By Dr. David Montgomery
The holidays always serve as a sudden reminder of the fact than an entire year has almost past. It’ fun to look back, and when reflecting on Educational Theatre’s fast moving fall semester, so many events pop to mind that helped to make it exceptional.
The fall main-stage production of Meta, by Deborah Zoe Laufer and directed by Amy Cordileone, appealed to audiences of all ages by combining ancient stories with modern styles and music to examine the cyclical nature of humanity. With strong direction and top-notch performances and ensemble work by the actors, the story of Echo who looked critically at her own life was both educational and entertaining. It was wonderful to see the high school audiences at matinees so highly engaged with the piece and asking significant questions during the post-show talk-backs, revealing the notable ways in which the show sparked audiences’ curiosity about the myths and their relevance to current society. Another collaborative effort resulted in performances of Sam Shephard and Joe Chaikin’s play Tongues. Directed by Dr. Nancy Smither in partnership with Jonathan Haas, the Director of Percussion Studies who oversaw the percussion ensemble, educational theatre actors and percussion students worked creatively to bring the play’s monologues to life through movement, words and inspired percussion instruments/sounds, creating a dynamic and visual theatrical experience. The group was a big success at the The PASIC conference in Indianapolis, and performed again on campus at the Loewe Theatre.
Congratulations go out to our two student organizations as well. Uproar Theatre Corp had great success with their production of Godspell, directed by educational students Sarah Jaffee and Dan Walsh, which incorporated clever staging and imaginative choreography to showcase students’ fantastic singing and acting abilities. Very impressive! Also, members of The Lamplighters created 5 beautiful pieces of theatre for young people that were showcased in December. Looking ahead, next semester we look forward to seeing Educational Theatre’s main stage production of School for Scandal, directed by Dr. Nancy Smithner, as well as the Theatrix short play festival and the performances of the NYU Youth Theatre Ensemble and Shakesspeare to Go. Additionally, an exciting collaboration between Drama Therapy and Educational Theatre will result in an upcoming performance about bullying, directed by Joe Salvatore. More information is to come regarding this performance, so stay tuned.
This semester’s Applied Theatre series featured workshops from facilitator Peter Friedrich who demonstrating theatrical techniques he used when working with an Islamic post-conflict society, from Anna Hermann and Imogen Ashby of the organization Clean Break who who explored their work with women in the UK criminal justice system, and from political-artistic coordinator Geo Britto who lectured about Augusto Boal and the work of the Center of the Theatre of the Oppressed’s in Rio. Other guest lecturers visited the Applied Theatre and Drama in Education classes, and in many courses, exciting work was created and shared. Theatre-making projects, as found in the Theatre of the Oppressed and Devising Theatre classes among others, were showcased for the public at the end of the semester which celebrated the tremendous artistic work of our students. I’ve also seen some very impressive masks and puppets floating around the office, created by students in Ralph Lee’s Mask and Puppetry class.
Importantly, several students put drama education theory into practice this semester as they student-taught at schools throughout the city. These students confronted the issues that every beginning teacher faces, planning lessons, knowing students as individuals and as members of a group, creating a positive classroom climate, expecting the unexpected—and much more. Additionally, with the help of their instructors, they focused on successfully preparing for the new edTPA test.
So many other significant events transpired this semester, some of which are reflected in the older pages of this blog, and I want to thank the students, faculty, and larger Educational Theatre community for making it so special. Looking ahead, I’m struck with a wave of excitement for 2014, where the Program in Educational Theatre will continue to flourish, thrive and do great things. On behalf of the Program’s faculty, we wish you all the happiest of holidays and hope this year brings you joy, good health and success in all your endeavors.