July 20  – 25, 2015

FIRST PERSON: Crafting Your Story for Performance


Jerry-StropnickyWhy is it that some stories – some performances – spark your imagination, set fire to your soul, and leave you transformed, while others just sit there, and have no effect whatsoever? Is it the content, or the telling? The framing, or the style?   Story can be employed to bring laughter, or tears, or understanding, or lasting social change. It’s all in your power.

Come with a story. (Or two. Or three.) Leave with a performance. (Or two. Or three.)

Come without a story, and by the end of Day One, you’ll discover that you have more compelling material than you’d ever think possible. “After all,” says theatre artist Gerard Stropnicky, “people are simply walking collections of stories. Wonderful stories.”

We’ll make ourselves vulnerable to our stories, and to one another. We’ll experiment with a wide variety of styles, and colors and tones. We’ll work on physical, vocal and spiritual presence, structure  — and nerves. This on-your-feet writers and performers story intensive is designed to release the enormous potential energy already in you and your story.



Gerard Stropnicky has been working in story for twenty years. This award-winning director has helped create compelling work from interview, gathered story, letters to the editor, even advertisements, recipes and children’s games. He’s written, directed and acted in countless styles; he’s coached diverse thousands of performers, professional and community, young and old, from every walk of life, to bring their stories to vivid life.

A multi-faceted theatre artist (director, writer and actor), he graduated from Northwestern, studied with Alvina Krause, and in 1978 co-founded Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble (BTE), where he worked for the next 34 years. Stropnicky has spent many years working on  “Theatre of Place” through Ensemble, Documentary and Community Performance. In Appalachia, the Deep South and Pennsylvania, he has used local story to create original large-scale, site-specific performances in communities facing crisis, transition, or change. These events access the transformative power of the theatre form, bringing health, changing lives, offering communities both validation and challenge. Most recently he was invited by a group of Mardi Gras Indian Queens to lead them in the creation of a performance based on their powerful personal narratives.

Big Queen Pauline Johnson, Little Queen Paris Hayes, Big Queen Wanda Womble and Queen Mercedes Stevenson with Gerard Stropnicky

For his story work, as well as for his role in co-founding the national Network of Ensemble Theaters, Jerry was honored as a United States Artists Fellow in 2010. The USA program was created by the Ford, Rockefeller, Prudential and Rasmusen Foundations to identify and support “America’s greatest living artists.”playin_with_fire_web

Stropnicky has acted in hundreds of roles and directed more than sixty productions, written and/or directed twenty “Theatre of Place” projects. He has worked with communities in crisis, trauma or transition in the deep South, Appalachia and Pennsylvania. Each project begins with the community needing to frame its story. Diverse casts have included coal miners, shrimpers, dairy farmers, gas field workers, recovering addicts, church choirs and more in large-scale, site-specific original work that challenges, validates and open doors to new understanding. FLOOD STORIES, TOO. approached community catharsis in a region’s experience and recovery from a record-breaking natural disaster. TIOGA CHANGES looks at how a rural Pennsylvania community deals with enormous outside forces with the “fracking” of the Marcellus Shale. HEADWATERS: DIDJA HEAR? explores, among other stories, what happened when a group of high school students in a rural conservative corner of Georgia grew tired of bullying and formed a Gay-Straight Alliance Club in their high school.


Workshops are geared for participants of all levels of experience, whose ages have run from 18-85. Workshops will meet from 10 am – 4 pm, Monday through Saturday, in Studio II of Webster Hall on the Amherst College campus in Amherst, MA.

Driving Instructions to Amherst College

Amherst College campus map.

Workshops cost $399. There is a $50 discount for registration by May 15. NOTE: Contact us to apply for limited pool of financial aid, or for discounts for ATHE, NET (Network of Ensemble Theaters) members or staff/artists from TCG member theatres.

Optional room and board are available on the Amherst College campus for an additional fee.  Workshop housing is $231, for a single with a shared bath in an Amherst College dorm. Studios, theatre, dining commons and dorms are all within walking distance. A meal ticket for the Dining Commons (healthy food, much of it local) is $244.

Email us, if you are interested in alternative housing. There are a number of hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts in the area.

STEP 1: Click here to download the registration form in MS-WORD.  Click here to download it as a PDF. ALL WORKSHOP STUDENTS MUST SUBMIT THIS FORM either via email or by post.
STEP 2. If paying by check, print out your registration form and make your deposit check out to Ko Theater Works. Mail them to The Ko Festival of Performance 498 South Gulf Road Belchertown, MA 01007
if paying by credit card or PayPal, after you’ve emailed us your registration form, click here to make your payment by credit card or PayPal.
Questions? For further information email us or call (413) 427-6147.