Student and Alumni Updates – 2018

Aisha Abdelmula, BS, 2014

After NYU, Aisha acquired an EdM in Student Affairs Administration to promote better access of underrepresented people in higher education. She uses her creative sprit to engage students as a social justice educator at Columbia University and is a writer, model, and personal stylist when she finds the time.

Isaiah Bent, MA, 2016

Isaiah continues to teach theatre at PS 206 in Rego Park, Queens. He loves his job and takes pride in presenting a yearly Shakespeare production with his fifth graders.

Andrea Bertola Shaw, MA, 2010

Andrea is currently the Artistic Director of the New York Film Shop. Her team has won numerous awards for their short films at national film festivals. She is currently directing a documentary that will be released in 2019. In addition to her film work, Andrea continues to work as a freelance website designer.

Samantha Bessudo Drucker, BS, 1994

Samantha is an image consultant, columnist, lifestyle personality, speaker, host and actress who uses dramatic constructs and humor with her clients, readership and audience. She is currently developing new media projects.

Micaela Blei, MA, 2004; PhD, 2018

Micaela does a lot of personal storytelling lately—including Moth shows, her solo storytelling show, an episode of the Panoply podcast “Family Ghosts” last year. She just finished her PhD in Ed Theatre, and she is the Director of Community and Education Programs at The Moth.

Brooke Boertzel, MA, 2005

Brooke has worked as Director of Education at New York City Children’s Theater, formerly named Making Books Sing, since 2007. She is also on the board of the NYC Arts and Education Roundtable. This summer, Brooke is transitioning into consulting work, specializing in curriculum development, arts integration, and trauma-informed training.

Tova Bomzer Halpern, MA, 2009

After working for 2 years as an independent teaching artist, Tova founded Fresh Theatre Arts, LLC, an educational theatre company whose mission is to introduce, educate and encourage youth to participate in performing arts programming while strengthening their creativity, self-esteem, and social skills. Fresh Theatre Arts is currently serving communities throughout New Jersey.

Steve Borowka, MA, 2002

Steve is the Chair of the Performing Arts Department and Theater teacher at Friends Seminary a K-12 school in NYC. He also owns and operates Acting Manitou—a theater camp in Oakland, Maine.

Jenna Briedis, BS, 2014

Jenna currently works at Warner Brothers in Domestic Television Distribution. She plans to pursue a lifelong career in the Film and Television industry.

Cheryl Brumley, MA, 2017

Upon graduation from Ed Theatre, Cheryl accepted a position with Campbellsville University as a full-time faculty member teaching theatre and is happy to report the completion of her first year!

Kristopher Casey, MA, 2018

Kris is a brand new graduate and is currently the Center Director for the NY Kids Club, Battery Park.

Sarah Chichester, MA, 2013

Sarah has directed shows Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, regionally, and internationally in Israel since finishing her MA. She’s spent the past year teaching as an Instructor of Record at Southern Illinois University.

Amber Grace Collins-Ives, BS, 2015

Amber is going on her third year out in Los Angeles working as an Actress, Writer, and Production Designer.

Andrew Coopman, MA, 2015

After graduating from NYU and doing the Dublin Study Abroad program, Andrew moved to Seattle, Washington where he works as a full-time director and teaching artist for many of the major local theaters, including Village Theater, 5th Avenue Theater, and Seattle Children’s Theater. Up next, Andrew will be attending the University of Washington to get his MFA in Directing through the Professional Director Training Program.

Liana Costable, BS, 2016

Liana is a proud member of Actors Equity with credits such as Sally in the 1st national tour of A Charlie Brown Christmas, Jenny in Theatreworks USA’s national tour of Click Clack Moo  and Lucy in A Music Box Christmas at the Hershey Theater. In between performance contracts, Liana works as a teaching assistant at Broadway Workshop.

Jessica Cressionnie, MA, 2017

Jessica is finishing her first year teaching elementary theatre at P.S. 94 The Henry Longfellow in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. This summer, she will be returning to Camp Tel Noar in New Hampshire as the Head of Drama where she and her staff will produce three musicals in seven weeks.

Jeanine DeFalco, MA, 2012

Jeanine is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow with the Army Research Laboratory, Human Research & Engineering Directorate, assigned to the United States Military Academy. Research includes motivational feedback in game-based training, and creative reasoning on accelerated learning. Jeanine received a PhD in Psychology, Cognitive Studies (concentration: Intelligent Technologies) from Columbia University, Fall 2017.

Jim DeVivo, MA, 2001; PhD, 2018

Jim is Director of Education at Writers Theatre of NJ, part-time theatre teacher at Lacey Township High School, and adjunct instructor of TYA for the Program in Educational Theatre. He is researching the history of youth playwriting in the US and abroad. Jim and Bridget (MA, 2001) live down the Jersey shore with three children.

Gaspare DiBlasi, MA, 2014

Gaspare currently teaches K-5 Theater at P.S.217 in Brooklyn, New York.

Jason Diminich, BS, 2005

Jason is the Education Director for Think 360 Arts for Learning in Denver, Colorado.

Sheng-Tao Fan, MA, 2008

Sheng-Tao has been working at National Taiwan Normal University where he mainly teaches Theatre in Education as well as Arts and Business Cooperation. Dr. Fan is published in international journals such as The Journal of Drama and Theatre Education in Asia. Dr. Fan is so thankful for the NYU Educational Theatre community and faculty.

Diane Feldman, MA, 2001

In addition to operating her educational musical theatre company (year 32), Diane is completing her seventh year as the award-winning Director of Drama, Musical Theatre & Vocal Performance at de Toledo High School in West Hills, California. Several of her productions have received Outstanding Production Awards from both The Jerry Herman Awards and National Youth Arts.

Mitalene Fletcher, MA, 1997

Mitalene earned her doctorate at Steinhardt in International Development Education in 2008. Since that time, she has been developing executive education programs at Harvard Graduate School of Education and volunteering as a mediator in a Boston municipal court.

Christine Fuchs, MA, 2012

Christine is a full-time theatre Instructor at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Georgia. She earned her MFA in Acting at Northern Illinois University in 2016.

Nicole Gebler, MA, 2016

Nicole is currently teaching grades K-5 at Riverhead Charter School on Long Island. RCS takes great pride in the arts and is pleased to have Nicole on board as they expand their theater program to middle school and a brand new high school starting in the year 2020.

Lisa Goldberg, MA, 2004

Since graduating from NYU, Lisa has been working at Trevor Day School where she serves as Director of Auxiliary Programs. She oversees the after school program, music conservatory, and camp. She also assists in helping choreograph the 4th and 5th grade musical and concerts. She is happily married with two daughters ages 9 and 7.

Honey Goodenough, MA, 2005

Honey is the Resident Teaching Artist at Puppet Showplace Theater near Boston, Massachusetts. She founded Good Hearted Entertainment and tours an original puppet shows, including a literacy based puppet show called Word Play throughout schools and theaters.

Robert Reid Goodson, MA, 2013

Robert is honored to be named the A.C. Reynolds High School Teacher of the Year.

Megan Ibarra, MA, 2016

Megan has been teaching theatre at an elementary school, building the theatre program to include: multicultural theatre, story drama, play writing, Shakespeare, and puppetry. She has enjoyed building relationships with students and seeing them grow in speaking skills, confidence, and expressing themselves.

Laura Josepher, MA, 1990

Laura recently directed Godspell for the American Musical Theatre Academy (AMTA). With partner, David Sisco, she runs ContemporaryMusicalTheatre.com, a subscription site for musical theatre songs. Last year they published the book, Mastering College Musical Theatre Auditions: Sound Advice for the Student, Teacher, and Parent available on Amazon.

Emily Kaczmarek, BS, 2012

Emily is a playwright and librettist. She has developed work at theatres across the country and held residencies at the O’Neill, Goodspeed, Orchard Project, and SPACE on Ryder Farm. She is a 2018 Jonathan Larson Grant winner and a Kleban Prize finalist, and is engaged to her writing partner, composer Zoe Sarnak.

Jennifer Kapitan, MA, 2005

Jennifer has been teaching elementary school since the fall of 2005. She currently teaches at PS 506 in Brooklyn.

Sobha Kavanakudiyil, MA, 2013

Sobha is on faculty in the Graduate Program in Educational Theatre at The City College of New York. During her sabbatical this year, she was accepted into the Fulbright Specialist Program, traveling to South Korea and Puebla, Mexico, hosted by Instituto Municipal Arte Y Cultura sharing her love of devising theatre and community building!

Britt Shubow Keshner, MA, 2009

Britt is a full-time drama teacher in Orange, New Jersey. She teaches at Oakwood Avenue Community School and Cleveland Street School. She teaches students from kindergarten through seventh grade. In the summer, Britt is an acting, dance, and vocal instructor at Performers Theater Workshop in Maplewood, New Jersey.

Robin Levenson, PhD, 2007

Robin’s book, Acting Chekhov in Translation: 4 Plays, 100 Ways will be published by Peter Lang International Publishers, Inc. later this year. It was conceived & edited from her dissertation, for which committee members Deborah Borisoff, Nan Smithner, Joanna Rotte, and Lowell Swortzell helped her develop the idea and initial musings.

Elyse Lewis, MA, 2016

Since graduating from NYU, Elyse has been teaching in the NYC DOE. She currently teaches drama to high school students (grades 9-12) at Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics.

Dara K. Marsh, MA, 2007

After completing her MA at NYU, Dara went on to receive her MPA from Baruch College. Though a lover of theater, Dara is currently focused on writing and performing poetry, especially from her two books, Black Man, Black Woman, Black Child and Casualty of Love.

Steven McIntosh, MA, 2008

Steven was a featured speaker at the REMIX Summit NYC this past spring sharing how the education department at BAM is using tech to reach new audiences. He recently joined the Board of Directors of the Jim Henson Foundation.

Christina Neubrand, MA, 2007

Christina is currently a Community School Director in Brooklyn, a Professor at BMCC in the Theatre, Speech and Communications department, and is launching her own public speaking coaching business.

Kimberly Poppiti, PhD, 2003

Kimberly has a new book coming out this year with Routledge, A History of Equestrian Drama in the United States: Hippodrama’s Pure Air and Fire.  She also won a second Greggs Award from the USITT for her 2017 article “Hamilton’s Turntable and Ring Stage.”

Sarah Ripper, MA, 2013

Since graduation, Sarah taught in Brooklyn at Acting Out! and then moved to California to go back to school to receive an MFA in Directing from California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). She has taught at CSUF as well as Orange County School of the Arts, and is the Associate Artistic Director of a new theatre company in Orange County called The Wayward Artist.

Norah Roderick, MA, 2010

Norah continues her work as a teacher and administrator in the afterschool and camp division of LREI in the West Village. Her daughter Juniper will be two this fall and teaches Norah new things every day!

Marisol Santana, MA, 2008

Marisol is the founder of TESOL Drama, an organization providing workshops in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and Florence instructing teachers how to use drama in the English and EFL classrooms both domestically and abroad (www.tesoldrama.org). Marisol is also a Professor of English at New Jersey City University.

Heidi Schoenenberger, BS, 2011

Heidi was awarded the 2018 Tom Behm Award from Southeastern Theatre Conference. This award will support her to present her research on the impact of live performance for elementary school students in Auckland, New Zealand at the 9th Annual International Drama in Education Research Institute.

Shannon Stoddard, MA, 2018

Shannon is teaching creative drama and directing/choreographing the Children’s Musical Theatre Company with the Community School of the Arts in Fort Smith, Arkansas. She is working with a wide range of students—from preschoolers through high school!

Robert Thaxton-Stevenson, BS, 2013; MA, 2014

Robert is a Brooklyn-based theatre maker and educator. He has worked as a performer or designer with Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, Spellbound Theatre, Bluelaces Theater Company, and Atlantic Pacific Theatre. He is a Teaching Artist with the New Victory Theater, New York Theater Workshop, and the Met Opera Guild.

Kari-Noor Thompson, BS, 2008

A recent graduate of the Ed Theatre Program, Kari-Noor will begin his teaching career as an International Teacher, teaching English and Theatre at an organization is Hangzhou, China in the fall of 2018.

Nicole (Losurdo) Upton, MA, 2005

As Director of Partnerships and Professional Learning at Ingenuity in Chicago, Nicole designs, develops, and delivers 40+ professional learning experiences each year for arts and cultural organizations, teaching artists, and teachers. She develops sector-wide strategies build capacity, strengthen leadership and facilitate collaboration within and among arts organizations and schools.

Christina Zagarino, BS, 2007

Christina lives in Santa Cruz, CA with her husband and cat and is working on kid and family products with Google. She’ll be welcoming her first baby in summer 2018.

Our First EdD: Michael Yurchak

To recognize the achievement of our first EdD graduate, Michael Yurchak, we invited him to reflect on his experience in the program and to articulate his future plans. Congratulations, Michael!

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Michael Yurchak

What were your expectations when you entered the EdD program?

My expectations were that I would continue my own learning and understanding of educational theater and applied theater praxis. Since I live in Los Angeles, I worried that my geographic challenges would hamper my experience or become an issue for my professors and classmates. I assumed I would have a hard time connecting with the community due to my location, but that was not at all how things went. Because of the intensive semesters offered over the summer and January terms, as well as weekend intensives during the fall and spring, I was able to attend most of my classes in person in an immersive curriculum that allowed a deeper personal connection than I would have thought possible. As a graduate assistant in London and Puerto Rico, I felt very connected to the student community, and I absolutely loved being involved as much as I was. I did have a few classes during my time in the program where I had to attend class meetings via Skype. Every one of my professors and fellow students were supportive and open to making the best of that challenge when it came up. What might have been a distraction was actually kind of fun, because of the novelty it presented!

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Michael Yurchak leads participants through breathing and stretching exercises.

What aspects of the program were helpful in your academic and professional development?

The collaborative nature of crafting a program that fit my needs and interests was incredibly useful in my development as a professional in the field. My advisor (Jonathan Jones) and mentor (David Montgomery) as well as my dissertation committee members and readers (Philip Taylor, Nisha Sajnani, Amy Cordileone, and Nan Smither) were all extremely approachable and helpful in charting my course through the program. There was a collegial nature to the discussions we had from the very beginning. The sense that I had agency and choice within the context of the requirements was empowering. Finding the intensive courses and study-abroad programs that allowed me to fully participate was really important to me. Also, designing and applying my own practicum and independent study projects was enlightening. That independent work served as a barometer of my own understanding and illustrated some ways in which I might incorporate my coursework into real world application. An unanticipated outcome has been an increased confidence in my writing and how I might contribute to the academy in that way, which is not something I had thought about before finishing the program.

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Michael prepares the participants to release the breath and engage in voice work.

How will you apply what you learned in the program out in the field?

I will be teaching voice in the MFA program at Cal State University Los Angeles and will remain on the faculty at the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio where I teach voice and acting. Independent projects in the applied theater space also pop up throughout the year, and I look forward to participating there as well. Since defending my dissertation, I have been asked to adapt a portion of it for the publication associated with the Voice and Speech Trainers Association (VASTA), and I’m looking forward to that too. I had not anticipated going into academia after graduating because, ultimately, I would like to lead an education department for an arts organization. Still, at the risk of being a bit sappy, I guess I see everything I do academically and professionally as part of the journey of a life-long learner. That is exciting to me, and I look forward to seeing how the future unfolds.

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Michael Yurchak, EdD

What advice would you give someone considering applying for the EdD program?

My advice would be to enter the program with a clear sense of why you think you need to be there. It’s a big commitment, and it can feel overwhelming at times. For me, a strong understanding of why I felt I had to make it happen kept me going when things got tough. I also think it’s important to stay open to the possibility that new discoveries may change where you thought you’d end up. I found it incredibly useful to stay flexible!

New Podcast: There’s No Place Like Art

The podcast offers opportunities to feature how ordinary people are doing extraordinary things in The Arts to make our world a richer, deeper, better place to live.  In these divisive times, I ask audiences to tune in and listen to how The Arts transforms people’s lives and remind us how vitally important a role The Arts play in tapping into our humanity.
The first episode introduces the framework:  having guests on the show to talk about their programs; sharing their testimonials on The First 100 Stories; and closes with a “mystery” celebrity guest who shares his/her experience on how the arts played a role in their career.  Dan McCormick, playwright, The Violin, talked about how he made the leap from finance major to Off—Broadway playwright!  He’s fascinating and so is his play which is at 59E58 through October 14th.
Looking forward to hearing from my NYU Ed Theatre family and sharing their stories on how the Arts transforms lives!
Thank you!
Frances McGarry, Ph.D.
Posted on | Posted in Alumni News |

The Man Behind the Curtain

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.

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John Newman performs as L. Frank Baum.

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.

Student and Alumni Updates – 2017

Michael Tommasone Aquilante, MA, 1978

Michael and life-partner Jon Laskin spend spring/fall in Italy, winter in Spain, and summer in Adirondack Mountains. Their English translations of plays by Nobel Prize-winning Italian playwright Dario Fo are produced in US, EU, Canada; and their latest projects are English translations/adaptations of works by Luigi Pirandello.

Dennis Baker, MA, 2009

Dennis is acting in Los Angeles where he was recently seen on Criminal Minds. As The Business Program Director at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation he teaches class and programs panels about the business of acting and the greater entertainment industry as a whole.

Isaiah Bent, MA, 2016

Isaiah is an elementary school theater teacher at PS 206 in Rego Park, Queens. Last January, his fifth graders performed a rousing production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He loves his job!

Courtney J. Boddie, MA, 2003

Courtney is Director of Education/School Engagement at The New Victory Theater and the Creator and Host of Teaching Artistry with Courtney J. Boddie podcast. Featuring interviews with artists and arts educators about the work that teaching artists do in communities. Tune in on iTunes or Soundcloud.

Toni Borkowski (Caracci), MA, 2008

Toni is currently teaching Theatre Arts at Eastport South Manor Jr.-Sr. High School in Manorville, NY. Recent directing credits include The Last Night of Ballyhoo, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Sound of Music, Inherit the Wind and The Music Man.

Steve Borowka, MA, 2001

Steve is the owner and director of Acting Manitou, a theater camp in Maine for campers 11 – 17. In the off season Steve is the Performing Arts Chair and drama teacher at Friends Seminary in NYC.

Deborah Bradshaw, MA, 2001

Deborah is a Broadway veteran and Director of Theatre Programs at Cumberland County College in Vineland, NJ. She runs an award winning theatre program and has received outstanding Direction awards from The NJACT Perry Awards, KCACTF and BroadwayWorld.

Paul Brewster, MA, 2014

Paul is now Assistant Director of Education; Teaching & Learning at Roundabout Theatre Company. He is also the new Managing Director for Trusty Sidekick Theatre Company.

Grace Chapman, MA, 1998

Grace is a playwright, director, puppeteer and educator. Currently, she is a lecturer in the School of Arts & Sciences at the University of The Gambia (UTG) and Director of its Educational Theater program. She is the 2016 recipient of UTG’s Lecturer of the Year Award.

Adam Crescenzi, MA, 2009

Since graduation, Adam has become the hardest working Teaching Artist in New York City. He currently works for a bunch of acronyms including FCCA at FTH, NYCCE, PS3, TDF, and TFANA’s NV and WTP programs.

Jeff S. Dailey, PhD 2002

Stage director Jeff was awarded a Jean Dalymple Award—which acknowledge innovation in theatre–in October, 2016, for his Off Broadway production of Plautus’ comedy The Captives, which was performed in John Collum Theatre in August and September–the first production in New York since the 19th century.

Elizabeth Dilley, BS, 1998

Elizabeth was ordained in the United Church of Christ in 2003 and currently serves as Minister for Ministers in Local Churches in the national setting of the UCC, where she finds her Educational Theatre background extremely useful. She lives in Cleveland with her spouse, child, and two dogs.

Jason Diminich, BS, 2005

After working 11 years as a middle school drama teacher in Queens, Jason moved to Denver, CO in August where he is now working as the Education Director at Think 360 Arts for Learning.

Jay DiPrima, PhD, 1998

Dr. DiPrima served as the drama education instructor for Endicott College’s Teacher Training Program in Madrid last summer. His article, “Remembering Ruth Draper,” was published by The New England Theatre Journal (Fall 2016).

Zachary Ferentz, MA, 2016

By day, Zak is a kindergarten teacher in the Bronx, and by night, he is an academic coach in Westchester. He hopes to return to NYU to get his PhD in the future.

Benjamin Frimmer, MA, 2002

Ben is a theatre educator working in Westport, Connecticut. For the past 22 years he has successfully run Coleytown Company, a middle school theatre program that pulls in Broadway professionals. His former students have won Oscar Awards and are regularly seen on Broadway, television, and film.

Andrew Gaines, PhD, 2017

Andrew successfully defended his dissertation on multimodal applied arts praxis in an LGBT senior center while publishing, teaching, and applying for jobs!

Laurie Gruhn, MA, 1991

Laurie is the Assistant Head of School and Head Lower School at the Browning School. She adopted her daughter from China in 2008.

Maryam Habibian, PhD, 1993

Maryam taught Educational theater at a couple of renowned Public High Schools in NYC for 30 years and directed several plays. She retired from the Department of Education in June 2016 and teaches part time at a college now and spends her other time in finishing up translations and editing film footage.

Tova Halpern, MA, 2009

After receiving her Master’s from NYU, Tova created Fresh Theatre Arts, LLC, an educational theatre company whose mission is to introduce, educate and encourage youth to participate in performing arts programming while strengthening their creativity, self-esteem, and social skills. FTA’s goal is to provide professional instruction in the areas of acting, dance, voice and technical theatre. FTA currently serves communities in NJ and NY.

Ashley Lauren Hamilton, MA, 2013; PhD, anticipated 2017

Ashley was awarded the NYU 2017 Steinhardt School Outstanding Doctoral Student Teaching Award and has been appointed Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of Denver.

Deborah Hathaway, MA, 2010

Deborah (Jacoby) resides in a suburb of Seattle, WA and currently teaches interdisciplinary arts courses at the University of Washington Bothell. She is proud to announce the birth of her daughter, Eleanor Sophia, this past November 2016.

Jennifer Holmes, MA, 2006; PhD, 2013

Jennifer has been appointed an Associate Dean at the School of Drama at The New School.

Dennis Scott Holsclaw, PhD, 1996

Dr. Holsclaw recently completed 32 years of service at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He has served as Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dean of the School of Fine Arts. Currently he has moved back to the classroom teaching and directing in the Department of Theatre and loving every minute of it.

Atsuko Isahai, MA, 2000

Atsuko published a book about her study abroad at NYU.

Emily Kaczmarek, BS, 2012

Emily’s work as a playwright, screenwriter, and librettist has been developed and produced locally and nationally, most recently by Musical Theatre Factory/Playwrights Horizons, This Is Water Theatre Co., Women in Arts & Media Coalition, and the Eugene O’Neill Theater Institute. She is represented by UTA.

Heni Koenigsberg, BS, 1974

Heni is a producer of Broadway theatre, and is dedicated to making theatre accessible and relevant for all audiences. A lifelong passion that was ignited at Steinhardt, Heni has received numerous Tony awards and is currently represented on Broadway by Hello, Dolly! and A Doll’s House, Part 2.

Jessica Lisboa, MA, 2006

Out of 1100 nominees, Jessica was recognized as a Tony Awards Excellence in Theatre Education – Honorable Mention for her work as Performing Arts Chair at North Star Academy College Preparatory High School.

Julia Ohm, MA, 2011

Juila is currently the Program Director for a private school in North Central Massachusetts, acting as Performing Arts Chair and Director of Theatre.

Linda Pallotta, MA, 2002

Linda is currently working on a screen play and revising her stage play. She has a short film ready for a web series soon (looking for a director/cinematographer). Additionally, Linda is working with a volunteer improvisational group touring NY, bringing theatre to those who can’t go out or afford theatre. Readings of her works were held in midtown throughout this winter season.

Kimberly Poppiti, PhD, 2003

Kimberly is a writer and professor. This year, she published an article on “Hamilton’s Turntable and Ring Stage” in TD&T: Theatre Design & Technology, contributed numerous reviews to Electronic Media Reviews Online, and directed both a musical and a drama.

Jennifer Pytleski, MA, 2009

Jennifer is currently in her third year as the Performing Arts Department Chair at the Darrow School in New Lebanon, NY. This year the students performed Burial at Thebes and an all original student work, Darrow on the Fringe.

Jeffrey Querin, MA, 2004

Jeffrey is currently serving as Artistic Director of 34 West Theater Company in Charleston, SC. After taking over a former yogurt shop, he converted the venue into a small bistro-style theatre which produces a full season of original work and hosts live broadcasts from the National Theatre, London.

Shannon Riley, MA, 2011

Shannon is working as the Assistant Director of Advising for NYU University Programs and Adjunct Voice Faculty for NYU Steinhardt (Vocal Performance). She is set to receive her certificate in Vocal Pedagogy from the Steinhardt school this May and is looking to transition to a full time faculty role.

Stephanie Schneider, MA, 2012

Stephanie Schneider continues her work on audience engagement at the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at NYU. She was an artistic associate on Anna Deavere Smith’s Notes from the Field, which premiered off-Broadway in 2016 and was named one of the year’s best plays by the New York Times, Time Out New York, and Time Magazine.

Emily Schorr Lesnick, MA, 2016

Emily is in her sixth year of teaching drama at Riverdale Country School. Since leaving NYU, her play, How We G.L.O.W., has traveled to over 20 schools and community centers, facilitating urgent dialogue about LGBTQ+ youth identity.

Jonathan Shmidt Chapman, MA, 2008

Jonathan has been named the new Executive Director of TYA/USA. Jonathan is a respected leader in our field and our community bringing over a decade of wide-ranging experience in TYA to the organization, and they are delighted to work with him in this new chapter of their organization.

Dani Snyder-Young, MA, 2005; Phd, 2008

Dani was appointed as a full-time faculty member at Northeastern University’s Department of Theater. She will teach Activism and Performance in the fall. Her areas of expertise include theatre and social change, devised theatre, performance studies, and dramaturgy.

Lauren Soprano, BS, 2003

Lauren has been teaching grades K-2 at Putnam Valley Elementary School for the past 13 years. She also sits on the Board of KJK Productions, a non-profit theatre company located in Westchester County, NY.

Robert M. Stevenson, BS, 2013; MA, 2014

Robert is a theatre maker and educator, specializing in ensemble-based devising, puppetry, and Shakespeare. He works as a Teaching Artist for several organizations and is the Project Development Manager for Trusty Sidekick Theater Company.

Michael S. Tick, PhD, 1997

Michael is currently Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. Previously, he was Dean of the College of Fine Arts, University of Kentucky, 2010-16 and Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance and Artistic Director of Swine Palace, LSU, 1999-2010

Nicole Upon, MA, 2005

Nicole is the Director of Partnerships & Professional Learning at Ingenuity in Chicago where she develops sector-wide strategies to strengthen student learning in and through the arts. Ingenuity ensures the arts are a component of every public school student’s education by leveraging the vibrant communities, knowledge and resources of Chicago.

Samantha von Sperling, BS, 1994

Samantha is a lifestyle personality, host, image consultant, etiquette expert, and columnist. For 20 years Samantha has frequently been featured in the media that has included ABC, NBC, CBS, Time Magazine, New York Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. She continues to create entertaining ways to share her knowledge with audiences.

Announcing ArtsPraxis Volume 4 Issue 1

Logo for Arts Praxis, Volume 4, Issue 1, 2017

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

ISSN: 1552-5236

Editorial

JONATHAN JONES

 

Responsivity in Applied Theatre Practitioner Expertise: Introducing Identifying Patterns and Names

KAY HEPPLEWHITE

ABSTRACT

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.

 

Making Theatre in Communities: A Search for Identify, Coherence, and Cohesion

JOHN SOMERS

ABSTRACT

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’.

 

The Long Game: Progressing the Work from Thesis to Practice

LINDEN WILKINSON

ABSTRACT

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.

 

Discovering a Planet of Inclusion: Drama for Life-Skills in Nigeria

KAITLIN O. K. JASKOLSKI

ABSTRACT

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.

 

The Evolution of Monologue as an Education

SCOTT WELSH

ABSTRACT

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.

 

Noise as Queer Dramaturgy: Towards a Reflexive Dramaturgy-as-Research Praxis in Devised Theatre for Young Audiences

JESSICA M.  KAUFMAN

ABSTRACT

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.

 

Children’s Theatre: A Brief Pedagogical Approach

DENNIS ELUYEFA

ABSTRACT

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.

 

Feeling Blue: An Investigative Apparatus

CLARE HAMMOOR

ABSTRACT

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.

 

Participatory Aesthetics: Youth Performance as Encounter

PAMELA BAER

ABSTRACT

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.

 

From Les Mis to Annie, Jr.: A Discussion of Dramaturgical Adaptation for Musical Theatre in Education and Accessibility of Musical Theatre to Youth

SEAN MAYES

ABSTRACT

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.

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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.

Dr. Jonathan Jones, New York University
Editor
jonathan.jones@nyu.edu
steinhardt.nyu.edu/music/artspraxis

Editorial Board:

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 Educational Theatre Presents 2017 Swortzell Innovator Awards to Laurie Brooks and Johnny Saldaña

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.

Laurie Brooks and Johnny Saldaña; winners of the 2017 Swortzell Innovator Award

Laurie Brooks and Johnny Saldaña are the winners of the 2017 Swortzell Innovator Award

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.

EdD Student Receives Empire State Excellence in Teaching Program

Congratulations to incoming EdD student and ETED alum Jamie Cacciola-Price for being one of the first recipients of the Empire State Excellence in Teaching Program which recognizes teachers across New York who are successfully preparing a new generation of learners for the future. The program honors outstanding individuals who exemplify the highest standards of teaching, working to foster creativity, instill a love of learning, and inspire independent thinking and student initiative.

Jamie Cacciola-Price receives the award.

“New York State has thousands of excellent teachers who prepare our students for the future and help them reach their full potential,” Governor Cuomo said when he announced the award in May 2016. “This new program will recognize our most outstanding educators, while supporting their professional growth. I commend all teachers for their dedication to making a difference in the lives of students across the state.”

Each year, the Empire State Excellence in Teaching Program will recognize teachers from 10 different regions of New York, spanning from the North Country to New York City. Public school teachers are eligible to apply for recognition. Any member of the public can nominate a teacher by filling out a recommendation. Teachers who were nominated submitted an application for review by a panel which included:

  • Kevin Casey, Executive Director, School Administrators Association of NYS
  • Catalina Fortino, Vice President of the New York State United Teachers
  • Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers
  • Robert Reidy, Executive Director of the NYS Council of School Superintendents
  • Bonnie Russell, President of the NYS Parent Teacher Association
  • Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of SUNY

Honorees received a $5,000 stipend to support their professional development interests and will also be invited to meet with university, workforce and policy leaders across the state to share their expertise and insights.

Swortzell Innovator Awards Presented at 50th Anniversary Alumni Celebration

L to R: John Patrick Shanley, Jay DiPrima, Trent Norman, Rebecca Brown Adelman, and Lynda Zimmerman

L to R: John Patrick Shanley, Jay DiPrima, Trent Norman, Rebecca Brown Adelman, and Lynda Zimmerman

The planning committee for the 2016 Forum on Educational Theatre accepted nominations to honor emerging and seasoned theatre arts practitioners, educators, and thought-leaders changing and impacting our field with their work, reflecting the qualities and values modeled by Nancy and Lowell Swortzell, founders of The Program in Educational Theatre at New York University 50 years ago.

Nominees represented excellence in at least one of the following areas:

  • Drama in Education, Applied Theatre, or Theatre for Young Audiences

At the 50th Anniversary Alumni celebration, the Program acknowledged the recipients of the 2016 Swortzell Innovator Awards:

In recognition of excellence in Drama in Education, the Program honored Lynda Zimmerman, co-founder of the Creative Arts Team, the oldest and largest Educational Theatre Non-profit in the United States.

In recognition of excellence in Applied Theatre, the Program honored Rebecca Brown Adelman and Trent Norman, co-founders of Affinity Arts, an applied theatre company dedicated to positive social change in Colorado and neighboring states.

In recognition of excellence in Theatre for Young Audiences, the Program honored Jay DiPrima who has successfully nurtured the Aurand Harris Memorial Playwriting Award for the New England Theatre Conference for two decades.

NYU’s Program in Educational Theatre thanks the awardees for their service to their communities and to our field.

 

One of our awardees, Jay DiPrima, shared these words with us:

It is an honor to be recognized as a Swortzell Innovator in the Theatre for Young Audiences and Play Production.

Nancy & Lowell’s passion for plays for TYA go back more than the 50 years of this program’s founding – the work of Theatre in Education in England, the founding of The Creative Arts Team that has served youth throughout NY, their avid interest in International Youth Theatre (ASSITEJ), Lowell’s multiple publications of plays for young audiences and published collections of plays for young audiences from around the world and now their enduring legacy of New Plays and the nurturing of playwrights for young audiences hosted here at the Provincetown Playhouse.

This is the stream I go afishin’ in.

I believe the particular reason that I received this award (in addition to the fact that I have been engaged in work as writer, director, producer, and actor for young audiences for too many years), is because of my association with Lowell Swortzell and Aurand Harris.

Back in the day, I studied beginning and advanced playwriting with Aurand Harris and Lowell Swortzell. When Aurand died back in 1996, I was in a position as Chair of the Children’s Division of the New England Theatre Conference to help establish a memorial playwriting award in his honor. Another member of the division, Nina Schuessler (another NYU alumni) who worked with Aurand for many years at the Harwich Theatre on Cape Cod while he tested out his new works in production, affirmed this proposal.  When I called Nancy and Lowell to seek their advice, (as they were now executors of his estate), they were thrilled. So NETC voted to initiate the Award in November of 1997 with Lowell and Nancy as honored guests and speakers at the event in Worcester, MA. Thus The Aurand Harris Memorial Playwriting Award was created to honor the late Aurand Harris (1915-1996) for his lifetime dedication to all aspects of professional theatre for young audiences. I’ve had the honor to serve as the Chair of this Award for seventeen years.

Since its establishment, 25 new plays for young audiences have received either a $1,000 first place or $500 second place award. Every playwright has been honored at the annual conference and many works have received staged readings. I am proud to report that 16 of these plays have received publication either in the Dramatic Publishing Company, Pioneer Press, New Plays, Inc. Anchorage Press, Dramatists, Baker’s Plays or Jacpublishing. So, the work of playwrights for young audiences is alive and well. The goal is similar to the vision of Lowell and Nancy in establishing the New Plays for Young audiences reading series here at the Provincetown Playhouse – a place where new works are realized and playwrights are recognized.

I will recount two quick stories about Nancy & Lowell at the 1997 NETC Convention.

As Guest speakers at the New England Theatre Conference 1997, Nancy recounted a story about their role as executors of Aurand’s estate. When Aurand passed away in 1996, he had named Lowell and Nancy executors of his estate. While they were busy taking inventory of all of his material in his apartment, Nancy noticed a duffle bag at the bottom of his closet. Assuming it to be dirty laundry, she suggested to Lowell that they simply throw it into the incinerator and be done with it. Lowell, being the meticulous and diligent executor, said they had to pull it out and account for every detail. When they opened the bag, lo and behold, they found stashes of money – going back to post depression treasury bonds, cash and stock. When it was all accounted, it was worth nearly a quarter million dollars in value! The irony that Nancy highlighted was the manner in which Aurand lived – as if he was a poor teacher! He would often have to borrow an overcoat to go to the theatre with them! And here sat $250,000 in his closet! The funds were bequeathed to the Children’s Theatre Foundation and serve to this day as a source of Aurand Harris Fellowships for artists serving young people and grants for small and mid-sized theatres throughout America. It is a gift that keeps giving. For more information about their mission, grants and record of giving, visit the Children’s Theatre Foundation Website.

Lowell highlighted some key points in Aurand’s life … quoting from the recent book he wrote on Aurand (as the authorized biographer) – The Theatre of Aurand Harris: His Career, His Theories and His Plays, c. 1996

In the Preface he writes: “When invited to undertake the writing and editing of this volume I first felt honored, then horrified – honored to be entrusted to document the career of the preeminent American dramatist for young audiences and horrified that he had written so damn many plays! That “damn” by no means modifies the plays, only their number, for, as I now know, most of Aurand Harris’ fifty published works remain refreshingly live. “

In writing about the evolving playwriting craft of Aurand, Lowell says:

“In the works of Harris, we are dealing with a repertory drawn from diverse cultures and from every type of literature for young audiences, including fairy and folk tales, short stories, novels, biography, history, drama, and poetry.

His works also utilize such diverse performance styles as commedia dell’arte, farce, melodrama, realism, comedy, musical plays and revues.”

So … when a playwright holds bountiful dramatic ideas in one hand and an array of theatrical forms in the other, he or she has every chance for a career as long and rewarding as the one chronicled here.”

Lowell ended with a favorite story of Aurand shared at the NETC Conference in Worcester 1997.

Aurand was fond of a question reporters inevitably asked when interviewing him –

“Do you have any children?”  Remembering Johnny Appleseed’s answer to the same inquiry he responds:  “Why, of course, a thousand and they bloom every spring.” But plays are even better than trees for they bloom and bear fruit all year round, and beyond.”

This is the legacy that Nancy and Lowell have left to us – the plays and the makers of plays for young audiences that bear fruit all year round, and beyond.”

Thank-you!

Up and Away: “One of the Hottest Tickets in Town”

October was very much the Up and Away month. Previously featured in The New York Times, the immersive theatrical production has been enjoying extraordinary success and gained exciting media attention.

On October 4, WCBS-TV’s Diane Macedo interviewed Lincoln Center Education Executive Director Russell Granet and Trusty Sidekick’s Artistic Director Jonathan Shmidt Chapman (both alumni from the Program in Educational Theatre). A week later, Laura Collins-Hughes in The New York Times reviewed Up and Away in its Theater section. The review was glowingly positive, stating that “generosity and gentleness of spirit may be the two most striking features of… this joyous new show.” The reviewer also took note of Up and Away’s painstaking attention to technical detail. “[This] multisensory experience is a stellar example of how to connect with an underserved audience by identifying obstacles… Every element of the show has been made with the audience in mind, from the warm, tuneful greeting in the lobby…to the set’s walls.”

On October 23, WNBC Nightly News featured a segment on what it called “one of the hottest tickets in town for a theater experience unlike any other.” WNBC and anchor Anne Thompson interviewed Mr. Chapman and Mr. Granet and focused the camera on the performance, with its visibly enchanted audience and a deeply moved mother who fought back tears to say: “It’s so nice to go someplace… where you’re welcome.”

Up and Away is not merely a show that makes the effort to accommodate a special audience, but an experience entirely designed for that audience. Two years of thoughtful observation and work with students on the autism spectrum were a part of the development process, and in that sense, Up and Away was designed by the audience.

Click here to learn more about Up and Away.

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