Reflections on the Program in Educational Theatre and Beyond

Hello Educational Theatre Blog Readers! My name is Naomi Avadanei, and I graduated from the Undergraduate Program in Educational Theatre this past May (2013). I consider myself very lucky to have found and been a part of the Educational Theatre community for 4 years–those 4 years were filled with so many incredible opportunities, inspiring moments, and (of course) invigorating classes. Upon entering senior year I had to make the ever-so important decision: to go to grad school right away or to take a few years off and apply what I’ve learned in the workforce. Clearly, I decided on the latter.

I started applying to jobs pretty early during my senior year around October/November and didn’t really stop until I got my first teaching job in mid-August. Currently I’m what many would call a “freelance teaching artist.” I work as the Theatre and Movement teacher at Hunter College Elementary School (3 days a week), the Education Associate at TADA! Youth Theatre (4 days a week) and a Teaching Artist with TADA! (several times a month), Brooklyn Children’s Theatre (1 day a week), Salk Middle School (1 day a week) and The Paperbag Players (several times a month). Throughout my application process I would estimate that I applied to over 100 different positions in total. It was a long, arduous, and VERY stressful process, but I’m really happy with the companies I’m working for, the people I’m working with, and the work that I’m doing. It all paid off. When I was applying to jobs I was pretty stubborn about only applying to and accepting positions teaching theatre. In my case this was the most important non-negotiable. I realized I wouldn’t be happy in my chosen career path unless I was working in some respects teaching theatre to kids. As I was applying to positions (and it got closer and closer to the beginning of the school year) I started to have doubts about my non-negotiable. Was I being unrealistic? It turns out that just as I was starting to give up hope, a posting for a Theatre Teacher at Hunter College Elementary School came up on the List Serv (the List Serv is a gold mine–read those emails, they could lead to something!), and I applied. I was offered the position on August 19th, just 23 days before the first day of school. After that I kept getting various Teaching Artist positions from previous connections and interviews and everything sort of just came together. So while my story is unique to my experience, I’d like to share with you some of the things that helped me get where I am now and what I wish I knew/know as I was looking for a job and as I start my first year of teaching Theatre and Movement with students ages 3-12.

Classes (required and not) that you should take (and pay really, really close attention in):

First and foremost, I think this needs to be said because I didn’t figure it out until late in my Junior year/early Senior year. There’s a point in your college career where you have to stop thinking about classes and class work in terms of being a student and getting good grades and start looking at it as preparation for your future career. This may sound really silly but let me explain; I always prided myself on good grades and completing assignments well but often once the assignment was handed in that was it. I forgot about the bulk of the work necessary to complete the assignment (these are the details are really valuable and helpful later on) and moved on. My advice to you is to take those good ideas, great activities, and awesome tools and create a running list (preferredly an organized one). You’ll thank yourself later on. Ask questions in class and complete assignments through the lens of a teacher and an artist, not just a student–you will inevitably get good grades and you’ll make your transition into teaching much easier.

  • Any of the artistry/practical classes (Playwriting, Directing, Physical Theatre, Stagecraft, any Shakespeare Class). Even if you’re not interested in a career in Shakespeare or don’t want to become a playwright it’s important you LEARN about these things so that you’re prepared to TEACH them later on.

  • Dramatic Activities in the Elementary and Secondary Classroom–that running list I was talking about, these classes will be the equivalent of gold for that list.

  • Theory of Creative Drama

  • Some sort of Movement Class–I took Intro to Teaching Creative Movement through the Dance Ed. department. This class will help make you a more dynamic theatre teacher and a more attractive candidate.

Things I wish I had known:

  • Teaching Portfolio

    • Spend a lot of time on it, it’s worth investing the time.

    • Be organized when creating it, you will inevitably print and reprint the material in your portfolio. You will add, you will subtract, you will create new material. Create separate folders and documents for everything.

    • Be pushy about showing your portfolio to your interviewer. I wasn’t always so assertive in presenting my portfolio. For my first few interviews I waited for the interviewer to ask me for it. They didn’t. Assert yourself. Bring your portfolio and gently suggest (read: force) them to look at it. Show them all of the time and effort you put into it. Pick a few highlights to show them–no one will have time to look at the whole thing. Show what’s most relevant to the position.

  • Letters of Recommendation

    • Ask for them even before you need them. Don’t expect people to have a fast turn over. You want the person who is recommending you to take their time and do a good job on your letter so give them the opportunity to do just that. Ask them for the letter 1-2 months before you anticipate needing it.

    • Get a variety of letters: people who have seen you teach (both in the elementary and secondary classroom–if you’re interested in teaching both–you want those letters to be separate so that you can have them ready should you be applying for a position in that area), people who have supervised you in an administrative position, people who have worked with you in an artistic setting etc. You want a variety so you have at least one letter for every type of job you might apply to.

    • This point is similar to the Teaching Portfolio point. Most employers won’t ask you for a letter of recommendation. Give one to them even if they don’t ask for one either in a hard copy at the end of an interview or as an attachment to your follow up email.

  • Get all of your certification paperwork and exams out of the way and submitted as early as possible. You don’t want to be thinking about them when you’re applying to jobs–you’ll have enough stress without worrying about whether or not you’re teaching certification went through.

  • Get in touch with past employers and internship coordinators, let them know you’ve graduated and are looking for work. You never know, sometimes the stars align and they’re looking for someone just like you.

  • Have a backup curriculum prepared for all age groups you’re interested in teaching–even if it’s just an overview

    • Some employers might ask you to create a curriculum on the spot (mine did).

    • In case you get hired last minute (I did) you won’t have to start from scratch, but you’ll have somewhere to pull from and creating a year long curriculum in 2 weeks (or 2 days) won’t seem as daunting as it could be. Remember that list I talked about? This is when that comes in handy.

    • Speaking of creating a curriculum I don’t think we really talk so much about the logistics of creating a curriculum. It’s an area the program could work on. This is not to say you don’t get a lot of tools during your time at NYU, but not exactly: How do I create a curriculum? What should YOU do? Take initiative. I recommend you ask your Cooperating Teachers, they’ve been there and they’ve done it. So while their teaching styles might be very different from your own, take the time to ask them and talk through the process. It’ll help you when you have to create a curriculum of your own.

I really hoped this post helped you. If you have any more questions please feel free to contact me at Nja235@nyu.edu

In Conversation with Finegan Kruckemeyer and Gabriel Jason Dean

In Intro to Theatre for Young Audiences with Jonathan Shmidt Chapman

By Tamara Weisz

When I started Jonathan Shmidt Chapman’s Intro to Theatre for Young Audiences class a few weeks ago, I knew that we were extremely lucky to be analyzing the world of TYA through reading some of the most incredible, thought-provoking TYA scripts out there today. Little did I know I’d be in for a treat, when two authors whose work we had been reading joined us for a lively discussion on Tuesday, October 8, 2013.  As Gabriel Jason Dean and Finegan Kruckemeyer entered the room, our faces were giddy with big grins of excitement, and we were automatically greeted with a charming hello by Finegan – he’s Australian – and Gabriel, saying he was sorry not to have an accent to woo us with. Thankfully their sense of humor made us laugh and calm our nerves before delving into this exciting conversation.

Who are they?

Finegan Kruckemeyer and Gabriel Jason Dean

Gabriel Jason Dean is an American playwright whose first TYA play, The Transition of Doodle Pequeño, received a lot of praise at last year’s John F. Kennedy Center New Visions/New Voices conference for dealing with issues of gender identity through a humorous and compelling story. ‘Doodle’ has been work-shopped in a variety of settings, and is being made into a children’s book as we speak, but has yet to have a full professional production. Finegan Kruckemeyer is based in Australia and has had 52 of his plays performed around the world. In class, we have read two of his plays, Helena and the Journey of the Hello, and The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy. You can probably tell by all of the above play titles that these two playwrights are challenging the notions of what is children’s theatre, and we were eager to hear their opinions.

 

Taking Risks in a Changing Scene

Both writers are challenging norms of what we think that children can handle or understand. They believe that children are capable of exploring heavier subjects, and their plays deal with complex emotions, including sadness. Often, producers get nervous that their audiences will not understand this type of subject matter and they may think that sad moments ultimately classify a play as inappropriate  – something not to be shown to children. A lot of times, adults are trying to speak for kids and it is here we realize that the problem is not with the children – it is with the adults. How do we change this conversation? How do we take risks in producing plays and trust that child audiences will go on the journey, even if it includes ups and downs? The taboo of sadness in TYA is something that both of these writers are trying to break, which is an amazing feat.

In all, Kruckemeyer said that he writes plays that he feels will resonate with audiences that bare the same humanity as him; if he can be moved towards empathy, he hopes that will resonate with anyone, regardless of their age– and in that sense, there is no difference between children and adults. If we focus on telling great stories, they will be universally understood.

Where Are We Now?

What was really inspiring was hearing both playwrights talk about working in America right now, at a time where we are on the cusp of an exciting directional change; something new is brewing in the world of TYA – we are doing some soul searching, and people are starting to realize that it is okay to take risks and challenge preconceived notions of what TYA is fundamentally. They also mentioned how amazingly collegial the TYA scene is in the States, where different people from different companies across the nation are actively in conversation about TYA’s future.

Hopes for the Future:

Kruckemeyer hopes that we stop focusing on the ‘what’ – what will the show be about? Everyone wants to know everything beforehand – can we trust our audiences? He hopes people will come experience the ‘what’ in the theatre itself, and he hopes that a lot of how’s and why’s come along with it. Dean looks forward to seeing braver choices, and stepping away from current trends (adaptations and “safe” titles). While both writers understand that there’s financial risk involved, they hope new work is created which invests in the storytellers of our generation.

Some Fun Facts:

– Did you know that Finegan Kruckemeyer has a 13 year old dramaturg that he’s been working with for years now? He says she scrutinizes his work in every aspect!

– Gabriel Jason Dean work-shopped his play, Doodle, in a middle school in Austin, TX for 6 weeks and working with children fundamentally changed the play. He believes if we trust children with the work, they may truly have something to teach us.

For more information on these playwrights, please visit:

http://finegansworks.com.au/

http://www.gabrieljasondean.net

———————-

Tamara Weisz is a graduate student in Educational Theatre in Colleges and Communities. She will continue studying new play development as a Graduate Student Observer at the Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices conference in 2014.

Announcing Auditions for The School for Scandal

Please come out to audition!! All ages, sizes, shapes and levels of experience are welcome!!

The School for Scandal, a Restoration comedy, has been called a superbly crafted laugh machine, and  “timeless in delivering delectable comeuppance to a viper’s nest of gossip mongers!” Written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in 1777, the play demonstrates his narrative vivacity, verbal sheen and degree of wit in purely polished stagecraft — indeed, his theatre sense was acute and he knew how to write rewarding roles.

Masquerading behind the veneer of polite London society, malicious prattlers trade gossip like gamblers. After all, what could be more fun than a good scandal?

Come on, Ed Theatre, let’s do some COMEDY (of manners)!

Performance dates encompass the last weekend of February and the first week(end) of March.

Audition dates (please sign up in the Ed. Theatre office): 

Wednesday 12/4 7 – 10pm, Acting Studio, Pless Basement
Friday 12/6 5 – 6:30pm Room 303, Education Building, 35 W. 4th

7 – 10:00pm, Acting Studio, Pless Basement

Saturday 12/7 10:00am – 1:00pm, Acting Studio, Pless Basement
Saturday 12/7 CALL BACKS  2 – 4:00pm, Acting Studio, Pless Basement
Please prepare a 2 minute comedic monologue, either classical or contemporary. Please note: willingness to work in a dedicated creative ensemble is essential.

 

Directed by:

Dr. Nan Smithner
Clinical Associate Professor
Program in Educational Theatre
Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions

The Program in Educational Theatre Graduates Its First Married Couple!

History will be made in the Educational Theatre doctoral program May 2014 as we graduate our first married couple, Drs Jennifer and John Socas. 

Jen’s study, “Performing through Layers: reading the world through theatre in Zanzibar,” and  John’s, “Enhancing self presentation through drama at a community college: Rehearsing the job interview,” make exceptional contributions to the field.

Jennifer and John Socas with their daughter Arden.

Professor Taylor, chair of both dissertations, commented that it is a rare feat to have two doctoral studies by a couple, let alone two from the same college program in one year. “We are all so incredibly proud and humbled by the achievement of the Socas family,” said Taylor. “Maybe one day their 4 year old daughter Arden will enroll at NYU too to make a hat-trick, but no pressure please!”

—————-
While used mostly in sport, such as cricket, a hattrick is accomplishing a positive feat three times .

Tongues by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin, to be performed Fall 2013

The Program in Educational Theatre has been taking part in a unique collaboration with the Department of Music and Performing Arts’ Program in Percussion Studies, on a new production of Sam Shepard’s play, Tongues. Written in 1978 by Shepard and Joseph Chaikin, Tongues is a series of monologues set to percussion, and was first performed at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco. Chaikin and Shepard explored a dramatic form stripped of plot elements and reduced to essentials of sound and utterance. Shepard writes: “Tongues is a play about voices. Voices traveling. Voices becoming other voices. Voices from the dead and living. Hypnotized voices. Sober voices. Working voices. Voices in anguish.” In this lyrical and poignant theatre piece, the inherent philosophical themes are hunger, work, family, death, and the poetic sense of human possibility.

Dr. Nan Smithner is directing the piece, in collaboration with Jonathan Haas, Director of Percussion Studies, who oversees the percussion ensemble.  The actors from our program are Andrew Anzel, Heleya de Barros, Ashley Hamilton, and Clare Hamoor. They have contributed greatly to the realization of the piece with inventive aesthetic suggestions. The percussionists, Abigail Fisher, Robert Guilford, Brandon Nestor and Sean Perham, have worked creatively with the actors to bring the text to life using a variety of unusual and inspired percussive instruments. Through movement, words and sound, the percussionists interact spatially, musically and emotionally with the actors, creating a dynamic and visual soundscape.

This NYU collaborative production is going to culminate in a presentation at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, on November 13, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The piece will also be performed at NYU on Monday, November 25th at 7:30pm in the Loewe Theatre, 35 West 4th St.

Lincoln Center Education

Dear Ed Theatre Community,

It is with great pride and excitement that we share with you the announcement of Lincoln Center’s first rebranding in history for its education division – rebranded as Lincoln Center Education.  With the completion of a $1.2 billion redevelopment of the Lincoln Center campus, this rebrand reflects an unprecedented expansion in the field of arts education by the world’s leading performing arts center.

Announced only recently, and in addition to a new name and a new visual identity (created by Ogilvy & Mather and The Brand Union), Lincoln Center Education (LCE) received $4 Million from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation to add innovative programs to its core work – the largest education grant ever awarded to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Lincoln Center Education’s rebranding arrives after a year-long examination of its existing programs and initiatives. New programs will join established efforts in schools and in the community, reflecting the organization’s updated vision and objectives. Harnessing the resources of Lincoln Center, LCE has realigned itself to most effectively develop arts education programs in five distinct areas:

  • K-12 education: programs for more than 25,000 students in over 200 schools in the New York metro area.
  • Higher education: partnerships with local colleges and universities to train teaching candidates in arts education and help recent graduates find employment with school partners.
  • Community outreach: programs include Poet-Linc, Lincoln Center Local, and other free events such as the monthly Meet the Artist series in the David Rubenstein Atrium, designed to engage the community in the arts and events at and beyond the Lincoln Center campus.
  • Lincoln Center Institute: LCI is refocused as a dedicated institute within LCE for research in arts education, and training for educators using an arts-based teaching model.
  • Consultancies: LCE’s special consultancy practice shares its expertise in arts education and creative learning.

In addition to the work we’ve been doing for over 35 years, we are thrilled to share the following new programs and initiatives:

  • “Arts in the Middle” – this new pilot program, created in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, is a three- to five-year initiative beginning in the 2013-14 school year to provide arts programming and teacher training at public middle schools which are underserved in the arts, so as to make the arts a lasting part of these schools and their community.
  • Lincoln Center Education is commissioning a work designed for an audience of children on the autism spectrum.
  • Lincoln Center Education is expanding the existing Lincoln Center Local program, which brings free Lincoln Center programs to neighborhood libraries in the outer boroughs, and alternative locations such as shelters, senior centers and facilities with incarcerated youths.
  • Two additional charter schools partnering with the New York City Department of Education and New Visions for Public Schools have opened this fall, making a total of six that are operating to date. LCE expects to ultimately partner on 18 charter schools.
  • “Next Stage” – Lincoln Center Education is launching a new series of panel discussions, lectures and other programs in the coming months, seeking to generate high-profile discussions on important topics in arts education. This public forum will allow established artists to demonstrate how education has played a role in their work. The initial forums will each be focused on particular arts genres, including dance, music, theater and visual art.

Lincoln Center Education is a global leader in arts education and advocacy and the education cornerstone of Lincoln Center, the world’s largest performing arts complex.  As such, LCE is committed to enriching the lives of students, educators, and lifelong learners by providing opportunities for engagement with the highest-quality arts on the stage, in the classroom, digitally, and within the community. Founded in 1975 as the Lincoln Center Institute, LCE has nearly four decades of unparalleled school and community partnerships, professional development workshops, consulting services, and its very own repertory. LCE has reached more than 20 million students, teachers, school administrators, parents, community members, teaching artists, pre-service teachers, university professors, and artists in New York City, across the nation and around the world.

If you visit our ‘splash page’ (our new website will go live in early spring!) by going to www.LincolnCenterEducation.org you’ll notice our new value proposition, which is at the core of everything we do:

The arts cultivate a unique skill set that is indispensable for the 21st century: problem solving, collaboration, communication, imagination, and creativity. Lincoln Center, the world’s premier performing arts center, translates those skills from the stage to the lives of children, equipping them for success in their careers and to serve as active participants in their communities. We offer a distinctive approach to education that helps young minds perform in a dynamic world.

We invite you to learn more about our work and the many ways in which you can be a part of it.  The Educational Theatre community has given us so much – we look forward to increasing our engagement with the program, its staff, its students and its alumni.

With much love and appreciation,

Russell Granet (MA ‘95) – Executive Director

Alex Sarian (MA ’07) – Director, Finance & New Business

Melissa Gawlowski Pratt (current PhD) – Program Manager

 

New Plays for Young Audiences: An Extremely Appealing Process

By Blanca Vivancos

When last summer I got the email announcing I was going to be part of the cast of one of the shows at NYU Steinhardt’s New Plays for Young Audiences, I was thrilled. Of course it’s always exciting to get a positive answer after an audition, but in this case there were a few extra reasons why I wanted to be part of that project. For those of you who don’t know how New Plays for Young Audiences works, it is basically a theatre work in progress based on a new play that is still a working draft. During one week, actors, director, and playwright work together to give the play shape, showing the final result to an audience in a staged reading. This process is extremely helpful for the playwright who gets direct feedback from the actors and can adapt the play based on what is actually working or not working on stage. But as I was saying, this process was also extremely appealing for me for several reasons:

First, being an actress, the opportunity to be part of a work in progress is a challenge. Having to build a character based on a text that changes from one day to the next until the very last minute requires flexibility and technique, and there’s never enough of that for an actor, right?

That process becomes even more fulfilling by having the playwright on stage, working with the actors, explaining, listening, and re-writing. That is an amazing experience! How many times, reading a script, I would have paid to have the chance to ask the author, “Why?”  Well, New Plays for Young Audiences gave me that for free!

Third, I would add that being a writer myself, observing the creative process of another playwright always gives food for thought. And having the opportunity to be part of that process, feeding back to the author from the actor’s perspective, is also an experience every playwright should have at least once.

This project also gave me the chance to work under the direction of Deirdre Lavrakas, from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. I guess anyone with some experience in theatre would agree with me about how much we actors learn by watching a director at work. And in this particular case, the lesson was even bigger because the director had to be flexible enough to adapt the show to the new version of the script in every rehearsal!

Probably one of the things that motivated me the most was the outstanding cast I shared the stage with. Most of the actors were related to the Program in Educational Theatre at NYU Steinhardt, so our rehearsals were a reflection of what that program is: a perfectly balanced combination of artistic talent and human touch. It is always a pleasure to work on stage with talented people who know how to listen, share, and create to build the best show possible.

Finally… lets be very honest with this: New Plays for Young Audiences happens at the Provincetown Playhouse in NYC, where Anne Bancroft, Julie Harris, Eugene O’Neill, and Bette Davis launched their careers. And yes, it’s not a bad reward to add my name to that list!

Clean Break’s Unlocking Potential: Using the arts with women in the criminal justice system

Clean Break was set up in 1979 by two women prisoners who believed that theatre could bring the hidden stories of imprisoned women to a wider audience. Still the only women’s theatre company of its kind today, Clean Break has remained true to these roots, continuing to inspire playwrights around the complex theme of women and crime – enlightening and entertaining audiences. Integral to this, is the company’s long-established theatre-based education and training program enabling women offenders and those at risk of offending to develop personal, social, professional and creative skills leading to education and employment.

Behind the scenes, we provide high-quality theatre-based courses, qualifications, training opportunities and specialist support which are critical for the rehabilitation of women offenders in prisons and the community.  On the stage, we produce ground-breaking and award-winning plays which dramatize women’s experience of, and relationship to, crime and punishment. Our women-only identity is crucial to our history and rationale, and provides us with the most effective model for representing, understanding and meeting the complex needs of women who offend.

Clean Break will visit NYU Steinhardt’s Program in Educational Theatre for two events this week:

Thursday, October 24, 2013 – 8:15 pm – 10:15pm (Clean Break: A Presentation)- Bobst Libray LL150

and Friday, October 25, 2013 – 1pm – 4pm (Clean Break: In Practice)- Pless Acting Studio at 82 Washington Square East

For 10/24, RSVP to: https://www.eventbrite.com/event/8735410849

For 10/25 RSVP, to: https://www.eventbrite.com/event/8735567317

http://www.cleanbreak.org.uk

META By Deborah Zoe Laufer Opens This Weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

META
By Deborah Zoe Laufer

What if the Gods, Goddesses, Nymphs and Sirens of Greek myth congregated nightly at their favorite downtown dive?  What happens when these tragic heroes wrestle with fate and contemplate hubris through song as the impending flood bears down?  META… That’s what! Join us for the most cathartic fun this side of Olympus!

Program in Educational Theatre
LOCATION: Black Box Theatre

ADMISSION: $15 General, $5 Students & Seniors
For tickets, contact NYU Ticket Central.
ONLINE: nyu.edu/ticketcentral/calendar
BY PHONE: 212 352 3101
IN PERSON: 566 LaGuardia Place (at Washington Square South)

Friday, October 25 at 8pm
Saturday, October 26 at 8pm
Sunday, October 27 at 3pm
Thursday, October 31 at 8pm
Friday, November 1 at 8pm
Saturday, November 2 at 8pm
Sunday, November 3 at 3pm