford Stage.  One Play, in particular, has ignited a renewed interest in theatre classes at the college, and students are now requesting the creation of a theatre club.   

“Plays weren’t written to be read like novels in a classroom – they were written to be brought to life on stage,” Partridge explains.  “Sometimes people assume we need to read literature closer to students’ experiences, but we should not be afraid to let literature open our minds to new perspectives – to invite us into a world we wouldn’t otherwise be a part of.”

To learn more about the Hartford Heritage Project:

To learn more about Hartford Stage Education: