Sunday, May 30, 2010


Exploring Creativity
Creating Solutions for Teachers and Classrooms
“We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it.  We get educated out of it.”    Sir Ken Robinson
This workshop is the result of over thirty-five years of classroom experience teaching public speaking, writing and theater; nurturing and developing artists. It is a workshop in problem solving.  Creativity comes from practiced, sustained engagement, with people and with ideas. The workshop is an opportunity to refresh and nourish childlike curiosity, to experiment, and to stimulate the imagination.  Participants will leave better able to communicate, collaborate, make connections, and create the solutions our schools and our lives demand in the years ahead.  A must for teachers and anyone dedicated to helping ordinary people achieve the extraordinary.  Led by Bill Williams.
WHEN:           Wednesday, June 30th   9:30 – 4:00
WHERE:          Symphony Space – 2537 Broadway, 95th Street, NYC                                                                      #1,2,3 IRT Trains stop at 96th Street
COST:         $75.00 per participant



About Bill

Bill Williams is a director, teacher and private acting coach.  While teaching acting in the highly regarded theater department at Trinity School in Manhattan, he also directed over 60 productions at Trinity and in New York.   Many of his students have gone on to professional lives as working actors in film, on television, on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in regional theaters across the country.  More are working as successful writers, directors, composers, and stage managers, acting teachers and in arts management. They frequently cite Bill as an inspiration in their artistic lives. 

Early in his career in New York, while working as an actor, Bill discovered his real passion was teaching and directing.  He studied directing at Columbia University with George Ferencz and later at NYU with Carl Weber.  More recently Bill was part of the Teacher’s Development Program at The Actor’s Center where he had the good fortune to study with Ron Van Lieu, Christopher Bayes, Slava Dolgachev, William Esper and Michael Miller.  He followed that with further clown and commedia under Christopher Bayes. 

Bill studied acting at The Warren Robertson Studio with Larry Moss, Warren Robertson and Michael Karm.  He took musical comedy class with Larry Moss and Betty Buckley.

At Trinity Bill was given a Creative Teaching Grant and a Paul Balduc Faculty Fellowship.  He was selected for two NEH Seminars:  A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Bowdoin College led by Prof. Herb Coursen and Shakespeare’s Hamlets at Columbia University with David Scott Kastan, a general editor of the Arden Shakespeare.  He was also chosen as a participant in Multicultural Shakespeare, an NEH Institute at Columbia University with Profs. David Kastan, Richard McCoy and James Shapiro.  He graduated from Bowdoin College with a B.A. degree in Psychology.

Other work in New York includes teaching theater with the National Dance Institute founded by Jacques d’Amboise, on camera instruction at both Weist-Barron School of Television and Actors in Advertising, and as a production advisor for the Peter Rosen Productions Cine Golden Eagle award-winning Sing Joyfully.

Before coming to New York Bill was a founder/producer/director of Andy’s Summer Playhouse, in New Hampshire,  Among its many proud achievements, Andy’s commissioned and produced four pieces by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright (Rabbit Hole), David Lindsay-Abaire.


 Exploring Creativity  is a workshop to rediscover and reawaken imaginative play and to enhance facility in  problem solving.  It provides a safe atmosphere where participants can abandon preconceived notions of their limitations and explore their creative potential. It is based on the conviction that creativity can be encouraged, nurtured, and developed.  Creativity results not just from thinking with our heads, but from moving our bodies and feeling with our hearts, the joyful abandon of play. The workshop is about making and taking the time to give ourselves up to openness and wonder.

Theater is the medium, because it asks us to think, communicate and create with our whole bodies. The workshop employs theater games, improvisation, movement and acting exercises. Participants are presented problems, questions.  The solutions take the form of dramatic pieces, shared with other workshop participants. Although participants will be asked to perform, this is not an acting class. Actors and non-actors alike will profit from it.  The workshop takes advantage of the synergy that occurs when people with different professional skills, people from different walks of life, work together.
Exercises are arranged in a progression to help build confidence and freedom of expression as the workshop moves along.  Participants collaborate in the generation, organization, and presentation of each solution, each a bit of play, each a bit of a play.  While everyone takes turns as originators, performers, and audience throughout the workshop, the focus is on creation: the generation of new ideas and original solutions.  The process and the freshness of response are as important as the product.  Humor, laughter, and fun are important components of the process.   The goal is a revived sense of spontaneity, flexibility, resourcefulness and generosity to sustain us in both everyday life and whatever the workplace may hold.

June 30 Session Schedule

9:30 – 10:00                        Arrive, meet & greet, settle in

10:00 – 12:30                      Morning session, including short break part way through

12:30 – 1:30                        Lunch Break

1:30 - 4:00                           Afternoon session, including short break part way through

4:00                                     Opportunity to socialize

What People Who Have Worked
 With Bill Say

Your workshop was a good brain push for me this summer. I am teaching very differently this year, for a variety of reasons. I am giving students more room for creativity and exploration. I am differentiating instruction and more often than not, telling them I don't know what to do, what do they think? Class is a workshop of ideas, and we work together. It's messier. It works in part because my school head happens to have made the commitment to differentiation and is not afraid of the messiness, and because our drama teacher is supporting workshop activities in the classroom. Anyway, I want to thank you for helping to give me the push and inspiration.   Kim Allen

Bill Williams deserves single-handed credit for bringing me into the world of acting.  He scooped up an injured ballerina, brushed her off, and recruited her for plays and acting classes, changing the course of her life forever.  His fearless, passionate, magnanimous approach to teaching and his tireless dedication to his students make him one of the great teachers of all time.  His daring as a director exposes young people to exciting works that broaden their frames of reference and give them precocious polish.  Working with him helped me get into Harvard and the Yale School of Drama.  To this day, what I learned in his classes serves me as an actor. I owe him an eternal debt.  Lucia Brawley

Bill Williams was my first and, I believe, most crucial teacher. The environment that he created for his acting students was simultaneously rigorous and free - the lessons and examples designed to help each individual find their unique artistic voice. Professionally, I believe these formative experiences allow me to approach role after role with a sense of intense curiosity and personal freedom. If you are lucky enough to have a teacher or director like this, you know you are going to have a great opportunity to succeed.  G.M. Gianino

Bill is not only an excellent acting coach, but a truly beautiful human being who genuinely loves the theatre, actors, and teaching acting.  He fully appreciates how hard the art of acting is - but never for a second when learning from him, do you fail to remember how fun it is to play.  I came to Bill after deciding to quit my job as a
Mergers and Acquisitions lawyer to follow my dream of living in the shoes of other people on stage, in front of a camera - and sought out his help in preparing my monologue for entry into a two-year acting conservatory program...I was proud, crazed, and really, plain scared. Bill has an amazing intuition for people and human behavior - he
sensed my racing nerves and in a hot second had an uncanny ability to get them to just shut up already so that we could work and so that my talent and spontaneity could soar through the arch of the monologue. I distinctly remember leaving my meeting with him with a feeling of other-worldly confidence, and most importantly, with two feet firm on
the ground.  Thank you Bill!   Nelle Watkins

I was so shy as a child that I pretty much never opened my mouth in public.  My dad had this brilliant idea to send me to theatre classes on Saturdays.  I was 8. This man who taught the classes, Bill Williams, decided to give me the lead part in the very sophisticated play we were doing (about a worm) and somehow I came to life! I don’t know how he knew what to do but he did. He changed my life, no question. Bill opened me up to the world that was to become my home: the stage. I was lucky enough to work with him through high school as well and he has since supported all my professional work since. To have a mentor who you know made you into the person you are is no small thing. I am indebted to him forever.    Najla Said

Bill Williams taught me how to be authentic as an actor-- which is probably the most important lesson I ever learned.  Any performance that is not rooted in truth and authenticity will inevitably fall short.  His methods are charmingly unorthodox, but that is what made the learning process memorable and the lessons stick.  He sees artists as gifts and is therefore willing to tirelessly work with them to achieve what he wants and/or what they want.  His belief in his students is palpable and--in the face of the industry and its challenges--invaluable.  I love Bill Williams.  He is one of the best teachers I have ever had.  He possesses a rare mixture of intellect and passion and acting is as much as a science as it is an art.  The best acting, for me, requires this balance that Bill possesses.   Lena Georgas

Bill Williams is one of the most supportive, enthusiastic and inventive directors and teachers I know.  I've seen him get Broadway-caliber performances out of people who I previously thought might've had no business being on a stage.  I've seen plays and musicals he's directed, sometimes of even the most problematic scripts, reduce an audience to tears and get them on their feet cheering by the end.  And as a songwriter, I literally owe my career to him, since it was for one of his productions that I first took a shot at writing my own original music.  I can't remember whether I had the temerity to suggest it, or if he had enough confidence in me to ask (more likely it was the latter), but I wound up composing about 15 minutes of incidental background score for a play he was directing... and even before I won a prize for it a few weeks later, I already knew this was what I wanted to do with my life.  Bill's like that - he helps you tap into talents not only that you never know you had, but in some cases, that you never had an inkling you even wanted to pursue.  There aren't that many people in any field, let alone one as competitive and risky as theatre, who have that kind of unwavering belief in others, and who can have that kind of powerful, transformative effect.  
David Kirshenbaum - Composer

Bill Williams is a pleasure to work with as a director.  A consummate
professional, he approaches the text with openness and creativity,
and his collaborators with sensitivity and respect.  His generosity of
spirit conveys his true love of theater and the benefits it can bring
to the world.  I hope to work with him again soon.
Anne Nelson  Journalist, Author, Playwright


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Test Results

I recently had an informative, though discouraging, discussion with a sixth grade teacher who works in a New York City Public School.  I was asking him about the ability of kids in his class to work autonomously. I was curious to get his assessment of where his kids stood in regard to their ability to take responsibility for and to direct their own learning.  Were they on or near the cusp of being able to pursue their interests independently?

Sixth grade is the entry level at his school, a middle school.  The kids all arrive in the fall from other schools.  What discourages him, and me, is the fact that the kids are unable to do any significant work independently. Their ability to find information on their own is limited.  They simply don’t know how to go about it.  Where to look or how to ask.  Their curiosity is already stunted.  They are passive learners, waiting for the teacher to tell them what to do.  Given a chance to observe this class, I found them to be poor listeners, not well equipped to collaborate on even the simplest project, and easily distracted.  They lack the kind of composure needed to do meaningful work on their own or with others.    

Their teacher places the blame squarely on testing and the learning environment it creates. Teaching to the test. These kids seldom have a chance to think for themselves in school.  They’re taught to “think for the test.”  Ironically, those kids whose test scores are the best, are among the least inquisitive. They are not the risk takers, the ones most interested of learning on their own.  The message that standardized test results are paramount is clear.  That is what school is about for these kids.  Small wonder attendance in this school plummets once tests are over for the year.  This teacher is faced with trying to overcome a “fill in the blank” mentality.  His work involves resuscitating a questing spirit. These kids may be well schooled, but certainly they are not well educated.

One school.   One classroom.  One small sample, I know.  One small sample poorly served by testing meant to make their education better. Instead they’ve gotten a mis-education.  At least they’ve got a teacher who recognizes what has happened to these children and cares enough to do something about it.   Let’s hope it’s not too late. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Innovation Leadership Characteristic: Creativity

“I found it interesting yesterday to see that IBM's Institute for Business Value, a think tank and research organization, has surveyed CEOs of major corporations to try to understand the key characteristics that leaders will need in the near future.  I guess I should be more specific - I didn't think it was interesting that they asked 1500 CEOs about the important attributes and skills necessary for future leaders to possess.  I found it interesting that the number one skill they recommended was "creativity".”

This is the opening paragraph of a piece by Jeffrey Phillips of OVO Innovation.  I recommend the full piece here:

It makes me think of my first ever post on this blog, The Troll Bridge (Find it in my archive, Wednesday, December 9th, 2009.).  Somebody help me out.  I don’t get it.  Corporate leaders identify creativity as a key leadership characteristic.  Yet, as Phillips says, “Mention creativity in most corporate environments and eyes roll so dramatically you'll be concerned that someone could actually lose one.  An eye that is.  Creativity isn't just scoffed at in most organizations - it isn't even considered a topic of polite conversation.”  What are these people afraid of?  Try bringing it up in a school, especially one where getting kids into top colleges is an imperative.  The kids who will be our “leaders.”  You’ll get a polite nod, and then a reminder that the kids really need and want another science course over an arts course, because college is SO competitive these days.  And here I am still, “preaching that when the times get tough, the tough ought to get to playing.”

Monday, May 17, 2010



In his new book The Little BIG Things Tom Peters reiterates the importance of Managing By Wandering Around, a concept he first espoused in In Search of Excellence in 1982.  In my life in schools one of the top practioners of MBWA was Gordon Clem.  Gordon was the head of a small boarding school.  Students were always amazed at Gordon’s ability to turn up at the most inopportune moments.  His looming presence was in large part fact, in larger part myth.  The facts were his attention to detail, his accessibility at all hours, his willingness to listen, his civility, and his insistence on doing things well.  Most of all, he cared about the lives of the people he worked with and taught.  The myth was fed by fact and hard work. 

Unfortunately, Gordon Clem has been the exception in my experience.  I think of other schools I’ve worked in, where administrators confine themselves to their office, are available only by appointment, look pained when one appears at their office door uninvited, and never venture out of their office to see what things are like in the school they are “managing.”  I am taken aback by people who purport to lead schools, where the relationships among people ought to be paramount, who retreat into offices, avoid interpersonal contact and rely on memos, committees, meetings and pronouncements to get the job done.  The people who should be the most open to the school community and what is going on there become the most shut off.  And magically claim to know more about the place they run than anyone else.  Can we get Tom Peters to teach a course in secondary school administration?  It would probably be short.  “Try MBWA.  NOW!”  Too bad Gordon Clem is retired.   Prospective administrators could follow him around for a day.  It would be a long day, but a rewarding one, assuming they had the stamina.     

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Homo Empathicus

I came across this this morning.  A talk by Jeremy Rifkin.  Just discovered his work.  A good answer for why we should teach arts.  Enjoy it and pass it along.    

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Awesome Act of Paying Attention - For Teachers

I read this on Tom Peters' weblog today.

  "To be in the present with someone is a gift. The gift of attention is perhaps the most precious and envied of all. ...
"Think of someone who, while you are talking to him, is looking elsewhere, mentioning a subject that is irrelevant to what you are saying. Inattention has a disruptive, depressing aspect, which saps our vitality and robs us of our self-confidence."
From: The Power of Kindness, by Piero Ferrucci.
Message: Pay attention to the way you pay attention today/this week.
Consider: "Paying attention" is "the most precious gift."
Follow-up: Talk explicitly about the act of and power of paying attention. It is not only a "gift," but it is a "tool" that pays enormous practical dividends.

It made me think of the kids I've been working with in a public school in Brooklyn. I've asked myself over and over who has EVER listened to these kids.  More to the point.  How can we rearrange schools, NOW, so that teachers are doing more listening, more paying attention, and less talking at kids?  Kids of all ages.  The great teachers are great listeners, not great lecturers.  It's the first step in helping kids practice creativity.  They'll create for an audience that listens.
Thanks to Dan Pink, I discovered this terrific video on arts education.  Made by some very talented 7th graders.  Good work girls!