Jeff Church, Producing Artistic Director of The Coterie in Kansas City, Missouri, “is pleased to be back with New Plays for Young Audiences in the Steinhardt’s terrific Program in Educational Theatre at NYU.” Jeff directed for NYPA in its very first year (1998) and continued for the next seven years though 2005. “Lowell Swortzell was leading the summer developmental festival at the time, and he was one of the greats. One of The Coterie’s most important commissions, The Wrestling Season, by Laurie Brooks, was developed here in 1999,” said Jeff. Jeff used the NPYA program to work on some experimental scripts as well, such as a transgender-themed play, The 12:07, also by Laurie Brooks.
Laurie Brooks will be in New York for this year’s NPYA at The Provincetown, developing her new musical, Dust, with her team, Composer/Musician Paul Carrol Binkley and Director Jeff Church. Dust tells the story of Ellie, a girl who the town believes is an angel that can call rain from the skies and make crops grow again. The ravages of the Dusters that caused the death of her mother are bad enough, but even worse, Ellie knows she’s just an ordinary girl who cannot perform miracles. The phenomenon of one brave family who stayed through the Dustbowl and the prescient topic of climate change are embedded in this story.
Here are a few additional photos from Looking for Shakespeare 2016’s production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Nan Smithner.
NYU’s Educational Theatre Program is thrilled to host a special roundtable event for the New Plays for Young Audiences 20th Anniversary to explore emergent directions in writing and producing works. Panelists include Laurie Brooks, award winning TYA playwright; José Cruz Gonzales, a leading Hispanic voice in TYA; Cecily O’Neill, foremost drama in education authority; David Montgomery, Director of NYU’s program and author of Theater for Change; Kathy Krysz, archivist for ASU’s Child Drama Collection; Courtney Boddie, Director of Education/School Engagement at the New Victory Theater, and our panel will be moderated by Philip Taylor, NYU Educational Theatre professor.
The event will take place on Saturday, June 17, 2017 at New York University.
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ArtsPraxis Volume 3 has been published.
It is with great enthusiasm that I present this third volume of ArtsPraxis. In 2003, I worked as a research assistant for Philip Taylor cataloging the extant journals in the arts, arts education, and arts therapies disciplines in order to demonstrate the need for the first volume of this publication. To find myself now as Editor is both humbling and gratifying, given the time and attention that I have contributed to this journal over the years.
This volume features a number of articles that were presented in some form at the Forum on Educational Theatre in April 2016, for which I served as manager. The Forum celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Program in Educational Theatre at New York University: building on the past and looking towards the future. The event was a fine testament to the legacy of the Program’s founders, Lowell and Nancy Swortzell who began the Program in 1966. All told, with presenters, performers, staff, volunteers, and delegates, the participant pool exceeded 400 individuals, demonstrating the strength of the field and a commitment from colleagues the world over to come to New York, share their work, and celebrate this milestone.
The 3rd issue of ArtsPraxis is available for download here.
JULIANA SAXTON, CAROLE MILLER, and MONICA PRENDERGAST
The elegant phrases of John Crosby to describe mentoring have been amended and added to over the years to include, “a shoulder to cry on and a kick in the pants” (Josefowitz, 1980). This paper is a follow-up to the podcast the authors engaged in with Edie Demas as their moderator at the NYU Forum on Educational Theatre, April 2016. Here on the editor’s invitation, we expand on our conversation, moving from our personal experiences of mentoring/being mentored to examining the confusions that arise over the application of the term itself, what is effective mentoring and how it may be derailed. We begin with what we said (slightly modified) about our own experiences of mentorship to set the context.
Theatre in Education emerged in the 1960s from roots in progressive education and new wave theatre and developed a pedagogy heavily influenced by drama and education philosophy. At the heart of this theatre/education hybrid was a belief in the necessity for children to become critically engaged with the world. The best TIE offered children the tools to understand and to shape their world. This progressive approach to education has been marginalised during the last forty years. This article charts this descent into utilitarianism and asserts the need for Applied Theatre and TIE to enhance students’ critical thinking skills rather than offering didactic messages and exercises in socialisation. The obstacles to working authentically with TIE are multifarious. Alongside issues of funding, timetabling, access to students and appropriate working space, there are problems associated with appropriate training in TIE praxis. Professionals no longer have the access to the necessary research and rehearsal time where facilitation skills can develop. The ‘authentic teaching’ lauded by Heathcote is out of favour at the time when critical thinking skills are of paramount importance. This article asks if there is a way for TIE to adapt to the new realities of how children learn and play so that again it can offer a theatrical safe haven where critical thinking skills can be honed in order to equip young people with the critical skills to shape their own futures.
JAMES PAUL MIRRIONE, PhD
Shakespeare’s plays, especially those that have a modern day resonance to the issues of the modern world, are indeed elastic in their ability to speak across generations and cultures. This paper provides a number of sample responses by young Emirati female students at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) from courses taught by the author, who was in residence there as the Drama and Theatre specialist from 2005-2014. Over the course of several semesters, these female Muslim university students’ verbatim comments reveal how Kate’s final words moved them to respond in the varied ways they did. These responses demonstrate the emotional tightrope that the students seem to be navigating; one that originates in tradition while also clashing with modernity. The Taming of the Shrew, and the journey of Kate as she is confronted by the challenges of an arranged marriage within a patriarchal society, is one that speaks to these students. As a non-Muslim practitioner of theatre and drama, the challenge was to see which of these two personas would win out – a Kate or a Khatema – which turns out to be the subject matter for a larger societal investigation of the roles of men and women in the United Arab Emirates.
ROSS W. PRIOR
Applied theatre as a named field is still relatively new yet ‘the range of applied theatre practice is vast; it happens all over the world as part of a grassroots movement involved in social change and community reflection’ (Prendergast & Saxton, vi: 2009). This article explores the underlying teaching philosophies inherent in the published course descriptors of a sample range of eight graduate/postgraduate programmes in applied theatre across three countries. The selection of these programmes, although somewhat random, has been based upon their prominence within academic parlances and those that provide programme documents in English. Consequently the representative sample survey is across one cross-section of postgraduate provision and is analysed in order to extract a range of philosophical themes underpinning learning and teaching. In distilling these philosophies the article presents a discussion of how the subject knowledge of applied theatre work ranges from ‘discovered’ to ‘constructivist’ in nature. In turn these themes are interrogated against published research in the field and postulate on how applied theatre programmes might further consider the ways in which they adequately prepare their students as future artist-educators to work in this diverse and challenging field. An outcome of the survey revealed grand claims made in the published programme descriptors.
TRENT NORMAN, REBECCA BROWN ADELMAN, and LIGIA BATISTA SILVERMAN
Applied theatre performances that address social issues can inspire feelings and reactions. In this article, we draw from our experience working together as facilitators since 1999 as examination of the challenges we have encountered and the importance in holding space for difficult – yet productive – conversations. Working from a framework of inclusive justice, we merge social justice practices in applied theatre and inclusive education. We share with the readers our experiences with the role of self as facilitator and the concept of holding space; we challenge the idea of neutrality in facilitation, and advocate for the facilitator as instrument to change. We are not offering a manual of instructions – we offer, instead, a few ingredients that other facilitators may also find helpful in their practice.
Creative English is an applied theatre program that supports English language learning for adult refugees and migrants in the UK. The program is shaped by an ethic of care, focused on responsiveness, reciprocal relationships and empowering individuals to take action. This article identifies challenges and opportunities highlighted by the rapid expansion of a project governed by these values and delivered by volunteers.
In 2014, secondary students at the Poly Prep Country Day School began an eleven-month project with their acting teacher and a professional playwright that culminated in performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August of 2015. The goal was to premiere a new play created out of the concerns and challenges facing these young Americans as they wrestled with their national identity in an increasingly interconnected world. The students also dealt with issues of race, class, and sexual identity as they refined dialogue and characters in daily rehearsal sessions. The director’s process of building Americans in Breshkistan was modeled on that used by professional companies when they workshop a new piece with a playwright. The students created choreography and stage combat, as well as nonverbal movement sequences in which they worked together as an acrobatic team. The project united and engaged thirteen students of various races, classes, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and personality types. Students were responsible for creating and realizing the lighting and sound designs and for running the show. This project could serve as a model for schools to adopt into their regular curriculum, connecting high-level, student-created productions with performance possibilities at local professional theater venues.
The production of plays written by young people has been in practice at theatre companies and arts organizations in the United States for nearly forty years. However, while young playwrights programs have emerged across much of the country in the past decade, the field has not been adequately addressed in the literature. This paper addresses the scope and variety of young playwrights programming and compares the praxis of organizations engaged in the work.
ArtsPraxis Volume 4, Issue 1 looks to engage members of the global Educational Theatre community in the ongoing dialogue about where we have been and where we are going. This call for papers is released concurrently with ArtsPraxis Volume 3 and the submission deadline for Volume 4, Issue 1 is February 1, 2017.
Originally Published in American Theatre
Nashville Children’s Theatre is confronting issues of gender and social repression with its production of Laurie Brooks’s Afflicted: Daughters of Salem, which runs Sept. 15-Oct. 2. Commissioned by Coterie, where it premiered in 2014, Afflicted depicts the events leading up to the Salem witch trials from the perspectives of young female accusers.
“Very little is known about the young women who made the accusations, and so it’s fascinating from an historical perspective,” says Alicia Fuss, NCT’s director of education and the production’s director. “What might have led them to make these accusations? What might have been their motive? It’s also a script that brilliantly taps into the nuances of teenage female friendship.”
Like The Nine Who Dared, Afflicted also includes a forum component, calling on the audience to help determine the story’s final outcome. “The more I worked with the script, the clearer it became to me that it’s not really a post-show forum—it’s the end of the play,” says Fuss. “Without it, the play has no falling action or resolution. My hope is that it provides a springboard for more intimate conversation between the friends and families that attend the show together. I also think that we don’t spend enough time listening to young people. In the forum, the youth are directly asked to share their ideas. Suddenly the characters they’ve been listening to for an hour are turning to them for their thoughts. That’s a very powerful framework.”
Fuss also notes how the issues facing the young women in the play have moved her to rethink adult attitudes towards children.
“As an adult, this play has pushed me to think about the restrictions and influences we place on our young people today, and what the ramifications of those might be,” she says. “I think it shows the adults in the room how very capable the youth are at thinking through both the historical event and the applications to their contemporary lives.”
By: Dr. Nan Smithner
This summer the Program in Educational Theatre presented Looking for Shakespeare’s 2016 production of Romeo and Juliet. I was fortunate to be the director of an ensemble of 19 excellent young people, 13 dynamic NYU graduate students and a robust and stellar creative and production team of light, set, costume and designers, stage managers, fight choreographer, hip hop dance instructor, dramaturg and assistant director/producer.
We explored universal themes of love, conflict, family, identity and fate, which resonate as strongly in 2016 as they did in 1596. Our play was set in the 1990’s, a time of existential crisis that foreshadowed the 21st century and formed a bridge between new and old ways of thinking and living. It was a decade of jarring, sometimes incongruous events, including the ripening of the technological revolution and a new global awareness, and also foreshadowing explosions of national trauma and cultural conflict. As an ensemble, we lived through and discussed the turbulence of our present day times, as, in a few short weeks, the students delved into the complexities of Shakespeare’s language.
We framed our play in a hip hop world that explored discord, tension and opposition, and also embraced joy, hope, passion and knowledge. It was truly an ensemble effort as astute graduate students worked in depth — coaching language, acting and physical expression, as did the incredible dramaturg and perceptive assistant director. Students made visual art that was on display in the lobby, and wrote original poetry and performed songs about love in the pre-show and intermission. It was indeed an honor for me to work with such an inspiring and vibrant group this summer, to produce a profound show full of humor, tragedy, and above all, expressing the overarching importance of love.