#TBT Nancy and Lowell Swortzell, 1966

By Jonathan Jones

Next year, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Program in Educational Theatre. So much has transpired during our history at NYU and we will have multiple opportunities to reflect on the historic contributions of the Program during the next 18 months. Starting the journey, I present this image of Program co-founders Nancy and Lowell Swortzell collaborating on a production of Gammer Gurton’s Needle by John Still in the very first year of the Program: 1966.

If you have photographs or memories from the Program that you would like to share with the Educational Theatre community on the blog, please email Jonathan Jones.

#TBT All-Education Revue of 1940

All-Education Revue of 1940

Before Lowell and Nancy Swortzell created the Program in Educational Theatre in 1966, The School of Education had a rich history of drama and theatre programming. Among that history was an annual musical revue titled Blackouts, first presented in 1938. In 1940, superstar entertainer Eddie Cantor served as the technical advisor. Here he is in rehearsals with the student cast:

Eddie Cantor and the cast of Blackouts.

Eddie Cantor and the cast of Blackouts.

The Transition of Doodle Pequeño

By Melanie Ridgway

One year ago, I noticed a similarity in my course syllabi for Intro to Theatre for Young Audiences I and Masters of Modern Drama: both courses were scheduled to read The Transition of Doodle Pequeño by Gabriel Jason Dean. If this play was considered worthy material for both a TYA course and a play about “masters,” I knew it had to be worth reading. I was right; it was love at first “bahfoogee.”

Doodle rehearsal

The Transition of Doodle Pequeño is a magic-filled, multiple award-winning play for all ages about two boys who become friends in spite of their differences. It’s Halloween and Doodle is the new kid in the neighborhood. Accompanied by his imaginary goat, Doodle befriends Reno, a boy who is unpopular with the neighborhood kids because he likes to wear dresses. A blend of English, Spanish and “Goat,” this comic play takes a heartwarming look at the consequences of misused language and interrogates the issue of gender-bullying.

After reading through this play the first (and second) time, I was amazed at the risks this play took, especially considering it was a play for young audiences. Gabriel Jason Dean approaches some very heavy topics, topics that even adults are afraid to talk about. Despite its heavy content, the story is still hilarious, playful and engaging. I needed to bring it to life.

Doodle rehearsal

Doodle has been performed in readings and workshops at universities like Northwestern and The University of Texas, but I was surprised that it had not been performed yet in New York. Thanks to the support of Lamplighters (NYU’s Theatre for Young Audience Club) and the leadership of director (and my dear friend) Kathleen Turner, The Transition of Doodle Pequeño is finally getting its New York debut! As opening morning approaches, I could not be more proud of the hard work put in by the cast and production team. It’s been a beautiful journey and when those lights come up next Saturday, one year’s worth of waiting will finally be over.

Doodle promo image

The Transition of Doodle Pequeño will be performed on November 22nd at 10 am and 1 pm and November 23rd at 2 pm. The performances will take place at 238 Thompson Street (GCASL), Room C-95. Reserve your seat at the Doodle Eventbrite Site.

Suddenly Seymour, and Audrey Too

Little shop image of Audrey and Seymour

(All photos by Chianan Yen)

It seems like only yesterday that I was being eaten, daily, by a carnivorous plant. While our Little Shop may have closed, the doors to reflective practices are ever wider. Thinking back, I am realizing that so much of what I have learned and experienced through my classes and extra-curricular work in this department have shaped me into the performer (/artist/educator/person) who appeared on that folding set.

Some takeaways which come to mind are:

  • the use of urgency during performance from Judyie Al-Bilali/Uta Hagen’s missing object exercise in the Acting: Fundamentals class
  • using improv within structure from David Montgomery’s Forum Theatre unit in the Intro to Educational Theatre class
  • learning to be authentic performer from Jonathan Shmidt Chapman’s Theatre for Young Audiences class and subsequent friendship
  • using presentational and physical styles of acting from all the work I have done with Nan Smithner

While these are potent examples, they are only a few which have contributed to my current artistry and I can’t wait to see how my experiences in Little Shop and other aspects of my final year as a student in the Program in Educational Theatre add to that growing list.

Little shop image of Seymour

– Andrew Anzel (Seymour)

As a first semester graduate student, I figured there was no better way to learn about the Program in Educational Theatre than to throw myself into a departmental musical. I have never been a part of a university production where there was such a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and future plans. As an undergraduate Musical Theater major, the students in my department were all basically in the same place in our lives and had very similar career goals. Little Shop of Horrors provided a fascinating theatrical environment when both graduate and undergraduate students could work together building a show. The points of views, past production experiences and energy levels made the rehearsals and performances an incredibly colorful and rich environment and I thank whoever’s idea it was to let both the younger and older kids play together and put on a show.

Little shop image of Audrey and the urchins

– Bethany Moore (Audrey)

Instant Gratification 2014 – 24 Hour Play Festival

All Photos by Jonathan Jones

Little Shop of Horrors Opens This Week!

Little Shop Poster

Little Shop of Horrors
Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Based on the film by Roger Corman, Screenplay by Charles Griffith
David Montgomery, Director
Program in Educational Theatre

LOCATION: Black Box Theatre
ADMISSION: $15 General, $5 Students & Seniors
For tickets, contact NYU Box Office
ONLINE: NYU Ticket Central
BY PHONE: 212-998-4941
IN PERSON: 566 LaGuardia Place (at Washington Square South)

Friday, October 24 at 8pm
Saturday, October 25 at 8pm
Sunday, October 26 at 3pm
Thursday, October 30 at 8pm
Friday, October 31 at 8pm
Saturday, November 1 at 8pm
Sunday, November 2 at 3pm

The entire cast and crew is made up of undergraduate and graduate students in the Program in Educational Theatre at Steinhardt. The cast includes Andrew Anzul as Seymour, Bethany Moore as Audrey, Zak Ferentz as Mushnick, Katie Braun as Audrey II, Andrew Coopman as the Dentist and Rachel Gubow, Chelsea Flores and Alexandra Richardson as the street urchins.

Other cast members include Josephine Cho, Liana Costable, Kordell Draper, Emma Vissicchio, Christopher Gooley and Alexis Lounsbury.

The production will include four puppets, the pods, to showcase the man-eating plant at various stages of its growth. Josephine Cho, Kordell Draper and Christopher Gooley will serve as puppeteers.

Steinhardt doctoral student Rachel Whorton is the show’s musical director with Dr. Amy Cordileone, a teacher from the Program in Educational Theatre, choreographing.

The crew includes Elizabeth Lozado, Shayna Blecherman, Seohee “July” Bok, Sophie Rosenthal (dance captain), Ashley Miskoff (dance captain), Mark Lussier (assistant stage manager), Orianna Miles (assistant stage manager), Jamie Lerner (assistant director) and Talia Krispel (production stage manager).

See also:

The Teacher’s Resource Guide

And visit Playbill.com for an announcement about the show.

Reflections on the Life of Maxine Greene and the Forum on the Teaching Artist: Navigation, Innovation, and Sustainability

By Andrew M. Gaines

Last spring’s annual Forum was a spectacular three-day event, drawing renowned presenters from across the globe, newcomers to the field, administrators, researchers, and allied professionals from multiple arts modalities and disciplines.

Our theme spotlighted the Teaching Artist, a term coined by Dr. Maxine Greene during her 36-year term as Philosopher-in-Residence at Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts.  On the opening night of the forum, Maxine fittingly presented our Exemplary Teaching Artist Awards to four outstanding practitioners, following a touching introduction by Dr. Philip Taylor who cited her as the inspiration for his acronym ART (action, reflection, transformation).

Maxine Greene

Sadly, our attendees had the privilege and honor of witnessing Maxine’s last public appearance that night.  On May 29, only one month following the Forum, Maxine took her last breath at the age of 96.  She had continued to teach until her final days as Professor Emeritus at Columbia University Teacher’s College.  In her plenary address, Maxine’s precious words captured the sublime ephemerality of life, art, and education:

These creative ways to teaching cannot be always predicted or controlled. They are emergent–like our engagement with the changing life, of the golden leaves I see outside the window, with the world. It is always becoming and can never be fully captured.

Our Forum proceeded in the spirit of her noble pursuit, enthusiastically exchanging perspectives and collectively envisioning our shared future. We sought to explore such guiding questions as:

• What is the impact of the Teaching Artist, locally and globally?

• How are Teaching Artists effectively recruiting, cultivating engagement, and fostering    accountability?

• How do Teaching Artists negotiate a commitment to both process and product?

In total, we featured 17 workshops and dialogues, 3 plenary panels, and introduced an alluring new format – PechaKuchawhere presenters had 6 minutes to narrate 20 slides automatically forwarding every 20 seconds.  Sunday morning began with and fabulous performance of Julius Caesar by Shakespeare-to-Go, NYU’s traveling Shakespeare troupe. Community Word Project sustained our momentum by hosting a teaching artist job fair that attracted hundreds of talent and dozens of agencies. Our Forum concluded at the New Victory Theater to enjoy a performance of Fluff: A Story of Lost Toys and a post-show reception, including a brief workshop facilitated by Barbara Ellmann and Ted Sod, two of our Exemplary Teaching Artists.

In sum, our Forum synergized our vibrant community and it’s memory will largely remain a testament to the life of Maxine Greene. Like Dr. Greene, our program bravely sought questions more than answers, and embraced many opportunities to sense more deeply, release the imagination, “internalize new modalities for expression” and bring ourselves into “startling relation to the world.”

Study Abroad London – Drama and Youth

By Isaiah Bent

NYU Steinhardt sent nineteen graduate students to London for three weeks; jam packed with new and exciting ways to approach theatre.  We experienced theatre for children with special needs, opera for children, process drama with the brilliant Cecily O’Neill, and of course, all the Shakespeare we could handle.

Isaiah with Cecily O'Neill

Isaiah with Cecily O’Neill

It was a once in a lifetime experience. Not only did we get to see around fifteen theatrical productions, but Dr. Philip Taylor put together an all-star group of British educators for us to work with during our stay.

A new wrinkle in this year’s London program was the amazing opportunity we had to devise a theatrical experience for second graders.  We guided sixty children through different “imagined worlds” we created using the new techniques we learned from our London professors.

When we were not knee deep in theatre (which was rare), we were enjoying the beauty of London.  Our lodgings could not have been better, given they were in Russell Square, smack dab in the middle of London.  Museums, world-class pubs, and extravagant gardens were all in walking distance.  My favorite local experience was when we dined on meat pies in the building where Sweeney Todd’s barbershop once stood.

Classroom workshop

Every student should make an effort to take advantage of this truly special program.  For more student stories, please check out our fabulous blog.

Study Abroad cohort.

Study Abroad options for 2015 include our Theatre Practices January program in Puerto Rico and our Community Engaged Theatre summer program in Ireland.