Jeff Church, Producing Artistic Director of The Coterie in Kansas City, Missouri, “is pleased to be back with New Plays for Young Audiences in the Steinhardt’s terrific Program in Educational Theatre at NYU.” Jeff directed for NYPA in its very first year (1998) and continued for the next seven years though 2005. “Lowell Swortzell was leading the summer developmental festival at the time, and he was one of the greats. One of The Coterie’s most important commissions, The Wrestling Season, by Laurie Brooks, was developed here in 1999,” said Jeff. Jeff used the NPYA program to work on some experimental scripts as well, such as a transgender-themed play, The 12:07, also by Laurie Brooks.
“You’ll read about it in the papers tomorrow, if you don’t see it on your TV tonight.” – Edward Albee has passed away.
On the death of Tony-Award winning playwright Edward Albee, the Program in Educational Theatre salutes this giant of the American Theatre who last spoke at the historic Provincetown Playhouse (now owned and run by NYU) in 2010 just after a multi-million dollar refurbishment. Albee had a long history with the Provincetown, as it was the site of the long running production of his first success, The Zoo Story, in 1960 when it appeared on a double-bill with Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape.
Video from the 2010 re-opening of the Provincetown Playhouse event, which featured Albee along with Obie Award winner and founder of the Living Theatre Judith Malina, and director of the archives of La Mama Experimental Theater Ozzie Rodriguez, in discussion with Village Voice theatre critic Michael Feingold can be accessed at this NYU News Release.
NYU Forum on Ethnodrama:
The Aesthetics of Research and Playmaking
April 21-22, 2017
Join us for next year’s NYU Educational Theatre Forum for a robust conversation about the aesthetics of ethnodrama. How do artist-researchers engage audiences with the presentation of data? Theatre artists and academic researchers will come together to share ideas, vocabularies, and techniques.
Save the dates: April 21 & 22, 2017
If you’re interested in participating, please email Joe Salvatore.
** Image from Towards the Fear: An Exploration of Bullying, Social Combat, and Aggression, produced in spring 2014
The Program is excited to announce that the fall show will be The Miracle Worker by William Gibson based on Helen Keller’s autobiography The Story of My Life. The Miracle Worker is a three-act play about Helen Keller, a girl who is blind, deaf, and mute who learns to communicate through the help of her teacher, Annie Sullivan. The original production of the play premiered on Broadway in 1959 and was subsequently adapted into a film featuring original Broadway cast members Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, both of whom won Academy Awards for acting in the film.
Educational Theatre faculty member David Montgomery is excited to be directing this show in the Blackbox Theatre. All students are welcome to audition and audition announcements will be made soon.
By Teresa Fisher
New Plays for Young Audiences is an annual play development series focused on developing work for young audiences, ages three to twenty-one. For three weeks each June, we develop three new scripts—one each week, Sunday through Sunday—in the historic Provincetown Playhouse. The plays must be unpublished and unproduced. We receive the scripts between July and October. We read them in November and then meet in early December to select our season. Between January and the start of the series in June, we are busy arranging housing, transportation, marketing, auditions, and selecting the rest of the creative teams. As we are housed in an education institution—NYU Steinhardt—our series has an educational component not found in other play development programs, including having a graduate class taught by Joe Salvatore that accompanies the series.
The challenge in choosing the scripts is creating a balanced season in which we:
- Select scripts that still need development and are potentially interesting to young audiences, including the classrooms with which we collaborate.
- Select playwrights who are invested in the development process and able to utilize it to improve their scripts. One way we tell this is through the goals they articulate with their submission.
- Bring in scripts that will give our graduate class something to talk and learn about TYA.
- Provide opportunities for our student actors to participate in an engaging process.
- Recognize the diversity in our TYA audiences and support the continuing development of the field.
Although you might think the script is the most important piece of the submission, the goals for development that we ask each playwright to submit are equally if not more important. Unless we have worked with the playwright before, we don’t know how the playwright will fare in our specific development process. Most of the time we don’t know who these playwrights are beyond what we can find online and/or they provide with their submission. We don’t know where the script is in its development, what the playwright wants to see happen with the script, or how well-suited for a development process the playwright will be. The goals clarify this for us. If a playwright, for example, is interested in how the technical elements will enhance the script, we know that we won’t be a good fit, as we are very low-tech. On the other hand, a playwright who identifies clear areas that need developing in their script—especially if we’ve also noticed those same areas—is more credible to us than one who provides essentially clichéd ones (i.e. “I want to work on the characters, seeing if they are well-developed” or “I am looking to see if the story flows”) or, worse yet, no goals at all.
One of the challenges for a play development series focused on TYA is determining what is TYA and what isn’t. Some of this is a matter of taste. According to the New Victory Theater staff (as noted online in the TDF Theatre Dictionary), TYA “includes any performance taking place in the presence of young audiences.” That is a pretty wide definition, so the question becomes, “what do youth want to see?” As our team has discussed at length, opinions differ on what makes a play TYA. If a play has no youth characters, does that mean it can’t be TYA? Not necessarily, but that is certainly a question to explore—“What makes this story appealing to young audiences?” On the flipside, just because a play has youth characters doesn’t mean it is TYA. Many plays with young characters appeal to a wide audience.
When we—the production team consisting of me (Producer/Administrator), Dr. David Montgomery (Artistic Director), Gina Grandi (Artistic Associate for School Collaboration), and Jim DeVivo (Artistic Associate) —choose the scripts for our season, we read each submission. We then respond to a series of questions from the practical (genre, age group) to the more subjective (writing, story, concerns, strengths). Those responses are compiled so we can see side-by-side how each script spoke to us. Then we meet to discuss our options. Any script that received a strong “yes” is automatically considered, even if only one member of the team said “yes.” Scripts that received multiple “maybe” replies are also included. Plays with across the board “no” responses are reviewed at the end of the discussion to make sure we didn’t miss something.
After that discussion, we have whittled our options down. This year we had seventy in the “no” column and twenty-seven in the combined “maybe” and “yes” column. From those twenty-seven, we narrowed down to thirteen. In choosing from those thirteen, we moved from discussing the script and playwright goals to talking about the potential audiences, the graduate class, and the larger TYA field. As producer, I am also looking at the budget.
One consideration late in the process this year was realizing we had the potential to choose all female playwrights. As we’ve had years with all male playwrights, being able to reverse that trend—especially with scripts which featured more than one strong female protagonist—was appealing. We were finally down to six scripts. We weighed the goals, storylines, intended audiences, and other such factors as we made our final decisions. In the end, we had three pairs of scripts essentially competing against each other due to similar elements of story, audience, character, and/or approach. With each pair, we reviewed the playwrights’ goals as well as our goals for the upcoming season. In the end, we were able to choose three female playwrights each with an intriguing script, each intended for a different audience demographic (one high school, one middle school, and one elementary).
Interestingly, one of the topics of conversation amongst the team this year was the question of whether to pick a script that is already strong, but may not need as much development, or to take a chance on a script that may be a hot mess, but with the possibility of greatness, or with a known playwright. That conversation prompted me to wonder if one could designate an entire play development series or, in our case, individual weeks within a particular season, for scripts that are early in their development and others for scripts that are close to being stage-ready.
There is no question that from beginning to end, play development is a challenging process. Each year, we wonder where the three weeks will take us, but by carefully crafting a season that advances the TYA field while also providing a powerful experience for our graduate students and student actors, we strive to create a place where playwrights can devote a week to their craft working in an historic theatre built on a foundation of nurturing and evaluating new plays. That goal is what guided our co-founders, the late Lowell and Nancy Swortzell, to create New Plays for Young Audiences and it continues to inspire us almost two decades later.
By Ashley Hamilton
“When I am doing this work, creating art, for just a little while I get to forget that I am in prison” (Bedford Hills Maximum Security Prison Devising Theatre Participant). My work found me, before I found it. My first introduction to working in the prison system, using the arts as a rehabilitative tool, came prior to even starting my master’s degree in Educational Theatre (EDTC) at NYU, long before I understood what the field of “applied theatre” was. Through a serendipitous chain of events, I secured my first teaching artist gig using writing and theatre inside the New York City juvenile jail system. I had no real training, but I felt deeply drawn to the work of being inside of the walls with folks who were yearning for expression, I knew even then that something transformative was occurring.
As you may know, the Educational Theatre program has a long standing, collaborative relationship with Rehabilitation through the Arts (RTA) – an organization that uses arts practices in various New York State Prisons in order to work toward the rehabilitation of incarcerated folks. In the first year of the PhD program, I had the opportunity to assist Dr. Nancy Smithner in teaching a Physical Theatre class, along with master’s student Melissa Sonia (now an alumni) at Bedford Hills Maximum Security Prison for Women. Soon after, I had the opportunity to co-teach a six-month long Devising Theatre course, alongside Clare Hammoor (an EDTC alumni) at Bedford Hills. Clare and I created the class to explore various socially minded themes through movement and writing. Then, after a particularly salient theme emerged from our exploration, we continued on to write a play through a physical and writing based devising process. The class culminated with a performance of the mounted play for the remaining prison population. After months of writing, devising, and rehearsing we had created a play about the contradictions of womanhood inside prison walls. The play interrogated themes of body image, beauty, motherhood, self-sustainment, sexuality and gender.
The women wrote from raw and deep places, clearly craving an opportunity to tell their stories. Throughout the course, Clare and I found ourselves constantly reflecting on several themes but specifically; our roles as facilitators, boundaries, the role of therapy in applied theatre, and emotional safety and wellness. The deeper we went into the work, the more questions and contradictions emerged. The women’s final performance was met with compassion and grace by the prison population as they echoed that they shared very similar experiences and deeply appreciated the vulnerability of their peers. And, Clare and I walked away from that experience stretched emotionally, mentally, and physically, but with so many more questions than when we began.
Currently, Clare and I are co-facilitating a “Life Skills through Acting” class at Fishkill Correctional Facility for Men, a very different yet just as complex experience. We are only a few weeks into the class, and I am already finding that my questions, thoughts and general reflective practice is just as prevalent, but is more centered on questions of gender and aesthetic distance. I am fascinated by the immediate difference I have found in working with men versus women, and by the way I find myself (as a white, cis-gendered woman) performing gender and race in this hyper-masculine, racialized space.
JONESBOROUGH, TN July 23, 2015 – The National Storytelling Network (NSN) awarded Regina Ress the NSN ORACLE Mid-Atlantic Regional Excellence Award. This award recognizes the creativity, professional integrity, and artistic contributions of tellers who have greatly enriched the storytelling culture of their region.
Regina Ress, storyteller, actor, author, and educator, has told stories across the US and abroad in English and Spanish, in schools and international festivals, in prisons and parks, homeless shelters and the White House. One of her many programs, Compassion, Generosity, and Grace, was created after she witnessed the 9/11 attack in NYC and participated in the response that day and thereafter.
She teaches storytelling for NYU’s Program in Educational Theatre as well as the Multilingual/Multicultural Studies Program and she produces a long-running storytelling series for NYU at the historic Provincetown Playhouse.
Her CD “New York and Me” won a 2014 Storytelling World Honor. She previously received the NSN ORACLE for Service and Leadership – Mid Atlantic Region in 2003.
Ress received her Oracle award at the National Storytelling Awards Ceremony on Saturday, August 1, 2015 at the National Storytelling Conference in Kansas City. For more information, visit Regina Ress’ website.
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
By Aliza Moran, EDTC Student
A devised show sets sail without quite knowing where it will land. For this reason it feels quite risky but it can produce surprises and respond to possibilities unrestricted by fixed narrative.
(Collective Statement of IOU Theatre)
Absurd, naturalistic, funny, touching, and lyrical are words that best describe The High Line group devised site specific project, which was created during the Educational Theatre Devised Theatre class in the Summer of 2014. I was challenged by the process of devising a piece of theatre that was fashioned by numerous writers, the explorations through movement, and the observations of the space. Throughout the start of the process I would ask myself questions such as: How would a group of ten people create a work from scratch in three weeks? What would our piece be about? How could a performance travel through The High Line? The answers to those questions would come along through a creative process that had me wondering at every turn.
Upon the first day of class, I was unsure of what our group project would entail. I originally thought that we would pair with other classmates and create a piece that would be performed in the classroom setting. When I realized that it was the entire class creating a piece of site specific theatre, my thoughts were filled with questions and worries. How are all of these people going to be able to agree on anything?
I was nervous and excited when the suggestion of performing on The High Line was proposed. I had never been apart of a site specific theatre piece. I did not know what to expect from the process or how the piece would be created. It was not until the assigned readings of theory and technique did I understand the methodology for Devised Theatre, which is all about experimentation with ideas, images, and concepts. The process is creatively chaotic but will lead to editing, revision, and re-shaping.
The writings that the group created brought about some unique challenges and insight about The High Line. The writings varied in style. For example, there were several works about children and parents interacting in the space, there was a young woman stalking a past lover, and a daughter relaying her dissatisfaction of traveling with her mother by the use of hash tags. Because of the different tones and subjects within the group writings, the question of cohesiveness came into play within the process. What would our work be about? Should we incorporate some fictional historical narratives or should we remain in the present day experiences of The High Line? Should we fuse the two and meld the past and the present to create one cohesive unit?
Another challenge in the process creating the piece was The High Line itself. We needed to effectively perform on a 1.45 mile elevated railway park that is surrounded by construction noise fitting our written pieces and new historical narratives fit into the space. We asked: What do we want our audience to gain from the work we created? How would we perform around so many patrons to The High Line – a multitude of tourists, business people and casual onlookers?
The role of director became important to the eventual flow of the piece. Dr. Smithner created a proposed outline of the pieces and suggested rewrites that created a more cohesive project. The inclusion of a few members of the group to brainstorm and edit the structure continued, but the only way to really understand where the different scenes and monologues would work was to physically return to The High Line. Returning to The High Line allowed the group to make adjustments and trouble shoot instances when certain locations would not be available due to noise or patrons lounging within the performance space.
The day of performance was an exciting time because we had no real concrete idea about how the performance would be received. The actual performance on The High Line was subject to several challenges — construction noise, unexpected patrons being in performances spaces, and an interruption by the park police all created sense of adventure among the group. I think that the use of music, movement, and text gave our audience members a varied and playful experience. We came together as an ensemble and worked together to problem solve and create a piece of devised theatre that was unique to that day and the collaborative. What I learned most through the group collaboration was that you must expect the unexpected and move forward. There will be times where the work will not make much sense, but if you stay true to your purpose and goal it will end in an adventure that you did not expect.
For our 2015 annual forum, the Program in Educational Theatre is highlighting site-specific performance. Through interdisciplinary panels, performances, and workshops, the forum invites established art makers, emerging artists, and university students to critically engage with spaces on the NYU campus and the greater Washington Square area.
Site-specific explorations have long been embraced by applied theatre practitioners as they collaborate with participants to link performance and community literally on common ground; through participation in such multi-disciplinary encounters, students, community members, and artists may unlock new understanding of the stories imprinted in their surroundings. Moreover, through such collective re-imagining of space, site-specific work moves beyond traditional notions of art and audience, developing nuanced relationships between spectators and space, blurring lines between performers and patrons.
As site-specific performances continue to gain popularity in broader circles and across disciplines, how might we as artists and educators further utilize, build upon, and innovate form while re-examining space as opportunity? What are the implications for artists in community-engaged, educational, and non-traditional performative settings?
- NYU Student Registration: $20
- Other Students Registration: $40
- General Admission: $75
- Daily Registration: $30
- Note: Sunday’s events are free for all STUDENTS
How does space inform, change, and/or dictate conventions of a given performance?
To what extent does space determine audience?
How do we determine which spaces merit performative inquiry?
To what extent does technology inform site-specific performance work?
What can we offer the space as artists, and what can the space offer in return?
What are the educative implications of engaging in and/or developing site-specific artistic encounters?
How are these techniques already present and/or available in classrooms, theatres, and individual practices?
What opportunities exist for audience generation/development?
What connections can be made between artistic skills in traditional performance settings?