NYU Steinhardt News

Doctoral Student Spotlight: Jamila Humphrie and Alumna Emily Schorr Lesnick Connect with Irish LGBTQ Youth Through Theatre

Can you tell us about your recent project in Ireland?

In 2015 my partner, Emily Schorr Lesnick, attended NYU Steinhardt’s graduate program in Educational Theatre, which offers a study away opportunity in Ireland. There she attended workshops, attended theatre performances, created her own pieces, and became familiar with the theatre community in Dublin. She developed friendships that still matter today.

At the end of 2015, we wrote a play, How We GLOW. This play uses ethnodrama as a methodology, meaning it lies at the crossroads of ethnography and theatre. We interviewed 20 LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 15-24 about their identities and experiences, transcribed the interviews, and created a play from their words verbatim. A small group of actors played multiple roles, portraying the people we heard. This ethnodrama was part of my Master’s Thesis at Gallatin.

Fast forward to 2017, and dozens of performances of the show later – we applied to perform the show at the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, which Emily had learned about from her time studying in Dublin.  We were accepted into the festival, and we took three students from Riverdale Country School (where Emily teaches) and three students in Ireland, and created an international cast. We connected with the Irish cast through contacts Emily developed in the Community Engaged Theatre study abroad program. It was thrilling to know that the interviews we conducted in Pless Hall had traveled all around New York City, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Dublin. It is an absolute privilege to carry these stories and share the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth around the world. 

What's next for this project?

We want the play, both our script and our process, to be accessible to others. We would love for schools or communities to take the show and perform it. Our role would be minimal, but it would be exciting to join for the performances and help facilitate dialogues that follow the performance.


Do you have any advice for students who wish to develop international collaborations in research or creative spaces?  

The purpose of study abroad experiences aren’t just about going to a faraway place – that’s exciting – but what really matters is the relationships you build and the connections you make. For Emily and I, we now have dear friends in Dublin that we care deeply about not just as friends, but as collaborators in art, performance, and community-building.


Has this experience shaped your doctoral work in any way?

Absolutely, I’m still working my way through the program, and as I approach the candidacy and dissertation proposal phase, I am seriously thinking about how my work fits into a global narrative about LGBTQ+ identities and experiences. What impact can I make in local, national, and international LGBTQ+ communities? That question is intentionally big, and I hope it will push myself to literally broaden the horizons of my research.


What are the objectives of your dissertation research?  

I’m in the Educational Leadership program and a lot of the program’s focus is on administration and policy in educational spaces and communities. My work is focused on LGBTQ+ students and the policies that affect them. We need to listen to youth directly. I really want to convey that message to our educational leaders.  What are we doing to support or harm these students? What are we doing well? Where do we need to improve? Who creates these policies? How do LGBTQ+ student policies vary globally? As you can see, I’m early in the stage so I have more questions than answers at this point. But I’m really excited to begin to narrow that focus. This work will hopefully improve the experiences of LGBTQ+ students, but gender and sexuality impacts everyone, from students, to teachers, to staff; and good policies will have a positive impact on everyone in the school community.


Are there other interests or potential collaborations you would like to share with the Steinhardt community?  

Right now, I’m honored to be on the Advisory Board of Eric Marcus’ podcast Making Gay History. Eric Marcus is a phenomenal journalist and interviewer who, 30 years ago, spoke to numerous members of the LGBTQ+ community. Some are as famous as Ellen DeGeneres, others you’ve never heard their name – but they all have made incredible contributions to LGBTQ+ history, and American history. If you haven’t listened before, make sure you have some tissue on hand, there are some incredibly emotional and powerful stories! Season 4 will be coming out soon, and I’m excited to help shape what’s next for the podcast.