By TAYLOR MABELITINI
It’s 2:30 p.m. on a quiet Thursday, but Tracy Jaffe’s acting class, which meets in the college theater in LA 175, is anything but hushed. Students jump on and off the small stage in pairs, creating witty scenes on the fly to test out their improv skills honed over the past semester. A handful of actors in class, however, took on a project that was more to do with pre-med than punch lines.
Wesley Branton, 18, was part of one of the group of students acting as “professional patients” who collaborated with the Nursing and Film Departments at WCC to produce a series of educational videos for nursing students of this year and years to come.
The videos were designed to present the nursing classes with a variety of scenarios to better prepare them for real-life hospital crises.
“It was really professional and well planned,” Branton said. “Not just acting for the sake of acting, but for health care.” The theater major from Ann Arbor, who played the husband of a pregnant woman, liked the nice balance of funny and not funny that came with the project. On the other hand, Connor Forrester-Hutchins, 20, a liberal arts major from Pinckney, loved trying to be real and intense.
“We were doing these serious roles, a whole new thing for us, and it ended up being a lot of fun. It was improv within the confines of their rules and situations,” Forrester-Hutchins said.
Rather than having written lines, the students were given a “rep sheet” of the background of a patient. With just that information and their improv chops, it helped create an authentic scene.
“It was good practice to be put on the spot, not trying to be funny,” Priscilla Creswell from Ypsilanti said. “It was cool to be able to do a different type of improv, to see that improv could be moving or inspirational.” The 20-year-old played an expectant mother forced to go into delivery early after complications arose.
The project came about after Theresa Dubiel, a nursing professor, approached Jaffe and her class to apply their skills to help create the training videos for future classes.
“We took skills that students are building and put service to it that’s really concrete,” Jaffe said. “The scenarios were very different and gave real issues, and I think the students made it really believable.” The project branched out into fields outside of the humanities and arts, a fairly new concept, something Jaffe said she loved.
“It was neat to have medical professionals and acting students marry different skills together, and the students really felt like they were being trusted. They jumped at the opportunity,” Jaffe said, who teaches all four levels of acting classes at WCC.
The videos went beyond simply artistic study and presented the acting students with a new challenge, one that not only serves themselves and their range, but will help shape and train the medical students at WCC for approaching semesters.
“Now they walk in the world with a new skill set,” Jaffe said. “I was so pleased to see this kind of collaboration, these really different things coming together.”