Stefanie Plumley wants her students to experience acting with every inch of their being – “we work a lot with communication and awareness of the body,” she said.
That means activities such as silent tableaus (silent, frozen frames of a story or event, much like a photograph rebuilt with actors), pantomimes and mask work (during which students learn to communicate without using their voices or faces).
“So much information about ourselves is told through the body; there’s such a connection between brain and body; your center of gravity is different if you’re playing an old man versus a six-year old boy,” she explained. To that regard, she encourages her students to crawl, roll and jump around in the Black Box theater.
Plumley has been at The Webb Schools for 9 years. She teaches Theater Arts 1 and 2 and a new class, “Shakespeare Through Experience.” She developed the new course with the help of a Perry Award that allowed her to attend the “Teaching Shakespeare Through Performance” workshop for three weeks at the Shakespeare’s Globe in London, England; she was one of 25 accepted out of 250 artists who applied to the program.
“I was always interested in theater,” said Plumley. She saw the musical, “Sweeny Todd,” when she was 9 years old – “I was terrified, but I loved it!”
Plumley started voice lessons as a child, participated in community theater and sang in choir. She completed a double major in English and theater at University of Southern California. A senior thesis on the author D.H. Lawrence led her to discover a professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland where she earned an M.A.
Though she worked as an editor at the magazine, Architectural Digest, for several years, the theater was her calling – after she saw a performance of Twelfth Night starring Mark Rylance she decided she wanted to teach. She worked at Flintridge Prep before joining the faculty at Webb where she has led the theater program for 9 years. Plumley lives on campus with her cat; she enjoys traveling to Palm Springs to look at mid-century houses and loves to travel – most recently to Berlin and New York City.
“Theater is challenging, political, it makes us think,” said Plumley. “And it’s treated as a serious thing at Webb, which is wonderful.”