Dr. John Newman will perform his solo play The Man Behind the Curtain on Saturday, September 23 @ 2p at the United Solo Festival on 42nd street at Theatre Row in NYC.
The main character in the play is L. Frank Baum, best known as the author of The Wizard of Oz and 13 other Oz books. The play is set on New Year’s Eve the stage of the Hudson Theatre as one of Baum’s popular theatrical productions has been abruptly cancelled because of its excessive production costs. The “Royal Historian of Oz” offers the expectant audience his own story of how he “found his way to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
Before finding his calling as a writer of children’s stories, Baum struggled to make his living as an actor, director, store-owner, baseball team secretary, small-town newspaper editor, reporter, and traveling salesman. In the play, L. Frank Baum tells how each of his professions developed his abilities as a storyteller and how he transformed his dreams and nightmares into his best known story. His life intersects with American notables including author Charles Dickens, inventor Thomas Edison, and his mother-in-law, suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage.
Newman earned a PhD in Educational Theater at New York University, with concentrations in theater for young audiences and playwriting. He has been a professor of theatre at Utah Valley University and Director of the Noorda Theatre Center for Children and Youth since 2010, after teaching and directing theatre for eighteen years at Highland High School in Salt Lake City. As a playwright, Newman has created authorized stage adaptations of novels by Newbery medalists Avi, Paul Fleischman, Richard Peck, and Jean Lee Latham.
The Man Behind the Curtain was premiered during Dr. Newman’s fall 2016 residency at the Open Eye Theater in Margaretville, New York under the direction of Dr. Tania Myren. Newman has also performed the play at Utah Valley University, the Mercury Theatre in Provo, and at Chapman University in Orange County, California. He has also performed it in places where L. Frank Baum lived and wrote, including Syracuse, New York and Coronado, California. Newman will performing the play at the national conference of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education in New Orleans in August and at the United Solo Festival on 42nd Street in New York City in September.
and Directing Musical Theatre as a Teaching Artist Intern
By Eric Gelb
“Can I get a drumroll please?”, I would ask. Students would use their hands to drum on the floor. This would lead into the following dialogue – “today’s question of the day is…” and on this day, the question was ’why is musical theatre important to the world?’”
“Musical theatre is important to me because I don’t have a lot of friends at school and when I come here, I feel accepted”, one student said. Another sitting nearby leaned in for a hug. “It doesn’t matter what kind of day you’re having because once you get onstage you get to be another person and live in their world”. Some students “snapped” to show their agreement.*
Doing the “question of the day” warm-up was one of the rewarding parts of my summer as a teaching artist intern at The Rose Theater in Omaha, Nebraska. Working at The Rose was an experience I could never have been perfectly prepared for.
The Rose Theater is committed to enriching the lives of children through theater and arts education, home to the Omaha Theater Company – one of the largest professional children’s theater in the country! Accessible to all, no child is turned away for economic reasons. Live performances are shared from two stages: the main stage and the Hitchcock Theater. Professional actor/educators offer classes in theater, directing, musical theater and more.
As a summer intern, I co-taught creative drama camps and assistant-directed a production of XANADU. With almost 40 hours of contact time with students every week, I had opportunities to lead classes, observe and lead lunch and before/after class activities. Sitting in on weekly education meetings, intern meetings and participating in lesson planning was part of my weekly schedule as an intern to gain a better understanding about how an education department at a professional theatre company works.
“How was Omaha???”, people asked when I returned. “I bet Omaha was like, super different than NYC”, some would say, almost sympathetically. So here are five things I learned…
1. Students will always meet your expectations if you give them the tools to succeed.
When I was assigned XANADU for the summer, it became my goal to make the show GREAT. I purposefully asked students to dig deeper into their roles than I knew they ever have been in the past. My co-workers often reminded me not to push them too hard, that they’re only 13. I was 13 when I co-produced my first musical. I knew they were capable of performing like professionals. And to be clear, performing like a professional doesn’t mean hitting all the notes or acting like Meryl Streep. It’s being a responsible actor and a team player. During the run, I was told by multiple people that the show was “the most prepared show of the summer” or “the best show in a LONG time”. Seeing their faces after opening night and hearing the applause confirmed my theory that we CAN test kids. They can handle it.
2. If you don’t do it, the kids won’t do it.
Teaching creative drama was particularly tricky because it asks students to be silly and LOOK silly in front of their peers. Part of our creative drama courses was spending part of the morning in-role as characters from the story we were studying. Of course we had students who suddenly “had a stomach ache” or “felt sick” as soon as we got in-role. In one class, we were pirates looking for Peter Pan! I didn’t dare step back and watch them act out the story – I was right there with them. If I didn’t join in, I wouldn’t be able to have gotten THEM to do it either.
3. Everyone teaches differently.
I am a tough teacher. I want my students to be the best they can be. When I am in charge, students do not sit out. They do not pass, and they do not skip. Everyone has to attempt or try the activity before they decide they don’t like it. Why? Because this is a theatre. We instill the concept of speaking in front of others, being a team player and taking responsibility. So if I let a student skip because they’re scared, or quit because their team isn’t winning… I’m not letting them learn those lessons. I often say “we don’t quit things because they’re hard”. Not everyone agrees with me – some have a softer, gentler approach. And that’s okay! We all approach students differently.
4. Your lessons will never go as planned.
I spent, probably, at least ten man-hours on the two lesson plans I presented solely by myself in classes at The Rose. I’d say we actually did about 60% of both of them. The truth is, no matter how hard we try, as artists, we can never really accurately estimate how long something is going to take in class. Sometimes inspiration strikes and we think of a fun medication to a game and it takes longer. Sometimes a new game doesn’t land well with the students, and it’s clear that you have to move on earlier than you expected. And that’s okay.
5. Everyone has a story.
No one teaches to be rich. People teach because they simply cannot live if they are not impacting the lives of young people, so those that do choose to work inside of a children’s theatre have some sort of passion for it. The people that work in the costume rental shop, those that work upstairs in accounting and even the teaching artist you may teach with daily – they all have a very heavy tie to the arts. Stopping to listen and hear their stories are fascinating.
In the winter, I will be joining the team at WICKED on Broadway in the stage management department as an intern. Broadway has always been the dream, and although not too similar to the work I did at The Rose, I am POSITIVE I will, probably without knowing it, allow all I learned at The Rose into my work at WICKED, which leads me into bonus number 6 – once you’re a teaching artist, you’ll never shake all you learn.
Eric is a published author; you can buy his book “Growing Up in the Wings” on Amazon at www.bit.ly/GUITWBUY or at the NYU Bookstore. Follow him on Twitter (@DirectorGelb) or visit his website www.bit.ly/ericgelbofficial for more content.
* Answers have been fabricated to be generic and protect students’ identities.
ArtsPraxis Volume 4 Issue 1 has been published.
I am proud to present this new issue of ArtsPraxis, featuring articles in response to the guiding questions and themes established for the NYU Forum on Educational Theatre in April 2016, which included applied theatre, drama in education, and theatre for young audiences. As a number of authors submitted articles under the heading of youth theatre, I curated a stand-alone section for this topic as well as I felt it wise to highlight the breadth of research in this area at this time.
A great asset of the 2016 Forum on Educational Theatre was the degree to which the NYU Program in Educational Theatre was able to reconnect with our global community. In large part, this was due to the efforts of Philip Taylor following his experience at the International Drama in Education Research Institute in Singapore in 2015. Under the direction of Prue Wales, it became evident at that event that even in this time of inescapable electronic connections, there is nothing that can take the place of face-to-face fellowship. Just this week, we are coming off of our latest international conference, the NYU Forum on Ethnodrama, looking at the intersection between theatre art and arts-based research paradigms. After many months of political duress, we communed. We shared art, research, and activism.
In the spirit of maintaining our international dialogue in these troubled times, this issue of ArtsPraxis continues the conversation. Our contributors present scholarship from Africa, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. I hope that you find this work as inspirational as I have and that you consider joining us next spring at the 2018 NYU Forum on Performance as Activism.
Volume 3, Issue 1 of ArtsPraxis is available for download here.
ArtsPraxis Volume 4, Issue 1
This article outlines a research project investigating the expertise of applied theatre practitioners. Summarising some of the research approaches and findings, a conceptualization of ‘responsivity’ is proposed to encapsulate the blended expertise of those artists that work in community, participatory and applied settings. The ‘practice responsive’ research methodology utilizing ‘reflective dialogues’ with practitioners is explained and the resulting artists’ commentaries are embedded throughout. I outline how reflection and response thread through a conceptualization of applied theatre in literatures, and discuss how these themes informed both the method and the findings of my research. Whilst offering namings for patterns found common to practitioners operating across diverse contexts, the article also acknowledges how naming can close down understanding of the complex operations and qualities of the practitioner. I suggest a theoretical proposition of ‘__’ (underscore) to open up understanding of the workers and the work of applied theatre, in order to allow further insight to their expertise. The proposal concludes by arguing how the practitioners’ developmental response to the work enhances applied theatre’s beneficial objectives for participants.
Traditionally, theatre was created and performed in communities to celebrate religious and other significant aspects of shared community life. Many such customs possessed a quasi-religious identity in which theatre depictions were thought to appease those spiritual forces which controlled the lives and fortunes of mere humans. In the UK and the Western world more generally, the cohesiveness of community life has lessened as families become more self-sufficient. Until relatively recently, rural communities in South West England were dominated by the farming industry. The land of many farms has been merged and the farmhouses sold to relatively well-off incomers. They often operate a self-sufficient life, sending their children to private schools outside the community and engaging in leisure pursuits which take them out of the community in which they live. Thus, community cohesion is weakened and the opportunities for cooperative and communal action lessened. Theatre has the potential to bring disparate members of a community together in common purpose, providing a forum in which new and lasting relationships can be formed. If the dramatised stories have their roots in the identity and history of the community in which they are made, long-term residents have ways of sharing their knowledge with the ‘newcomers’.
This paper discusses the evolution of significant findings made within the context of a doctoral research project and the structures that developed to share these findings through workshops for students and teachers. As the research concerned an 1838 Australian Aboriginal massacre and the construction of a memorial to commemorate this event one hundred and sixty-two years later, the aim of the project was to locate a reconciliation narrative. The project failed to do so, because ultimately in the words of the participants the memorial was seen as a beginning and not an ending.
Nevertheless this understanding did deliver powerful insights into the complex nature of reconciliation within a dominant settler culture. And it was felt that sharing these insights was worth pursuing.
Central to the doctoral research was the creation of a verbatim theatre play, therefore the workshops relied on drama techniques to establish through affect new ways of knowing shared history. However the execution of the content proved challenging. Because of the way settler history continues to be understood, engagement with the intellect via political correctness as opposed to the imagination was problematic. The necessity of prioritizing the imagination became as much of a learning curve for workshop facilitators as workshop participants.
KAITLIN O. K. JASKOLSKI
This paper explores the on-going development of a Drama for Life-Skills project in Lagos, Nigeria, which embraces aspects of applied & educational theatre practices. Using neurodevelopmental disability assessments and standards, the project creates a simultaneous balance of teaching and learning life skills in the disability community. It focuses on work currently being done with students of the Children’s Development Centre Lagos, incorporating theatre practices into the daily living activities of adolescents with disabilities with the goal of gaining increased life skills. In developing their most recent production, Discovering a Planet of Inclusion, members of the Centre team up with teaching artists, therapists and community members to teach, learn, practice and incorporate life skills with theatrical performances designed for schools and community centers throughout Nigeria. Company members with disabilities (including autism, cerebral palsy, and various genetic disorders) perform with the hope of showcasing their abilities, ending stigma, and inspiring opportunities for the disability community throughout the nation. The paper will include anecdotes and analyzation from the performance praxis, development of advocacy and vocationally-based theatre performances, and ways to incorporate disability therapies (occupational, physical, multisensory, communication) into theatrical performances. The paper also discusses the importance of inclusion in destigmatizing disability and the cognitive benefits of applied theatre within communities.
Performance is social theory, or it can become so, when we use it as a means to understand social phenomena rather than merely viewing it as a spectacle or for entertainment (Brook, 1972). Theatre that explores domestic violence (Welsh, 2014), homelessness (Welsh, 2014) or the plight of refugees (Robinson, 2015) are all examples of dramatic processes becoming social theory. There are many more examples such as the work of Lloyd Jones or Pina Bausch, both of whom use experimental theatre as a means of educating, understanding and criticising society (Marshall, 2002; Pendergast, 2001). This article explores the relationship between theatre and education in three somewhat diverse contexts. Firstly, the autobiographical monologue, The Outcaste Weakly Poet Stage Show, describes experience in a conversational style. Experience and conversation are inevitably educational, that is, being is learning and listening is learning. Secondly, I explore the practice of monologue writing with a sample group of Australian school students on the subject of social labelling, reinforcing the idea that theatre practice is education by applying it to a classroom setting. Finally, I examine a monologue writing workshop conducted with a group of teachers-in-training, revealing the potential of monologues to foster empathy among teachers and their most difficult students. Theatre then becomes a source of learning and philosophical reflection for audiences, a way of practising social learning in a school setting and increasing emotional intelligence, empathy and communication between teachers in training and their students.
JESSICA M. KAUFMAN
Dramaturgy is often considered the work of the ‘neutral outside eye’, but in devised theatre, the dramaturg is embedded within. This requires creative solutions for how a devising dramaturg might navigate engagement with the totality of their work—the piece, the devising process, and the context—from their own position within all three. In this article, I will recount and re-examine my work as dramaturg-researcher devising Martha and the Event Horizon. The research inquiry suggests a praxis of dramaturgy-as-research inspired by Home-Cook’s model of noise as a function of attention and Sullivan’s (2003) poststructuralist analysis of queerness as both being and doing, wherein the devising dramaturg embodies the queer doing to take an external perspective on their work via the critical context. Examinations of the devisor’s relationship to spectators by practitioner-researchers Goode (2011) and Reason (2010) respond to the research question and suggest a non-linear model within which the audience experiences meaning through Boenisch’s (2010) reflexive parallax. Placing these research outcomes within Bryon’s (2014) ‘active aesthetic’ and Nelson’s (2013) practice as research model, I propose the dramaturgy-as-research praxis as the key to a rigorous, flexible framework for constructing diverse avenues for meaning-making in devised theatre, particularly applicable to audience-driven work.
There are several theories as to what constitutes children’s theatre. This diversity exists because the term is used as a literal description of theatre that involves children in one way or the other – theatre for children, theatre with children, and theatre by children. This complexity means there is a need to specify the sense in which the term is being used. There is no universal agreement within academic discourse on the parameters in which the term should be defined. While some scholars suggest age as a defining factor, others think it should be decided by the performers who design a piece of theatre based on their knowledge of the children audience. What is children’s theatre? What should be the level of involvement for children? This paper is not a systematic review of the discipline and it is not an attempt to re/define children’s theatre. Rather, it is about a pedagogical approach to creating a piece of theatre for children between the age of 4 and 10 that can enable them to learn and be morally developed while being entertained at the same time. In this paper children’s theatre is the term that will be used throughout.
This auto-ethnographic inquiry explores found and constructed apparatuses in the production of a devised clown show with 3rd-6th grade children at Blue School in New York City. Through a playful negotiation between artifacts, theory, and memory, this essay works to untangle the production of meaning and the possibilities of children’s theatre. Drawing from Agamben’s theorizations of apparatus, Hammoor writes into knowing and understanding the frameworks he built and discovered in directing a sad clown show with children.
In this paper the notion of a participatory aesthetic is developed by exploring how a collaborative and creative process provides opportunities for young people to engage in an act of becoming in relation to one another, building powerful and affective art work that is not bound by the conventions of traditional forms of theatre and art making. The paper begins with a discussion on the role of affect and participation in applied theatre, offering a theoretical framework that is used to analyze two case studies. The first is a project in Accra, Ghana that resulted in a youth-led documentary film about HIV/AIDS and gender relationships. The second is a YouTube based applied theatre project with LGBTQ youth in Toronto, Canada. In both case studies the paper demonstrates the power of dialogue in building a participant driven aesthetic rendering of theatre for social change. The paper concludes stating that a participatory aesthetic is a deeply visceral and vulnerable encounter that builds important pedagogy through affective artistic engagement.
As an arts educator, it is inspiring to have access to the spoils of the art of musical theatre to engage and captivate young minds and artistic hearts. In providing an artistic output, one affords both the satisfaction of involvement in a collaborative art coupled with the lasting gift of community and artistic inspiration. Regrettably, the endeavour towards providing an accessible dramatic medium can prove challenging for the best of theatre & music pedagogues and artists alike. Musical theatre becomes increasingly more difficult as both musical and dramatic requirements needed for its execution modify.
With these constraints, youth face obstacles in exploring many works of the genre they love faithfully. As educators, the responsibility in maintaining accessibility is tremendous. Improper attention to the usage of the vocal instrument without regard of these developments can cause irreparable damage. Limited access to works for youth and negligible adaptation risk staleness and disinterest.
How might the educating artist continually provide an accessible medium of musical theatre to the young performer? From a dramatic & musical lens, this paper discusses the responsibility of the educator in identifying and addressing the unique challenges confronting young performers via the art of musical theatre.
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 was released concurrently with ArtsPraxis Volume 3 and the submission deadline for Volume 4, Issue 1 was February 1, 2017.
Amy Cordileone, New York University, USA
Norifumi Hida, Toho Gakuen College of Drama and Music, Japan
Byoung-joo Kim, Seoul National University of Education, South Korea
Ross Prior, University of Wolverhampton, UK
Nisha Sajnani, New York University, USA
Daphnie Sicre, Borough of Manhattan Community College, USA
Prudence Wales, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Hong Kong
James Webb, Bronx Community College, USA
NYU Steinhardt’s Program in Educational Theatre has named Laurie Brooks and Johnny Saldaña the recipients of the 2017 Swortzell Innovator Awards, which recognize outstanding contributions and sustained service to the field of educational theatre.
The Swortzell Innovator Awards were established in 2016 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Program in Educational Theatre and honor its visionary founders, the late Lowell and Nancy Swortzell. The inaugural award winners were Lynda Zimmerman, Rebecca Brown Adelman, Trent Norman, and Jay DiPrima.
“The Program in Educational Theatre is thrilled to bestow Laurie Brooks and Johnny Saldaña with the Swortzell Innovator Award not only for their exceptional work in the field, but to honor their ongoing commitment to actively sharing their high quality expertise with others,” said David Montgomery, director of the Program in Educational Theatre at NYU Steinhardt.
Johnny Saldaña has been named the winner of the 2017 Swortzell Innovator Award for outstanding and sustained service to the field of ethnodrama and qualitative research. Saldaña will be presented with his award at the NYU Forum on Ethnodrama, which takes place April 21-22, 2017.
Saldaña is professor emeritus from Arizona State University’s School of Film, Dance, and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. He has authored, co-authored, and edited eight books on qualitative research and ethnodrama including Longitudinal Qualitative Research: Analyzing Change Through Time and Ethnotheatre: Research from Page to Stage.
Saldaña’s works have been cited and referenced in more than 4,300 research studies conducted in over 120 countries in disciplines such as education, medicine and health care, technology and social media, business and economics, government and social services, fine arts, social sciences, human development, and communication.
Laurie Brooks has been named the winner of the 2017 Swortzell Innovator Award for outstanding and sustained service to the field of Theatre for Young Audience. Brooks’ award will be presented at the 20th anniversary of NYU’s New Plays for Young Audiences, which takes places June 10-25, 2017.
Brooks is an award-winning playwright and fiction author. She has received numerous awards and grants including TCG National Theatre Artists Residency Program (The Coterie Theatre), AT&T FirstStage award, three Distinguished Play Awards and Charlotte Chorpenning Cup from American Alliance for Theatre and Education, New York Foundation for the Arts, and Irish Arts Council Grants (Graffiti Theatre Company). Brooks’ Lies and Deceptions Quartet for young adults includes The Wrestling Season, commissioned by The Coterie Theatre, developed at New Visions/New Voices, and featured at The Kennedy Center’s One Theatre World 2000. Additional award-winning plays include Deadly Weapons, The Tangled Web, and The Riddle Keeper, commissioned by Graffiti Theatre in Ireland; Selkie: Between Land and Sea, developed at New Visions/New Voices; Brave No World and Jason Invisible, commissioned by and premiered at The Kennedy Center; Devon’s Hurt, The Match Girl’s Gift, A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas, Franklin’s Apprentice, The Lost Ones, Triangle, Atypical Boy, and All of Us.
Brooks has been an assistant professor, playwright in residence, and literary manager for NYU’s New Plays for Young Audiences. She has served as playwright in residence for the HYPE Institute at The Alley Theatre in Houston, artist in residence at Arizona State University, and has taught at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and The University of Texas at Austin.
Brooks’ new play, Now Comes the Dust, will be staged at New Plays for Young Audiences in June, where she will also be part of a 20th anniversary roundtable event and panel discussion to explore emergent directions in writing and producing works.
Click HERE for show times and ticket information!
Paul Carrol Binkley, Nashville-based composer and music director, is pleased to rejoin Laurie Brooks and Jeff Church on the team. Paul wrote the score for Laurie’s play Selkie: Between Land and Sea which premiered at The Coterie produced by Jeff, directed by Scot Copeland. Scot and Paul collaborated on their original musical Jack’s Tale, dramaturged by Laurie, which recently premiered at The Kennedy Center. The opportunity to develop this new project at The Provincetown will give the team valuable time to work on Dust at a critical stage of development. Paul has worn varied hats as a musician over the years including touring with country group Alabama, serving as Artist in Residence at Vanderbilt University, music directing at Nashville Children’s Theatre for over twenty years, and orchestrating for The Nashville Symphony, among many others. To Paul, what sets composing for the Theatre apart from all other commercial endeavors in the music industry is the process of creating music that enhances and supports the storytelling.