Keys to Post-graduation Success

By Jennifer Socas, PhD

I was apprehensive when I was first asked to write about how I was able to obtain my current job, however Dr. Taylor felt this would be helpful to students and give them hope in this grueling job market. If my story is helpful and gives people hope, I am overjoyed.  I feel truly fortunate to have recently secured a full-time position in the Theatre and Speech Department at City College (CUNY) and realize I am one of the lucky ones. Each year, doctoral graduates across the nation embark on their journey to find a job within academia. Many of my talented colleagues are still searching, a few have chosen non-academic jobs, and some have also been very lucky to receive fantastic full-time positions within the academy.

Over the years, I have always focused on cultivating the skills and knowledge I needed to create my own niche. During my job search, I thought about what made me unique and valuable and how my particular expertise would fit into a department. I already knew I wanted to focus on international applied theatre work, and I concentrated my practical work and research on that area. I published on applied theatre work, presented at conferences, and built an international applied theatre organization from the ground up, securing an impressive core team and working with them to expand our programming to East Africa and India. I also knew I wanted to be in a theatre department at a university, so I sought out opportunities to teach theatre, teaching theatre history and acting courses, as well as directing for Pace University. While honing my curriculum vitae and interviewing for positions, I highlighted the depth and breadth of my teaching experience with students from a variety of backgrounds, both nationally and internationally.

Another key to my success was taking advantage of all of the opportunities offered at NYU and using them to enhance my skills in theatre, advising, and administrative work. While at NYU, I took advantage of many of the study abroad options, including studying with legendary theatre practitioner, Augusto Boal in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. I also studied mask and physical theatre in Puerto Rico and Applied Theatre in Dublin, Ireland. I assistant taught numerous courses with our distinguished faculty – Advanced Directing and New Student Seminar with Dr. Nan Smithner, and Dissertation Proposal Seminar with Dr. Philip Taylor. When Dr. Pedro Noguera in Teaching and Learning asked if I would be willing to teach Inquiries III with him, I eagerly agreed.  I made sure that I took copious notes and reflected on each experience so it would enhance my practice and inform my work as an educator and theatre artist. When writing from my classes seemed like it could be published, I sought opportunities to have that work published. Finally, I volunteered for as much administrative work as I could make time for – assisting on programs and prospective student advisement as a Graduate Assistant in the Program in Educational Theatre, mentoring and observing students in Theatre Education at Manhattanville College, and working as the Coordinator for Doctoral Studies in Music and Performing Arts.

Mentorship is an extremely important part of the doctoral process. I feel very lucky to have had great mentors during my time at NYU. As my mentor and Chair of my dissertation, Dr. Philip Taylor was a constant source of support and encouragement. He often found opportunities for me to enhance my understanding of applied theatre, such as suggesting I join the program in Brazil with Augusto Boal. He always gave meticulous feedback on my work and research as a scholar in applied theatre, and even serves on the board of my organization, Global Empowerment Theatre. He encouraged my publication efforts, and he is including a chapter from my dissertation in his upcoming book. Dr. Taylor always believed in my success and that I would find the perfect job for my skills and passions. His unwavering belief in me made the process less daunting and gave me the confidence I needed when I went in for my interviews. I was lucky to have wonderful faculty members supporting my work throughout NYU. Dr. Nan Smithner’s expertise in physical theatre and directing, her deep knowledge of feminist theory, and her detailed feedback on my work helped shape my teaching practice and my dissertation. Dr. Pedro Noguera’s insights into public education and education in East Africa were invaluable, as were his recommendations for next steps in publishing and support of my teaching practice both at NYU and elsewhere.

I know I have been very lucky to receive so many wonderful opportunities, but I also was persistent in seeking out those people and experiences that would enrich my practice and studies. Once again, I hope in some small way this may help one of you to better navigate your way through this fantastic, challenging, and exciting journey to a career you love!

Post-Show Discussions: Structure and Strategies

By Teresa A. Fisher, PhD

This post originally appeared on the TYA/USA Blog on September 13, 2013

Lately, I’ve been questioning my assumption that post-show discussions (PSD) are vital to new play development. So I recently surveyed and interviewed theatre professionals about them. The results revealed a wealth of information about structure and facilitation in the use and understanding of PSDs.

When I am facilitating a PSD, I use the curtain speech to invite the audience to stay for it. I assure them we will not ask them to be critics, but merely offer their reactions. After the reading, I repeat my invitation while handing out feedback forms. After 2-4 minutes (any longer and they leave), I invite folks down to the front of the house. I review the ground rules. I tell them I have questions I can ask, but I want to make sure their voices are heard, as I utilize an open structure. I inform them the playwright has the right not to answer a question and I may even stop him from answering a question. I then ask a question of the playwright (sometimes one to the director and/or actors, if appropriate) to help the audience understand the development process as well as to role model question asking. Then, I open to audience questions. When needed, I jump in to clarify or reframe a question. When our time is up or I sense the playwright or audience is tired, I stop the discussion, even if there are hands still up. I inform folks they can ask me more questions before they leave or email them to me.

In creating the structure of any PSD, once the foundational structure is determined, the facilitator has to weigh a number of factors before modifying that structure. This includes knowing the playwright, facilitator, audience demographics, and the script itself. For example, is the playwright a novice who has no experience in receiving audience feedback or a veteran who is seasoned in doing so?

In determining structure, perhaps the biggest challenge is rethinking the ubiquitous discussion format. In TYA, we are often dealing with a wide audience variety including theatre professionals, families, and youth. Thus a discussion-focused structure may not allow all those voices to be heard. As one survey respondent noted, “Adolescents are generally reluctant to start to give feedback–they look for direction before diving in.  Very young audiences and the college-age-and-up crowd generally jump right into it.” Theatre professionals, especially artistic directors and producers, may focus too much on what they would do with the play, turning the reading and discussion into an audition.

How can we modify the traditional discussion format? The following are a sampling of strategies being used.

  • Pair and Share: Educator and director Robert Colby has audience members respond to questions about the theme or content of the play with a partner before sharing with the larger group. This strategy lets a playwright hear the audiences’ reactions as well as gives less-outspoken audience members a chance to be heard.
  • Role Play/Hotseating: Colby also employs this strategy to facilitate interaction between the audience and the actors in role as their characters from the play.
  • Use observations of the audience: For example, “I noticed when (character) left abruptly in the second scene, almost everyone leaned forward. What were you reacting to in that moment?” This models the type of response sought and helps remind audience members of their visceral reactions to the reading.
  • Plant a question during the curtain speech: embedding a question into the audience’s minds that relates to the theme or another aspect of the play helps focus their attention during the reading.
  • Embed the discussion within the play: For example, if a playwright is uncertain if the story is progressing the way she thinks it should, having the characters speak directly to the audience and solicit where they think the story will or should go next, can help the playwright see if the story is working as envisioned.

In addition to altering the structure, there are alternatives to the PSD entirely. Those include informal gatherings, online or social media feedback, casual conversations, focus groups, and connecting the playwright to a classroom of target youth who see a rehearsal and/or reading and offer their observations in their classroom or separate from other audience members.

This was just a sampling of the information gathered during my research. But one question that comes even from this brief sharing is “Should we throw out post-show discussions?” In some cases, that might be appropriate. But I believe that would be akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. With a concerted effort to shore up and expand how we structure these discussions, with more training of facilitators, and clarity on the purpose of these discussions, I believe they can be successful in helping playwrights or, alternatively, be used to successfully cultivate stronger audiences.

David Montgomery and playwright Ramon Esquivel listening to an audience member’s question during the talkback for “Nasty”

Teresa A. Fisher, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Bronx Community College.  Teresa’s research interests include post-show discussions, citizenship, English language learning, body image, and theatre for health. In addition to teaching and research, she produces New Plays for Young Audiences and Looking for Shakespeare at New York University and is an Artistic Associate with the New Visions/New Voices Play Festival at the Kennedy Center. Contact her at teresa.fisher@bcc.cuny.edu

Teresa A. Fisher, TYA/USA member and Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Bronx Community College, CUNY, has released a new book: Post-Show Discussions in New Play Development (Palgrave Pivot, January 2014).

Study Abroad Puerto Rico – The Ultimate Share

By Marco Santarelli

According to Deborah Hunt, “mankind is a mistake on this earth, but it is only what we create that redeems us.” This was truly inspiring for all of the students who have worked so hard over the course of this trip to enhance their skills in creating something so incredible. Today, the two groups, masks and physical theatre, departed to begin their final rehearsals before the evening performances. Beginning at 10:00am, the physical theatre group took their usual walk to the studio.  We continued to refine and strengthened our pieces in preparation for this final “share.” The amount of sweat and tears acquired before lunch could fill our hotel’s unusable swimming pool.  It was absolutely amazing to watch this group of talented performers continue to strengthen their craft and perfect such a beautiful work of art. Our only mission was to prove ourselves in this art form, which few of us have experienced before this Puerto Rican adventure. It was an honor to share the field of battle with this group.

It was finally time for the masks and physical theatre groups to share their work and reflect on this amazing experience.

As we left the studio to watch the performance that was to be taking place in the courtyard of the Bellas Artes building, we were met by a masked figure with a bell waiting to guide us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once seeing the group of masked figured scattered around the square, I instantly recognized the performers’ dedication and intensity they brought to the piece. We knew we were in for a great show, though strangers enjoying an afternoon coffee had no idea what they were about to experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was clear wearing layer upon layers of black fabric and a mask in 90-degree heat was no easy task, but each performer took on the challenge with ease and created a fantastic show for everyone, including random spectators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was then time to return to the studio for the physical theatre group’s final performance. The two weeks we spent creating, devising, collaborating, altering, and adapting all of these pieces finally proved itself to be a terrific gift for all of us on the stage. Like the mask group, we all created something that was uniquely ours, and we were extremely grateful to share it with such fantastic artists. Throughout this performance, each actor highlighted his or her original work and built an ensemble piece with tremendous support and assistance from our director and warrior in training Javier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both performances were tremendously successful, and it was finally time to leave the stage and take in our final moments as performers in Puerto Rico.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But that’s not to say we didn’t celebrate afterwards. The program put together a fantastic party in the studio with terrific food and dessert. Being surrounded by music, dancing, and great friends, it was the perfect way to end an incredible day performing an art form that we have all enjoyed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To view additional images from Marco’s blog post, visit:

http://nyuedtheatre.tumblr.com/post/73864255504/the-ultimate-share-january-18th-marco

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For additional information about the our study abroad programs, visit:

http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/music/edtheatre/programs/summer/abroad

http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/study_abroad/programs/Theatre_Practices

 

Towards the Fear: The creation of an interview theatre piece

By Arielle Sosland

Towards the Fear, directed and created by Professor Joe Salvatore is an interview theatre piece that focuses on topics of bullying, social combat and aggression.

The company consists of eight actors/researchers, four Drama Therapy students and four Educational Theatre students.

The Cast in Rehearsal

As a student studying Educational Theatre, working with the Drama Therapy students has allowed me to consider theatre through a therapeutic lens. Although not trained in Drama Therapy practices, through working with these four actors/researchers, I am engaging in discussions on how this work may emotionally affect our audiences.

Before rehearsals began, we were required to complete the UCAIHS (University Committee on Activities Involving Human Subjects) Certification Exam that allows us to conduct research involving human subjects.  In our initial rehearsals, Joe trained us in the proper interview protocol and informed us of the six open-ended prompts and questions that we used with each of our interview participants.

As the interviews were happening outside of rehearsal, in rehearsal we were devising movement pieces based off of source material and conversations surrounding the topics of bullying, social combat, and aggression. We worked to create three movement pieces to be showcased at the beginning, middle and end of the performance and essentially break up the interviews. Our initial movement piece was created based on the research of Robert Faris and Diane Felmlee on Social Networks and Aggression at the Wheatley School.  Both of these sociologists make appearances in the interview sections as well.

Once we finished the interviews, each actor/researcher transcribed up to three of the most compelling 2-3 minute sections of each interview. We then took three or four rehearsals to assemble the script.  First, we narrowed our participants down to twenty “characters” for the performance, and then a second pass reduced that number to sixteen.  Then we grouped the interview sections into categories to determine which sections worked nicely with others.

Eventually, we had about 70 pages laid out on the floor of the Drama Therapy Room in the Pless Annex and with great excitement we were able to say, “we have our script!”

To be part of physically fitting the pieces of the script together allowed all the actors to feel a great sense of accomplishment when we were able to step back and look at the transcriptions laid out in order on the ground.

Through this project we hope to motivate audience members to reflect on their own experiences of bullying, social combat, and aggression, and act on ways to change these environments. Towards the Fear, the title of our production reminds audience members the challenge of changing aggressive environments and yet the adults we interviewed all stand as examples that we are able to persevere and to empower others. I look forward to seeing and hearing audience reactions about the piece and stirring up critical conversations about this important topic.

For the full research article by Faris and Felmlee click here: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/images/10/10/findings.from.the.wheatley.school.pdf

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Towards the Fear: An exploration of bullying, social combat, and aggression
Created and Directed by Joe Salvatore and members of the company
Program in Drama Therapy

LOCATION: Provincetown Playhouse
ADMISSION: $15 General, $5 Students & Seniors
For tickets, contact NYU Ticket Central
ONLINE: nyu.edu/ticketcentral/calendar
BY PHONE: 212 352 3101
IN PERSON: 566 LaGuardia Place
(at Washington Square South)

Thursday, April 10 at 8pm
Friday, April 11 at 8pm
Saturday, April 12 at 8pm
Sunday, April 13 at 3pm

Summer 2014: Applied Theatre on the Square

The Program in Educational Theatre is offering a wide variety of applied theatre courses this summer from our beautiful Washington Square campus in NYC! Come explore playmaking, performance, and pedagogy with some of the top practitioners in the field, using New York City and Washington Square as your setting, text, and inspiration.

Courses include:

MPAET-GE 2077 Methods and Materials of Research in Educational Theatre

with Professor Joe Salvatore

This course will focus on how arts-based research can be used to create live performances and/or play scripts composed from qualitative research data collected through an interview process.  Specifically, verbatim interview theatre techniques will be introduced and situated within the larger genre of ethnotheatre, and it will become clear how ethnotheatre contributes to the arts-based qualitative research paradigm.

 

MPAET-GE 2978 Applied Theatre Praxis:Drama as Catalyst for Social Awareness (formerly Coping with Conflict)

with Dr. Philip Taylor

This course examines the social effects of applied theatre in community, vocational and educational settings. Informed by the work of Paulo Freire as well as other critical theorists and arts activists, like Augusto Boal and Bertolt Brecht, students will design and evaluate projects which have a social justice and human rights agenda.

 

MPAET-GE 2110 Devised Theatre: Theory  and Technique

with Dr. Nan Smithner

Through scholarly discussions, introduction of techniques, and resource sharing, students will explore a broad range of theories and methodologies of devised theatre. Students will also investigate companies and artists in New York City who devise their own work through field trips and lectures. Additionally, the class will work together to create a devised theatre piece incorporating environmental theatre and the resources of the city.

 

See you at the Square!

NYU Forum on the Teaching Artist: Navigation, Innovation, and Sustainability

For this year’s arts education forum, The Program in Educational Theatre at New York University is spotlighting the Teaching Artist. Allied professionals of all disciplines, newcomers to the field, administrators, and researchers are invited to exchange perspectives and collectively envision our shared future alongside leading arts organizations such as New Victory Theater and Lincoln Center Education.

This three-day event will highlight the work of local and international teaching artists through a variety of experiences: dynamic workshops and dialogues with artists representing Roundabout Theatre, AIE Roundtable, The Moth, Urban Arts Partnership, and more; panel discussions around navigation, innovation, and sustainability from cross-disciplinary arts leaders; performances both on campus and at premiere NYC arts venues; and networking opportunities.

Opening night of the forum will include the first ever Exemplary Teaching Artist Awards, celebrating four outstanding leaders in the field of teaching artistry. Nominated by their peers, these individuals are innovators in teaching practice, seasoned guides to teaching artists navigating the field, and experts in sustaining a teaching artist practice. This unique honor will be presented by Dr. Maxine Greene, world-renowned teaching artist pioneer and scholar.

The forum will also feature events such as a teaching artist job fair hosted by Community Word Project and a performance of Julius Caesar by Shakespeare-to-Go, NYU’s traveling Shakespeare troupe.  The forum will conclude with an excursion to the New Victory Theater for a pre-show workshop facilitated by New Victory teaching artists, a performance of Fluff: A Story of Lost Toys, and a post-show reception.

For more information and to register for the conference, please go to http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/music/edtheatre/2014_forum

Early registration (before March 28):                                                       Registration:

$15-NYU student                                                                                          $20-NYU students

$55-other students                                                                                       $65-other students

$85-general admission                                                                               $105-general

 

Twitter: @EdTheatreForum

At Look Back at Looking for Shakespeare 2013

By Robert Reid Goodson

As an educator, we are taught that we must reflect upon our work. Some scholars suggest that this process should be immediate, while others suggest we marinate on the work, then reflect. It wasn’t until recently with my prep work for Steel Magnolias that I began to reflect upon the 2013 Looking for Shakespeare Production of As You Like It. Yes, it’s been quite a few months since those June rehearsals and a lot has changed for all of us since then. But, for me, this reflection is necessary as I move forward in my own work as Managing Director for the Tift Theatre for the Performing Arts in Tifton, Georgia.

June 26, 2013, I along with seven other graduate students began the journey of Looking for Shakespeare accompanied by 23 students. Like sailors on a ship, our captain was the talented and revered Dr. Nan Smithner. As the days unfolded, actors cast, scheduled set, and rehearsals commenced, the words on the pages, yet again, began to dance into life. Our production was set between 1968 – 1972, in a very distinct moment in time when love and harmony were an unstoppable force.

Dr. Nan Smithner advises the cast of As You Like It

Each day, exercises helped to build the confidence level of the cast. Not each day was perfect, and during some rehearsals tension was high, but through the grad students leadership, that journey persevered. We were blessed with original music, created by our own Natalie Mack, to embellish the portrayed story. Music rehearsals, scene work, fight choreography, dance choreography, costume fittings, staging, and run-throughs consumed our days for four weeks. But in the end, we did it. Our group created and breathed life into a run of As You Like It.

Natlie Mack rehearses music with the cast

Throughout the process, friendships and rapport were established with the students. Hopes, goals and dreams were shared and memories were made in the Black Box. A very unique and diverse group of individuals came together for an unforgettable weekend run. Though it has been several months since this event happened, I rejoice in the fact that I was part of the magic of NYU.  Were there things that I would have changed? Sure. But, isn’t that the point of reflection; to look back, examine, marinate and take note of the experience to enhance our educator tool box? I can say that I am a better artist because of the people I worked with. The students, reconfirmed, that I will first and foremost be an educator in any job I perform. For, they are the true reason; I am in the theatre arts profession. To my colleagues, thank you for sharing your talents with the students and with me. I certainly have some new tools to add to my bag of tricks. To Nan, where would our program be without you? You made the experience unforgettable and are always leading by example a high standard for theatre educators.

As You Like It in performance

Many months have passed. But as I look back, I smile and treasure those short four weeks. We found Shakespeare and I have no doubt that this year’s summer production will find him too.  Like Rosalind said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players: they have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts”.  Which part will you play today as you reflect and continue upon your theatrical journey?

Looking for Shakespeare 2014

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Each summer since 1999, a group of 15-25 young people from the New York City community participate in Looking for Shakespeare. High school students work with a director and graduate students from NYU Steinhardt’s Program in Educational Theatre to shape an original production of Shakespeare. The program was expanded to include students from across the country in 2009.

This summer, the 2014 production will be Twelfth Night staged as a musical vaudeville. Interested young people can apply here and interested graduate students should register for MPAET:GE 2982 Directing Youth Theatre with Prof. Jonathan Jones

The School for Scandal – Opening This Weekend!

LOCATION: Provincetown Playhouse
ADMISSION: $15 General, $5 Students & Seniors
For tickets, contact NYU Ticket Central
ONLINE: nyu.edu/ticketcentral/calendar
BY PHONE: 212 352 3101
IN PERSON: 566 LaGuardia Place
(at Washington Square South)

Friday, February 28 at 8pm
Saturday, March 1 at 8pm
Sunday, March 2 at 3pm
Thursday, March 6 at 8pm
Friday, March 7 at 8pm
Saturday, March 8 at 8pm
Sunday, March 9 at 3pm

News from the NYSTEA Student Conference

By Gus Jacobson

Hello, Educational Theatre world! My name is Gus Jacobson. I graduated from the Undergraduate Program in Educational Theatre way, way back in 2012! Every year, for the past five years, I have had the pleasure of working at the New York State Theatre Education Association (NYSTEA) Student Conference as a teaching artist and Conference Committee Member. The Conference is an amazing whirlwind of a weekend attended by close to one thousand public high school students and their teachers. In the coming years, the conference is expected to continue to grow in size. We are already close to filling an entire resort hotel to capacity!

NYSTEA is a strong, statewide organization of theatre educators that promotes and supports theatre education for students in grades pre-K through 12. In addition to the Student Conference, NYSTEA oversees an Educator’s Conference (held at Niagara Falls, NY this autumn) as well as arts education advocacy all over New York State. The Student Conference, which just celebrated its 17th year, creates a wonderful opportunity for high school students from all over New York to come together for a full weekend of workshops given by colleges, universities and other theatre professionals, as well as networking with one another and experiencing a variety of performances throughout the conference. Students come from all over New York State to attend the conference –from Long Island to the Finger Lakes to the St. Lawrence River! In fact, I met fellow Undergraduate Program Alum Andy Germuga (’12) at the Student Conference in 2008 when we were both only seniors in high school. I was in school down in Westchester County, and he was from Rochester. Still, the NYSTEA Student Conference brought us together for the first time!

In previous years, NYU has sent its own delegation of theatre teachers to lead workshops for the high school students. This past January, I was thrilled to see two familiar faces, Rachel Tuggle Whorton and Ashley Lauren Hamilton. As I am sure they can attest, the energy of the conference is incessant, contagious, and remarkably “theatre kid.” Some students play their guitars in the hotel lobby, leading their new friends in song, while others might choose to brush up their monologues for our College Auditions or perhaps go snow tubing outside. Our friends from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS also attend every year to raise awareness, accept donations, and raffle off autographed posters, Playbills, and other unique memorabilia.

Speaking for the attending high school kids (for I was once one myself), this conference is a high school career highlight. In the over 100 workshop offerings, students receive expert instruction in technical theatre, acting, dance and voice. Each and every student schedule is hand crafted to reflect what the student’s interests are as well as workshops that might creatively challenge the student. In one weekend, every student will take five, 90-minute workshop, in addition to the social activities that high school students can choose from in between workshops.

Working at NYSTEA has become many things for me. There is the nostalgia of remembering the amazement that I felt as a high school student; the honor of working alongside so many teachers and practitioners who are as passionate about theatre education as I am; and the sheer joy of seeing how excited these students become. For those of us on the Conference Committee, the hours are long, the paperwork can be tedious, and the To-Do List can seem never-ending! But when all is said and done, it is because of this conference that I know of the power of theatre education, and I never hesitate to return for another year.

If you think you might be interested in working at the NYSTEA Conference on the Conference Committee, as a Teaching Artist, or perhaps as a College Representative or Vendor, we’d love to have you at the next conference. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments at acj253@nyu.edu! For more information about NYSTEA, please visit their website www.nystea.org

From the Editor

Greetings and welcome to the spring semester!

As Program Director, David Montgomery. noted in his semester in review post in December, we have many exciting projects which have occurred during the winter break and which will follow later this semester including our study abroad trip to Puerto Rico, Nan Smithner’s main stage production of The School for Scandal, among others. Be sure and check the blog every Tuesday throughout the semester for program news and announcements. And, as always, remember that Revue is all about the experience of the NYU Educational Theatre community – so if you would like to contribute, be sure and let me know.

Best,

Jonathan Jones

Revue Editor

jonathan.jones (at) nyu.edu

 

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