Rachel Kenner '05

Rachel Kenner
Brimmer and May, 2005
Drew University, 2005-2009
Portrait of a Brimmer and May graduate
 
Brimmer and May has such a plethora of options, all of which you are encouraged to try and in an environment where it is safe to do so. Where else can you be on your high school’s dragon boat team?  I realized that I didn’t have to settle for just doing or just being one thing, and that was wonderfully freeing. “
 
Tell me about your work experience?
 
I am a prop maker and master working in New York City. I’ve been doing free-lance work in New York City for the past year, in addition to working as the prop master at an immersive circus event called Queen of the Night. In my freelance capacity, I work on- and off- Broadway (The Heidi Chronicles, The Visit). Over the past four years, I have specialized in immersive and site-specific theatre, notably Sleep No More, Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812.  My work varies day-to-day and show-to-show.  Sometimes, I get to do a lot of fabrication and set dressing, while other times I’m mores focused on shopping and sourcing. 
 
Did your education at Brimmer help create a path for your current life? What skills that you received at Brimmer have been most helpful in your day-to-day life?
 
Absolutely, Brimmer is where I first learned a lot of the skills that I use every day. It’s where I had my first taste of carpentry, lighting, and scenic painting, and it’s also where I gained the work ethic that has gotten me a lot of work opportunities. Having worked in many New York theatres for four and a half years, the Ruth Corkin Theatre is as good, if not better than many of the off-Broadway theaters I’ve worked in. It helps to have a basic knowledge of how a theater functions. That made it a lot easier to walk into other spaces and immediately be able to get my bearings and get to work.

One of my favorite pieces of the Brimmer curriculum was the Big Dig, in 8th grade, where we got to create an entire culture, create artifacts, and then stage an archaeological dig. Having gone on an actual dig, it turned out that what we learned in the sandboxes near May Hall was quite accurate. It was such a unique way to teach how history is studied, and how archaeology works, but also how culture works. I think that opportunities that have that kind of learning experience are rare and so, so, wonderful. 

Working in the arts, especially in theatre, and especially in props, this ability to synthesize and draw on vast arrays of knowledge has been a vital skill. Knowing how to draw from various sources of information and put them together to form a story on stage is what I do every day.
 
How would you describe your experience at Brimmer academically and socially?
 
Brimmer encouraged me to explore who I was and then inspired me to be better.  I was a weird kid, but no one ever made me feel like that was a bad thing. My teachers were always there to challenge me to go further than I thought I could or help me along when I was out of my element. I fondly remember staying after in English classes to have long conversations not just about the books in class, but my own personal reading. We didn’t just learn about what happened in history — we discussed it, and we were engaged.  We were taught to form connections with the literature we were reading in English and with current events. I also very much appreciate the diversity of the curriculum — non-Western authors and artists were key elements in our studies.

Brimmer and May has such a plethora of options, all of which you are encouraged to try and in an environment where it is made safe to do so.  Where else can you be on your high school’s dragon boat team?  I realized that I didn’t have to settle for just doing or just being one thing, and that was wonderfully freeing.
 
How did our faculty influence you?
 
Ted Barker-Hook’s history classes shaped how I think about the world and how I read to this day.  His Modern World History class in 9th grade was my first introduction to the First World War. I particularly remember an exercise where we set up the classroom with the tables as trenches to illustrate how absurd and deadly trench warfare was in a way that was far more effective than any lecture could have been.  I had three years of history with him, and every single course was fascinating and challenging.  I’ve always been a history buff, but he taught me how to actively read and think about history and why that matters. I’m still realizing the value of his classes in ways that I know I didn’t appreciate at the time. 
 
Bill Jacob was my first director and stagecraft teacher. I learned many of the skills and the work ethic that make me who I am today. I’m not sure how to distill seven years of being his student into a few sentences. 
 
Jeanne Segal really believed in every single one of her students and in the music she taught. She just radiated warmth and was always there to give you more confidence in yourself.
 
What led you to attend Brimmer and May?  What grades did you attend?
 
I attended Brimmer and May from 1999-2005, starting in sixth grade and ending with my high school graduation. I had heard of Brimmer as being a very caring school with a wonderful arts program and hands-on learning, and that turned out to be true -beyond what I could have hoped. 
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