Vibrant, Profound Love: Looking for Shakespeare 2016

By: Dr. Nan Smithner

This summer the Program in Educational Theatre presented Looking for Shakespeare’s 2016 production of Romeo and Juliet. I was fortunate to be the director of an ensemble of 19 excellent young people, 13 dynamic NYU graduate students and a robust and stellar creative and production team of light, set, costume and designers, stage managers, fight choreographer, hip hop dance instructor, dramaturg and assistant director/producer.

We explored universal themes of love, conflict, family, identity and fate, which resonate as strongly in 2016 as they did in 1596. Our play was set in the 1990’s, a time of existential crisis that foreshadowed the 21st century and formed a bridge between new and old ways of thinking and living. It was a decade of jarring, sometimes incongruous events, including the ripening of the technological revolution and a new global awareness, and also foreshadowing explosions of national trauma and cultural conflict. As an ensemble, we lived through and discussed the turbulence of our present day times, as, in a few short weeks, the students delved into the complexities of Shakespeare’s language.

We framed our play in a hip hop world that explored discord, tension and opposition, and also embraced joy, hope, passion and knowledge.  It was truly an ensemble effort as astute graduate students worked in depth — coaching language, acting and physical expression, as did the incredible dramaturg and perceptive assistant director. Students made visual art that was on display in the lobby, and wrote original poetry and performed songs about love in the pre-show and intermission. It was indeed an honor for me to work with such an inspiring and vibrant group this summer, to produce a profound show full of humor, tragedy, and above all, expressing the overarching importance of love.

A group picture of the production team

A group picture of the stellar production team for Looking for Shakespeare 2016, left to right: Steve Hart, Fight Choreographer; Nan Smithner, Director; Anthony Montes, Assistant Stage Manager; Lily deButts, Production Stage Manager; Ashley Thaxton, Dramaturg; Robert Stevenson, Producer/Assistant Director

Edward Albee, 1928 – 2016

“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.

Edward Albee, photographed outside of the Provincetown Playhouse during the run of his play, "The Zoo Story," in 1960

Edward Albee, photographed outside of the Provincetown Playhouse during the run of his play, “The Zoo Story,” in 1960

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.

Instant Gratfication 2016: Luck of the Draw

Our annual 24-hour play festival, Instant Gratification, kicked off the 2016/2017 school year. Produced by Ashley Hamilton, adjunct faculty and doctoral candidate, the event employed the talents of four student playwrights, 4 student directors, and 11 student actors. Images from the productions follow (photos by Jonathan Jones):

Lilly Stannard and Marc Lussier appear in Izzy Batts' "McVille Majesty," directed by Evangeline Lu.

Lilly Stannard and Marc Lussier appear in Izzy Batts’ “McVille Majesty,” directed by Evangeline Lu.

Jordan Bialik and Hannah Dorph appear in Jonaya Kemper's "Carter," directed by Hayley Sherwood.

Jordan Bialik and Hannah Dorph appear in Jonaya Kemper’s “Carter,” directed by Hayley Sherwood.

Emma Burnham, Samantha Rosenblatt, Jessica Cressionnie, and Lizzie Boscolo appear in Alyssa Oltmanns' "Mercury Retrograde," directed by Amanda Fahey.

Emma Burnham, Samantha Rosenblatt, Jessica Cressionnie, and Lizzie Boscolo appear in Alyssa Oltmanns’ “Mercury Retrograde,” directed by Amanda Fahey.

Marissa Ontiveros, Maggie Bussand, and Jiawen Hu appear in Rai Arsa Artha's "Side Honey Honeymoon," directed by Melissa Gabilanes.

Marissa Ontiveros, Maggie Bussand, and Jiawen Hu appear in Rai Arsa Artha’s “Side Honey Honeymoon,” directed by Melissa Gabilanes.

Arts Education Down Under – NYU Astor Fellows 2016

by Jamie Cacciola-Price, EdD Student and Astor Program Assistant

Over 10 days during late July and early August, the Astor Fellows, under the program direction of Dr. Philip Taylor, explored “Arts Education Down Under” in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. The program offered Fellows, a select group of 12 NYC Dept. of Education arts teachers, the opportunity to explore cultural staples of the country, such as seeing Cosi fan Tutti at The Sydney Opera House, a visit to Taronga Park Zoo, a picnic at Hanging Rock, an “Aussie Rules Footy” game, and a play at Melbourne Theatre Company.

Fellows also shared rich learning experiences through secondary and primary school visits, and teacher training opportunities through The Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne University. A particular area of interest was Australian Aboriginal history, presented by NYU Sydney, which shared many similarities to Native American history. Teaching artists and organizations, such as Ausdance, offered an inside look into the cultural dances and practices of indigenous peoples. Another highlight was being able to witness innovative teaching practices, such as the Kathy Walker Play-Based Learning Method, being utilized in a primary school setting at Noble Park Primary School, which serves a large population (88%) of ESL and immigrant students.

Overall, the trip was an incredible enriching experience both from an artistic and educational lens. Please visit the NYU Arts Educator blog for a complete itinerary, educator resources, and a daily journal of the activities and learning experiences of the Astor Fellows while down under.

NYU Astor Fellows and Melbourne University drama education students explore "Drama Methods" with Dr. Jane Bird - August 2, 2016

NYU Astor Fellows and Melbourne University drama education students explore “Drama Methods” with Dr. Jane Bird – August 2, 2016

View a photo slide show on You Tube.

NYU Forum on Ethnodrama: The Aesthetics of Research and Playmaking / April 21-22, 2017

NYU Forum on Ethnodrama:

The Aesthetics of Research and Playmaking

April 21-22, 2017

Image from Towards the Fear, directed by Joe Salvatore

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.

Visit the NYU Forum Website.

** Image from Towards the Fear: An Exploration of Bullying, Social Combat, and Aggression, produced in spring 2014

Fall 2016 Main Stage: “The Miracle Worker”

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.

Poster from the film.

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.

Spring 2017 Main Stage: “Two Weeks with the Queen”

The Program is excited to announce that the spring show will be Two weeks with the Queen, a play about brotherly love in the face of a devastating disease. Auditions for this Theatre for Young Audiences classic will be in December. Based on an Australian novel by Morris Gleitzman and a stage adaptation by Mary Morris, Educational Theatre faculty member, Philip Taylor, is delighted to be directing this show in our landmark Provincetown Playhouse. All students are welcome to audition.

Two Weeks with the Queen advertisement.

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!

Forum on Educational Theatre Preview #10

Forum banner.

Preparations for the Forum on Educational Theatre April 21-24, 2016 are well underway. To register, visit the registration page.

As we gear up for the event, we will post descriptions of some of the presentations–one of which appears below:

Paper: Why Performance Literacy? Why Now? Launching a Secondary Level Performance Studies Curriculum

We live in a highly dramatized world and performative society. What are the intellectual, emotional and physical effects, both positive and negative, of living in such a performance-driven world? How is the field of education responding to the fact that we are immersed in multiple and complex dramas and performances on a daily basis? What might a secondary level curriculum in performance studies offer young people as a way to develop their performance literacy; to individually and collectively investigate and engage with performance as a personal, collective, cultural and sociopolitical event?

The performance studies curriculum developed over the past 2 years and presented in this paper consists of seven thematic units. Within each unit, students are invited to consider how performance functions as 1) a form of human and nonhuman play, 2) as a ritual act, such as a wedding or funeral or rite of passage, 3) as part of the healing process, 4) as a medium for education, 5) as a site for identity formation and representation, 6) as the enactment of power and, finally, 7) as a way to better understand the experiences of everyday life. These are key concepts in performance studies and are a significant part of the skill set I am interested in developing in young people as performance literacy.

Monica Prendergast teaches undergraduate courses in elementary/middle school drama education, a post-degree secondary level course on drama and diversity, and graduate courses in curriculum studies. She works with graduate students in curriculum studies, interdisciplinary studies, language and literacy and applied theatre. Prendergast has received numerous Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grants (2004-2012), worked on a major Ford Foundation grant investigating learning through arts integration (2008-2010), and her small theatre company received a Capital Regional District Arts Development Project Grant (2012). She sits on the Faculty of Education’s Centre for Outreach Education Steering Committee and the Department of Curriculum & Instruction’s Strategic Planning Committee. Prendergast is also a member of her department’s arts education, curriculum studies and language and literacy communities.