I am delighted to welcome new and returning students to the Program in Educational Theatre. As my colleagues Philip Taylor, Nancy Smithner, Joe Salvatore, Amy Cordileone, Jonathan Jones and I recently discussed, this past academic year and summer really flew by. What an incredible year it has been for the Educational Theatre community!
We experienced a superb fall and spring with academic courses in our three areas of concentrated study: drama education, applied theatre, and play production for artists and educators. Our diverse work in community sites continued to exhibit the ways in which our program is involved in important urban and global endeavors. Many students getting certified to teach drama were mentored in NYC schools through student-teaching—learning to plan, implement and evaluate drama; teams of students created applied theatre, including our prison theatre initiative, tackling a range of social justice issues; various theatre of the oppressed events were facilitated; directors’ scenes were presented weekly; and the program’s production season produced remarkable theatre.
In the fall, just in time for Halloween, Little Shop of Horrors showcased wonderful student actors and singers, and in the spring, six new plays by Joe Salvatore were featured in In Real Time, with student directors assigned to each play. This culminated in an evening of engaging and thought-provoking theatre. Our own Theatrix! project continued to profile new works by our students and provide rich opportunities for them to develop their theatre-making skills, while our Shakespeare to Go (STG) troupe brought their one-hour cut of Taming of the Shrew to schools throughout the city. Meanwhile, students involved in two Steinhardt student clubs, the Uproar Theatre Corp and Lamplighters, both founded by educational theatre students, impressively developed and produced full scale productions.
In January, many students studied physical theatre and mask work in Puerto Rico, with Dr. Amy Cordileone leading the program, and our annual storytelling performances, produced and curated by Regina Ress, featured six incredible storytellers from around the world telling stories at the Provincetown Playhouse (including Regina herself). In February, we were thrilled to accept our first two students to our brand new Doctorate of Education program, the EdD. And our annual forum, the 2015 Forum on Site-Specific Performance, was unforgettable as it offered interdisciplinary panels, performances and workshops with established art makers, emerging artists, and university students to explore site-specific work that developed nuanced relationships between spectators and space.
The 2015 summer’s two on-campus projects, New Plays for Young Audiences (NPYA) and Looking for Shakespeare (LFS), were met with great success as well. For its 18th season, NPYA presented three new works: Mario and the Comet that Stopped the World, Book and Lyrics by Gabriel Jason Dean, Music and Lyrics by David Dabbon; Nadine’s Coloring Book by Ashley Laverty; and Forever Poppy by José Cruz González. Keeping with the goals of the Program in Educational Theatre, the NPYA series effectively offered both students and theatre professionals the opportunity to test new ideas and methods within the field of TYA. It was a thrilling collaborative process that segued beautifully into the LFS program under the leadership of Dr. Jonathan Jones. The intensive four-week program for high school students from across the country worked with Dr. Jones as director, as well as an artistic team and 13 graduate students, to present Hamlet. It was truly inspiring to witness the dedicated collective of artists, educators and students work together to produce an outstanding production. Also, adding to the stimulating suite of summer offerings on campus was an intensive two-day course with renowned teacher/scholar Dr. Cecily O’Neill on Teacher in Role. Finally, following the success of the summer 2014 London Study Abroad program under the leadership of Dr. Philip Taylor, in 2015 NYU students studied in our Dublin program led by Dr. Nancy Smithner, working with Ireland’s finest drama practitioners and theatre artists to study community-engaged theatre and explore facilitation, devising, and playwriting/adaptation, along with approaches to using dramatic activities to create context for theatre work.
Looking ahead, this exciting work continues and will be available to everyone, including opportunities to participate in classroom and applied theatre settings, a wide-range of course offerings, main stage productions, Theatrix, STG, NPYA, LFS, Puerto Rico (and our London study abroad offering that will return in 2016), student club productions, storytelling events and next year’s April, 2016 forum—among many other projects.
Speaking of which, the 2016 forum will celebrate fifty years of leadership and artist praxis in Educational Theatre at NYU. As one of the world’s premier academies of excellence, our Program was founded in 1966 by the late innovators Lowell and Nancy Swortzell, graduating over five thousand students who have assumed authoritative positions in cultural institutions, colleges and schools, community centers and other agencies worldwide. For our 2016 annual forum, the Program will build on the Swortzell’s vision, as well as the work of previous annual NYU Forums on curriculum, assessment, teaching artistry, playwriting, ethnodrama, Shakespeare, citizenship, and site specific theatre, by inviting the global community to propose workshops, papers, posters, narratives, and performances around drama in education, applied theatre, theatre for young audiences and play production. Also for the fiftieth anniversary, an alumni event will be held celebrating the achievements of the program. It will undoubtedly be a magnificent evening as colleagues and friends reunite and share classic moments of their time studying at NYU. So keep a lookout for further information to be posted on our Educational Theatre list-serve about this fiftieth anniversary celebration that you won’t want to miss.
– David Montgomery, PhD