MA '90, PhD '06, Educational Theatre
"I was always passionate about educational theatre," says Edie Demas, Director of Education for The New Victory Theater. "It gives students a different way to learn and experience the world."
Demas's interest in educational theatre began when she was a young English teacher. "I felt stymied by what I could do in the classroom, and I tried to incorporate theater conventions like role-play, improvisation and tableaux to teach Robinson Caruso." Although these techniques worked, Demas realized she needed to acquire more concrete skills in nontraditional teaching methods. "I visited the NYU master's program in educational theatre and felt as if I were coming home."
After Demas received her masters degree in 1990, she worked as a teaching fellow in the program for several years. She was then invited to Ireland to direct a workshop and tour with the Graffiti Theater company. At the same time, NYU's study abroad program in educational theatre began a collaboration with the company, and Demas began teaching one of their summer courses.
When she wasn't teaching or touring with Graffiti, she founded a children's film festival called Unreal. "The festival incorporated an education program. Since film studies had just been added to the national curriculum in Ireland, I got to work hand in hand with their Department of Education."
Next, Demas became an associate artist at Ireland's famed Abbey Theater. "There was a real explosion in the Abbey Theater's education and outreach program, so I moved to Dublin to work with them and their audiences."
The culmination of these experiences came in the fall of 2001 when Demas returned to New York to become the Director of Education at The New Victory Theater. "I'm thrilled every day with my job. It's a wonderful opportunity to bring together all the work I'd been doing aboard, all the teaching I've ever done and my education at NYU."
As one of only a few full-time theaters in the country dedicated to children and their families, The New Victory is an extraordinary entity, and Demas relishes the challenges she faces every day. "Just when a show closes another one comes in. It's intellectually and creatively stimulating and very exciting to be a part of that kind of energy."
The theater also allows Demas to maintain her connection to NYU. "NYU educational theatre students intern here. I want to continue to encourage work placements for them because I'm an alum, but also because I'm a professional who's looking for the best people out there who want to work in educational theatre. For my money, the best people are the students coming out of NYU.
Demas recently completed her doctoral degree in educational theatre at NYU. "Right after I accepted the position at the New Victory, I ran into Philip Taylor, the program director for educational theatre. He pointed out that I was sitting inside an organization that was perfectly poised to be part of my research for a doctoral degree." Consequently, Demas's dissertation explored the role of education departments in cultural organizations like The New Victory Theater.
Demas simultaneously pursues teaching – she is a adjunct professor at NYU – and work in her field. She serves on the Board of Directors of teh NYC Arts in Education Roundtable and is a consulting writer and trainer for the NYC Department of Education's Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts: Theater. She finds that "it's time for the educational theater community to look for new models, new playwriting structures, new concepts of the theater venue, and new writers and non-traditional forms. The community also needs to build bridges between artists and audiences so they can find each other and look to the future."