Forum on Educational Theatre Preview #7

Preparations for the Forum on Educational Theatre April 21-24, 2016 are well underway. To register, click here.

As we gear up for the event, we will post descriptions of some of the presentations–one of which appears below:

Workshop: Challenging a Japanese Model of Friendship through Drama: Would You Be Able to Sacrifice Yourself for Your Friend?

The Japan Foundation London has developed the ‘JFL Japanese Scheme of Work for Primary Schools’ since Modern Foreign Language in the National Curriculum in England became compulsory at Key Stage 2 in September 2014. It is based on the ‘Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages’ (Department for Education and Skills, 2005) and the ‘JF Standard for Japanese-Language Education 2010’ (Japan Foundation, 2010), both of which originates in Council of Europe’s language education policies.

I developed one of units for Year 4 students in the scheme with a Japanese language advisor in the Japan Foundation London. In the unit, we introduced Hirosuke Hamada’s children’s story, ‘Naita Akaoni’ (Red Demon Cried), and taught some of Japanese words, manners and cultures through the dramatization of parts of the story. Above all, we focused on exploring one of the important themes in the story: we unpacked a Japanese model of friendship associated with self-sacrifice and in doing so attempted to develop the ability to decenter and critical cultural awareness, which, according to Council of Europe’s language education policies, essential to intercultural understanding.

In my workshop, I am going to introduce a shorter version of this unit. We will dramatize parts of the story and discuss about this Japanese model of friendship associated with self-sacrifice through this process. At the same time, we look at how we can adopt conventions of Japanese traditional theatre within the framework of the English model of drama education.

Norifumi Hida, MFA (East 15, Essex), PhD (Warwick). teaches class struggle, gender, ethnicity and multiculturalism in theatre at Toho Gakuen College of Drama and Music and English language and stories through theatre and drama at Seisen University in Tokyo. As a teaching artist and director of theatre for young audiences, he developed in his most recent production, Hospital Theatre Project 2015, a site-specific multi-sensory theatrical performance for children with disabilities. He was formerly a Research Associate to the MA in Theatre for Young Audiences at Rose Bruford College in London. He is a founding and board member of the Next Generation, ASSITEJ.

 

Forum on Educational Theatre Preview #6

Preparations for the Forum on Educational Theatre April 21-24, 2016 are well underway. To register, click here.

As we gear up for the event, we will post descriptions of some of the presentations–one of which appears below:

Panel: A Reflective Practitioner’s Guide to (Mis)Adventures in Drama Education – or – What Was I Thinking? – A Panel Discussion on Reflective Practice

The panelist discussions are based on their contributions to a new edited volume on reflective practice released in June 2015 called, A Reflective Practitioner’s Guide to (mis)Adventures in Drama Education – or – What Was I Thinking? Conceived at the 2012 IDIERI conference in Limerick, Ireland, the book looks at reflective practice not as a series of steps, but as a continual change in perspective. The contributors include: John O’Toole, Pamela Bowell, Brian Heap, Johnny Saldana, Michael Anderson, Julie Dunn, Patrice Baldwin, Allison Manville Metz, Gus Weltsek, Christina Marín, Robert Colby, Juliana Saxton, Christine Hatton, Carmel O’Sullivan, Peter Duffy, Katie Dawson, with a foreword written by Cecily O’Neill and an afterword by David Booth. The purpose of the book is for established theatre educators and practitioners to reflect on a moment in their teaching that went terribly wrong. The “mistake” could be due to an oversight, lack of understanding, lack of preparation, or any number of other causes. The session will not simply be a series of “mess up” stories, but a critical reflection on those so-called mistakes through considering how those moments transformed their practice. Each essay considers the following ideas, the (misguided) incident, the critical analysis of the event, and how the event shaped their future praxis.

Panel members Pamela Bowell, Michael Anderson, Peter Duffy, Gus Weltsek, Christina Marín, Brian Heap, and Christine Hatton will ground their comments in how their reflective practice is guided by the concepts of intuition, emotion and passion. They will share a bit from their chapters and make a few comments on how their work is different due to their reflective/reflexive practice.

Pamela Bowell is Visiting Reader in the School of Culture, Education and Innovation at Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln, where she teaches in the Department of Culture and Creative Arts. She is also an active freelance drama and education consultant, workshop leader and author with a deep interest and experience in drama as a means to enable learning. For more than a decade she was Chair of National Drama, the UK’s leading professional association for drama teachers.

Dr. Michael Anderson is Professor (Arts and Creativity) in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at The University of Sydney. His research and teaching concentrates the role of creativity, the arts (particularly drama) and play have on learning. This work has evolved into a program of research and publication that engages with arts classrooms directly. His recent publications explore how aesthetic education and research is changing learning in the 21st Century. These publications include: Applied Theatre: Research (with Peter O’Connor, Bloomsbury, 2015), Partnerships in Education Research: Creating Knowledge that Matters (with Kelly Freebody, Bloomsbury, 2014), Masterclass in Drama Education (Continuum, UK), Teaching the Screen, Film Education for Generation Next (with Miranda Jefferson), Drama with Digital Technology (with John Carroll and David Cameron, Continuum, 2009) and Real Players: Drama, Education and Technology (with John Carroll and David Cameron Trentham, 2006).

See more at: http://sydney.edu.au/education_social_work/about/staff/profiles/michael.anderson.php#st hash.UX6FjcDo.dpuf

Peter Duffy is associate professor and head of the MAT program in theatre education at the University of SC. He works within schools and communities demonstrating how theatre improves learning and teaching. Previous to USC, Peter was Director of Education at the Irondale Ensemble in Brooklyn, NY. Additionally, Peter taught grades 7-12 English, German and Drama for a decade in Maine. He worked as an actor/teacher in New York City schools. He co-edited the book, Youth and Theatre of the Oppressed and edited the newly released A Reflective Practitioner’s Guide to (mis)Adventures in Drama Education – or – What Was I Thinking?

Gustave Weltsek, PhD, Department Chair of Fine Arts and Humanities, IvyTech Community College Bloomington. His work is positioned as multimodal, critically multi-literate arts infusion. His research examines how “Learning” as a critical performative pedagogy (Weltsek and Medina) functions as a tool for social change and academic achievement. Using a critically queered pedagogical lens (Britzman) individual emergent identity within the negotiation of power is situates as language invention connected to institutionalized learning. Work examples  include “Catalyst for Change” which can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QxghXk8Dmg and “Deconstructing global markets through critical performative inquiries in Puerto Rico,” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Weltsek G., Medina, C. (2013).

Christina Marín, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Performing Arts at Emerson College. She teaches courses in Qualitative Research, Theatre of the Oppressed, Contemporary Issues in Education, and Human Rights in Theatre. She is also the Theatre Teaching Artist-in-Residence for Hyde Square Task Force’s youth theatre troupe ¡ACCIÓN! Community Theatre. She recently directed the inaugural production of Antígona: Las Voces Que Incendian el Desierto for Emerson College’s nascent student production company Raíz Latinoamericana.

Dr. Brian Heap is tenured Senior Lecturer and Head of the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, where he has taught and supervised undergraduate and graduate Drama programs for the past 20 years. Brian is internationally recognized as an authority on Process Drama and has an extensive research and publication record in this field. He also engages in consultancy, staff development and project work relating to drama as a pedagogical process and has served in leadership roles nationally and internationally including consultation in drama for Jamaica’s National Curriculum. He was convener of the Fifth International Drama in Education Research Institute in Jamaica in 2006.

Christine Hatton lectures in drama and arts education at the School of Education at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research explores gender, identity and technology within drama processes, teaching and research. She is a chief investigator, with Mary Mooney, in the Fresh AiR Initiative Research Study (2014– 2016) funded by Arts NSW, examining the impacts of sustained artists-in-schools residencies, with a focus on the reciprocity of practice between artists, teachers and students. With Sarah Lovesy, she published the book Young at Art: Classroom Playbuilding inPpractice (2009).

 

 

Forum on Educational Theatre Preview #5

Preparations for the Forum on Educational Theatre April 21-24, 2016 are well underway. To register, click here.

As we gear up for the event, we will post descriptions of some of the presentations–one of which appears below:

Narrative: Kiss Me Khatema: An Analysis of Emirati Women’s Responses to Kate’s Final Monologue in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew

Beginning in 2005 and ending in 2014, and as part of a new educational theatre (TIE) initiative begun with my appointment at the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) in Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), I have included Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew in a course that surveys both Classical and Elizabethan theatre with an emphasis on strong female characters often in conflict with their society’s mores and traditions. As it pertained to an all-female student population of Emirati undergraduates, I was struck by the particular resonance that Kate held for young Arab women; especially in regard to such issues as arranged marriages, a female’s status in society, marital obligations to a father’s dictates and male patriarchy in the home and workplace. This paper/presentation will focus on how these issues coalesce around Kate’s final monologue where she apparently succumbs to Petruchio’s will after resisting for much of the play’s action; most especially when she utters the advice to the assembled women to “…place your hands beneath your husband’s foot.”

Co-Founder of the Creative Arts Team (CAT) in 1974, Dr. James P. Mirrione served as playwright-in-residence for this educational theatre company at New York University. As author of nineteen plays for the company, he established himself as one of the leading writers of Theatre-In-Education (TIE) plays for American audiences.

In 1995, he was commissioned by the United States Information Agency (USIA) to write The Last Enemy, a play for the first Middle East Theatre Company comprised of Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis, a company created under Dr. Mirrione’s direction. The play premiered at the United Nations in October of 1998, prior to its first tour in Amman, the West Bank, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and Haifa.

In addition, he has written for Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway as well regional theater. His commissioned plays include The Ghost Café for Carnegie Hall (1992) and The Last Stop, Will and Testament of Saint Jack Kerouac for New York University (1995). He is the 1995 winner of the Spokane Playwrights Festival for his play Area Code 212.
In 2005, Dr. Mirrione joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor at United Arab Emirates University in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences to undertake the implementation of theatre-in-education within the curriculum.
In 2013, Dr. Mirrione was designated as a Special Visiting Professor in Theatre at the University of Nottingham, Ningbo China. He has also taught theatre and conducted theatre projects at the Beijing Dance Academy and Peking University. In 2014, Dr. Mirrione joined the faculty of Qatar University as a Full Professor in the Department of English Literature and Linguistics.

 

 

Forum on Educational Theatre Preview #4

Preparations for the Forum on Educational Theatre April 21-24, 2016 are well underway. To register, click here.

As we gear up for the event, we will post descriptions of some of the presentations–one of which appears below:

Workshop: Two Schools, One Journey, Many Tales: An Integrated Drama Exploration

Two drama classes, two different schools, two devising processes, and two very different groups of students learning from each other is the premise for the project that will be shared in this workshop. This workshop, co-led by students, give participants an in-depth look into the first year of a collaboration between two drama teachers, 25 students, and two schools. Each drama class adapted a fairy tale based on their experiences in school. The goal for the students: create a piece of drama that, like fairy tales, can be shared with younger students to give them a glimpse of what their future school experience may entail.

11th grade students from Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE), a small, innovative New York City public high school, created 10-minute plays to share with the middle school students at The LearningSpring School, a small, independent school serving students on the autism spectrum. Graduating students from LearningSpring created short plays to perform for the students who will enter middle school next year. The students from ICE and the students from LearningSpring regularly met throughout their devising process to share ideas, give feedback, and develop content together through a series of integrated workshops.

In this workshop the students will lead the group in an activity they used in their devising process during their integrated workshops, perform a segment of their plays, discuss the experience and their learning in the program, and answer participant questions about the project. The drama teachers from each school will share their experiences of planning and implementing this new program and the lessons learned throughout the process. Highlighting creativity, flexibility, socialization, and communication as key skills involved in creating theater, the program provided opportunities for students to build and develop these skills which will serve them in their future schooling as the middle school students look toward high school and the high school students look toward college.

Highlighting new curriculum and methods in Drama in Education, this workshop is relevant to all involved in educational theater including drama teachers, teaching artists, school leaders, students of drama education, and arts program managers. The workshop will demonstrate strategies and work in collaborative programming, arts and special education/autism, devised theater with students, and viewing and discussing artistic work.

Aliza Greenberg is the Arts Enrichment Coordinator at the LearningSpring School, a chair of Continuing the Conversation, hosted by the Arts in Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Project Leader for Supporting Transitions with the Museum Access Consortium. Aliza recently served as the Autism Education Specialist for Trusty Sidekick Theater Company during the development of Up and Away, created at Lincoln Center Education. Previously, Aliza was a Program Manager at the Metropolitan Opera Guild and Roundabout Theatre Company. BA, Bryn Mawr College (Psychology, Education); MEd, Harvard Graduate School of Education (Arts in Education).

Natalie Mack is the Drama & Humanities teacher at the Institute for Collaborative Education, a member of Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, and a member of St. Fortune Theater Collective. She is a singer/songwriter, and frontwoman of her band, Major Magics. Natalie was most recently found strumming on her ukulele in Trusty Sidekick Theater Company’s production Up and Away, created with Lincoln Center Education. She will be performing in Sara & Reid Farrington’s production of Casablancabox at HERE Arts Center this spring. BA, SUNY Geneseo (Musical Theater, Communication); MA, New York University (Educational Theater/English).

 

Forum on Educational Theatre Preview #3

Preparations for the Forum on Educational Theatre April 21-24, 2016 are well underway. To register, click here.

As we gear up for the event, we will post descriptions of some of the presentations–one of which appears below:

Performance: Feeling Blue; Empathy through Clowning

This hands-on workshop will interrogate notions of empathy production created by an ensemble of Blue School students in their devised clown show, Feeling Blue. Throughout the creation of this project, 15 ensemble members in grades 3-6 were challenged to create the physicalities of a multi-modal dramatic world in response to problems, images, sounds and imaginative impulses. Initiated by work in role as professional clowns, led by the internationally renowned Tinsel, ensemble members created a world of dramatic play and dynamic play production with high stakes and even higher absurdity.

This workshop will connect curious adults with child clowns from Blue School in a rehearsal environment facilitated by the director and assistant director of Feeling Blue. Facilitators will share rehearsal techniques as well as the multi-dimensional possibilities of facilitating a rehearsal process in role. These strategies will be deployed to offer insight into possible tools for empathy construction, identity interrogation and play production. As a result, participants will collaborate in forming and manipulating techniques for: devising theatre with children, developing social-emotional complexities and awareness through rehearsal and performance, forming a rigorous aesthetic practice in education, and deconstructing popular notions of the possible within drama and education.

Clare Hammoor is a theatre practitioner who teaches and collaborates with folks in private schools, public spaces and prisons. Clare is the Dramatic Arts Specialist for the Primary and Middle programs at Blue School and holds a B.A from Indiana University in Theater & Drama and Religious Studies and a M.A. from NYU in Educational Theatre. clarehammoor.com

Mariangela Lopez, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, has been teaching movement and dance since 1999. She has built an extensive experience teaching in communities from Pre K-12 in public schools to domestic violence, youth at risk and AIDS organizations. Previously, Mariangela was the Coordinator of the Adventures in Dance Program at Ballet Hispánico School of Dance. She was the Associate Director of Community Programs for Gina Gibney Dance and she was a faculty member at the Laban Institute of Movement Studies. Mariangela holds a BFA from The Boston Conservatory (1999), a Certified Movement Analyst (CMA) from the Laban Institute of Movement Studies (2001) and Certified teacher from Dance Education from Dance Education Laboratory (2009).

 

Forum on Educational Theatre Preview #2

Preparations for the Forum on Educational Theatre April 21-24, 2016 are well underway. To register, click here.

As we gear up for the event, we will post descriptions of some of the presentations–one of which appears below:

Workshop: Teaching Qualitative Research through Process Drama

In the Qualitative Research graduate course I teach at Emerson College in the Department of Performing Arts, the students are Masters Candidates in Theatre Education. In an effort to draw parallels to their course of study in an arts-based pedagogy grounded in theatre, I use the framework of the Process Drama in order to teach diverse methods of qualitative data collection and analysis. According to Pamela Bowell and Brian Heap (2013), “Humans use drama to symbolically represent life experiences and make comment on them.”

Therefore, since qualitative research is the study of social life, it stands to reason that we can use process drama strategies to explore, experiment with, and comment on real life situations through the elements of theatre: focus, metaphor, tension, symbol, contrast, role, time, and space.

This workshop will invite participants to experience the use of dramatic activities and in-role exercises to simulate a number of methods used in qualitative research. All participants will be guided through the process of creating an avatar. Their avatar will be a high school student who is “hypothetically” participating in an arts-based research project in which graduate students from a local university are using drama education methods to answer some proposed qualitative research questions. These avatars will then experience participating in different data collection activities, including one-on-one interviews and focus groups. Half of the group will be researchers and half of the group will be “in-role” as high school students. We will also conduct observation activities in which one participant will facilitate a drama game while two participants serve as researchers observing the session. The rest of the group will go “in-role” as high school students playing the game.

Christina Marín, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Performing Arts at Emerson College. She teaches courses in Qualitative Research, Theatre of the Oppressed, Contemporary Issues in Education, and Human Rights in Theatre. She is also the Theatre Teaching Artist-in-Residence for Hyde Square Task Force’s youth theatre troupe ¡ACCIÓN! Community Theatre. She recently directed the inaugural production of Antígona: Las Voces Que Incendian el Desierto for Emerson College’s nascent student production company Raíz Latinoamericana.

 

 

 

Forum on Educational Theatre Preview

Preparations for the Forum on Educational Theatre April 21-24, 2016 are well underway. To register, click here.

As we gear up for the event, we will post descriptions of some of the presentations–one of which appears below:

Paper: A Wealth of Knowing

In celebration of fifty years of leadership and artist praxis, we take this opportunity to reflect on how that period of time has deepened our own understanding of the ways in which drama works whether in a classroom, studio, university setting or community hall. In so doing, we address a number of the questions that were posed as guides to this submission.

As the lens for this retrospective, we use a children’s picture book, Josepha (McGugan, 1994) “ past fourteen and trying to learn in primary row.” It is a story about an immigrant boy, friend to the younger narrator, who chooses to leave school to work for “a dollah a day” so that he can help support his impoverished family. Josepha “springs like a ram into the cart alongside his brother,” despite the impassioned pleas of a teacher who sees his potential: “It is nineteen hundred. Nineteen hundred, Josepha. A fresh century in your chosen land. You are quick and bright and cunning. Oh, the wealth of knowing you could reap.”

Josepha holds within its apparent simplicity the “novelty, surprise and teaching that connects with students’ past experiences and personal interests … low in threat and high in challenge” (Willis, 2008: 427). But more than that, it serves us as a metaphor for the wealth of knowing in our own discipline that we have come to acknowledge and appreciate over the past fifty years as central to artistry and pedagogy. And for today’s purpose, we use the story to illustrate five advances in our practice:

 

  1. The importance of distancing as a mediator of personal investment that provides protection into emotion (Eriksson, 2011; Heathcote, 1976).
  2. The power of story and narrative to shape our emotional and ethical realities (Nussbaum, 2003, Turner, 1998).
  3. The significance of our art form’s subjunctive mood to reveal the complexity and contingent nature of our world (Sennett, 2012, Kahneman, 2011).
  4. The contribution of Howard Gardner’s (1983) theory of Multiple Intelligences to an understanding of curriculum as interpersonal, intrapersonal, holistic and processual (Doll, 2008).
  5. The confirmation of the old adage that “drama teaches empathy” but how it does so and what is required in that teaching is now more apparent. (Levy, 1997; Miller & Saxton, 2015).

We are living in a time when there is a famine in quality conversation (Krznaric, 2014); face to face communication (Turkle, 2015) has become two-dimensional, and knowledge is now subject to “sensitivity alerts” (Jarvie, 2014). Such developments confirm the critical need for drama education to provide the metaphoric place where we may call into question our assumptions: the safe space in which to embrace the ambiguities that may disrupt and disturb, thereby shifting our understanding of who we are as we move from comfort to newness. A richer awareness of how drama works allied to current brain research reinforces Bolton’s (1984) recognition of the power of embodied narrative when he argued for placing drama at the center of the curriculum.

Carole Miller and Juliana Saxton are both emeriti professors at the University of Victoria, holding adjunct professorships in the Faculty of Graduate Studies and adjunct appointments at the University of Sydney, Australia. Each is the recipient of an Excellence in Teaching award. Together they chaired the 2nd International Drama in Education Research Institute 1997, were responsible for the Academic Program for the 5th World Congress of IDEA 2004 and served as the Reflective Keynote speakers for IDEA 2007 in Hong Kong. Their collaborative research is primarily situated in pre-service teacher education with a focus on inquiry-based instruction, applied theatre and the relationship of brain research to theatre practice. Their award-winning book, Into the Story: Language in Action through Drama (2004 Heinemann) will be followed in 2016 by Into the Story 2: More Stories! More Drama! (Intellect, UK/ University of Chicago Press).

NYU Forum on Educational Theatre: Registration Now Open

You’re ready to register? Go here!

When: April 21-24, 2016.

What: The Forum features the global educational theatre community representing over 20 countries (including Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, El Salvadore, Hong Kong, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Palestine, Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America) presenting over 100 workshops, papers, posters, and performances around one of the following topics:

  • Drama in Education (i.e., studies in drama/theatre curriculum, special education, integrated arts, assessment and evaluation)
  • Applied Theatre (i.e., studies in community-based theatre, theatre of the oppressed, the teaching artist, diversity and inclusion, drama therapy)
  • Theatre for Young Audiences and Play Production (i.e., studies in acting, dramaturgy, playwriting, dramatic literature, theatre technology, arts-based research methodologies)

Presenters include Wasim Al-Kurdi, Courtney Boddie, Edie Demas, Michael Finnernan, Kathleen Gallagher, Norifumi Hida, Maria Hodermarska, Byoung-Joo Kim, Christina Marín, James Miles, Carole Miller, James Mirrione, Peter and Briar O’Connor, Cecily O’Neill, Monica Prendergast, Ross Prior, Nisha Sajnani, Richard Sallis, Joe Salvatore, Alex Santiago Jirau, Juliana Saxton, Nan Smithner, Philip Taylor, Prudence Wales, and Tim Webb.

Organizations presenting include Community Word Project, Improbable Players, Roundabout Education, The New Victory Theatre, and The New York City Department of Education.

Registration fees are:

Standard Registration: $125.00
Current NYU Student Registration: $20.00
Other Current Student Registration: $65.00
Single Day Registration: $30.00

The schedule for the Forum is still being finalized, but a tentative overview follows:

Thursday, April 21:
6PM – 9PM           Pre-conference Master Class

Friday, April 22:
8:30AM – 6PM     Drama in Education Presentations
6PM – 9PM           Evening Event and Reception

Saturday, April 23:
9:30AM – 6PM      Applied Theatre Presentations
7PM – 10PM          Alumni Event and Reception

Sunday, April 24:
9:30AM – 4:30PM   Theatre for Young Audiences/Play Production Presentations
4:30PM – 5:30PM   Closing Event

Check out our website for all of the details!

From Soup to Nuts: Choosing a TYA Play Development Season

By Teresa Fisher

New Plays for Young Audiences is an annual play development series focused on developing work for young audiences, ages three to twenty-one. For three weeks each June, we develop three new scripts—one each week, Sunday through Sunday—in the historic Provincetown Playhouse. The plays must be unpublished and unproduced. We receive the scripts between July and October. We read them in November and then meet in early December to select our season. Between January and the start of the series in June, we are busy arranging housing, transportation, marketing, auditions, and selecting the rest of the creative teams. As we are housed in an education institution—NYU Steinhardt—our series has an educational component not found in other play development programs, including having a graduate class taught by Joe Salvatore that accompanies the series.

The challenge in choosing the scripts is creating a balanced season in which we:

  • Select scripts that still need development and are potentially interesting to young audiences, including the classrooms with which we collaborate.
  • Select playwrights who are invested in the development process and able to utilize it to improve their scripts. One way we tell this is through the goals they articulate with their submission.
  • Bring in scripts that will give our graduate class something to talk and learn about TYA.
  • Provide opportunities for our student actors to participate in an engaging process.
  • Recognize the diversity in our TYA audiences and support the continuing development of the field.
One of the topics of conversation amongst the team this year was the question of whether to pick a script that is already strong, but may not need as much development, or to take a chance on a script that may be a hot mess, but with the possibility of greatness, or with a known playwright.

Although you might think the script is the most important piece of the submission, the goals for development that we ask each playwright to submit are equally if not more important. Unless we have worked with the playwright before, we don’t know how the playwright will fare in our specific development process. Most of the time we don’t know who these playwrights are beyond what we can find online and/or they provide with their submission. We don’t know where the script is in its development, what the playwright wants to see happen with the script, or how well-suited for a development process the playwright will be. The goals clarify this for us. If a playwright, for example, is interested in how the technical elements will enhance the script, we know that we won’t be a good fit, as we are very low-tech. On the other hand, a playwright who identifies clear areas that need developing in their script—especially if we’ve also noticed those same areas—is more credible to us than one who provides essentially clichéd ones (i.e. “I want to work on the characters, seeing if they are well-developed” or “I am looking to see if the story flows”) or, worse yet, no goals at all.

One of the challenges for a play development series focused on TYA is determining what is TYA and what isn’t. Some of this is a matter of taste. According to the New Victory Theater staff (as noted online in the TDF Theatre Dictionary), TYA “includes any performance taking place in the presence of young audiences.” That is a pretty wide definition, so the question becomes, “what do youth want to see?” As our team has discussed at length, opinions differ on what makes a play TYA. If a play has no youth characters, does that mean it can’t be TYA? Not necessarily, but that is certainly a question to explore—“What makes this story appealing to young audiences?” On the flipside, just because a play has youth characters doesn’t mean it is TYA. Many plays with young characters appeal to a wide audience.

Mario and the Comet that Stopped the World. Book and Lyrics by Gabriel Jason Dean, Music and Lyrics by David Dabbon, directed by Courtney Sale.

When we—the production team consisting of me (Producer/Administrator), Dr. David Montgomery (Artistic Director), Gina Grandi (Artistic Associate for School Collaboration), and Jim DeVivo (Artistic Associate) —choose the scripts for our season, we read each submission. We then respond to a series of questions from the practical (genre, age group) to the more subjective (writing, story, concerns, strengths). Those responses are compiled so we can see side-by-side how each script spoke to us. Then we meet to discuss our options. Any script that received a strong “yes” is automatically considered, even if only one member of the team said “yes.” Scripts that received multiple “maybe” replies are also included. Plays with across the board “no” responses are reviewed at the end of the discussion to make sure we didn’t miss something.

After that discussion, we have whittled our options down. This year we had seventy in the “no” column and twenty-seven in the combined “maybe” and “yes” column. From those twenty-seven, we narrowed down to thirteen. In choosing from those thirteen, we moved from discussing the script and playwright goals to talking about the potential audiences, the graduate class, and the larger TYA field. As producer, I am also looking at the budget.

Forever Poppy by José Cruz González, directed by Laurie Woolery.

One consideration late in the process this year was realizing we had the potential to choose all female playwrights. As we’ve had years with all male playwrights, being able to reverse that trend—especially with scripts which featured more than one strong female protagonist—was appealing. We were finally down to six scripts. We weighed the goals, storylines, intended audiences, and other such factors as we made our final decisions. In the end, we had three pairs of scripts essentially competing against each other due to similar elements of story, audience, character, and/or approach. With each pair, we reviewed the playwrights’ goals as well as our goals for the upcoming season. In the end, we were able to choose three female playwrights each with an intriguing script, each intended for a different audience demographic (one high school, one middle school, and one elementary).

Interestingly, one of the topics of conversation amongst the team this year was the question of whether to pick a script that is already strong, but may not need as much development, or to take a chance on a script that may be a hot mess, but with the possibility of greatness, or with a known playwright. That conversation prompted me to wonder if one could designate an entire play development series or, in our case, individual weeks within a particular season, for scripts that are early in their development and others for scripts that are close to being stage-ready.

There is no question that from beginning to end, play development is a challenging process. Each year, we wonder where the three weeks will take us, but by carefully crafting a season that advances the TYA field while also providing a powerful experience for our graduate students and student actors, we strive to create a place where playwrights can devote a week to their craft working in an historic theatre built on a foundation of nurturing and evaluating new plays. That goal is what guided our co-founders, the late Lowell and Nancy Swortzell, to create New Plays for Young Audiences and it continues to inspire us almost two decades later.

– See more at: http://howlround.com/from-soup-to-nuts-choosing-a-tya-play-development-season#sthash.sHNYLVbA.dpuf

Originally posted at HowlRound at the following site: http://howlround.com/from-soup-to-nuts-choosing-a-tya-play-development-season