Uproar Theatre Corp Awarded President’s Service Award

In recognition for innovative artistic programming and collaborative leadership highlighting the voice and talents of Steinhardt students, Uproar Theatre Corp was awarded the President’s Service Award.

Uproar Theatre Corps is a student-run Steinhardt club sponsored by the Undergraduate Student Government. Founded and led by undergraduates in the Program in Educational Theatre, Uproar is devoted to  sponsoring free workshops, panels, and theatrical competitions which supplement (and complement) Steinhardt coursework. Uproar also creates opportunities for students to write, design, direct, and act, while building a community of student-practitioners. All NYU students (undergrad, masters, and doctoral) are welcome to participate in Uproar events.

New Plays for Young Audiences

In the summer of 2014, The New Plays for Young Audiences (NPYA) new play series at the Provincetown Playhouse developed three wonderful new plays: Pollywog by John McEneny, directed by Annie Montgomery; Pink Think by Eric Pfeffinger, directed by Nan Smithner; and Welcome to Terezin by Philip Glassboro, directed by Deirdre Lavrakas.
Two of the shows were reviewed by Theatre Online. You can check out the Pollywog review here:
http://www.theateronline.com/reviewShow.xzc?PK=47741&Action=Review 

And the Welcome to Terezin review can be found here:
The NPYA series looks forward to another exciting summer developing new plays in 2015. If you’re interested in acting in one of the play readings, stay tuned for a posting with audition dates in May.

Looking for Shakespeare

By Corinna Rezzelle

Looking for Shakespeare (LFS) has been one of the most self-reflective experiences of my graduate studies thus far. Now, it is work. It is a lot of work. It’s early-mornings-with-no-coffee-and–so-much-to-do kind of work, but it is such a great experience that I would recommend every grad student in the Educational Theatre program to tackle.

This summer we did Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. How fun, right? Shipwrecks, mistaken identities, over the top-ness in general. It was glorious fun! On top of the already wacky script, we added another layer: we set everything in the early 20th century fit with a Vaudevillian flair and several classic songs. Yes. We embarked on “Twelfth Night: The Vaudevillian Musical” in only 4-weeks. How we did it? I don’t know. Looking back, I am in awe of all that we accomplished in such a short period of time.  Our group (grad students and high-schoolers a like) were such a dedicated and hardworking group, we probably could have accomplished anything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It just hit me that some of you all might not have an idea of how LFS works. So I thought I’d tell you a little bit about the process. Within the class, you get firsthand experience guiding high school students through the wonders of acting in a Shakespearian play. Like I mentioned earlier, all of this happens in a month. Within that month, you are assigned to a particular group of students, of whom you work with primarily the entire time that you are in LFS. While you work with the teens, you are able to do your own bit of directing all while learning from your fellow grad students and the key instructor. We also even had the opportunity to teach our own workshops for the students. Stage Combat, Improvisation, Musical Theatre, and Auditions were just some of the topics that we covered in our grad student led workshops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the session that I took, Jonathan Jones was our key professor. He was truly a great life raft, mentor, and such a wonderful professor throughout the process. He gave us grad students the support that we needed to feel confident enough to let our voices be heard when we had blocking ideas or suggestions for the students; however, he also gave us the right balance of guidance to help lead us to find new ideas and discover other methods of teaching.

Though there were many “ah ha!” moments for me during LFS, what meant the most was getting to work with other theatre educators. The summers are such a fun time at NYU because it is filled with students in the summer-only program (of which I am enrolled in). The summer-only students are a great mix of New York residents and other theatre teachers that come from all over the country. I hail from Georgia; there were several Floridians, a Michigander, and even someone from Canada! It’s so rewarding to meet other theatre teachers that “think like me”!  Getting to learn different techniques, new games, and build a brand new support system of teachers that I can call friends made this summer such a great experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, now that the summer is over and the school year has once yet begun, still I find myself going back to the huge stack of notes that I took during the LFS process and trying new techniques that I learned in my own classroom. I would not give up the LFS experience for anything in the world and would love to embark on it again!

Honorary Professorship for Dr. Taylor

Philip Taylor, director of doctoral studies in the Steinhardt Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions was recently made an honorary professor at Nanjing Normal University. Dr Taylor’s award was made after his keynote and masterclass presentations at the “Drama, Dream and Children” conference at NNU. This impressive honor builds on the program’s numerous other global links. “Take advantage of Ed Theatre’s international outreach and consider study abroad,” said Taylor, “it is life changing and career building.”

 

Life After NYU: Lucky Disaster

Last year, the blog featured a number of posts from alumni writing about their experiences after graduating from the Program in Educational Theatre. The series continues this year with a post from Megan Minutillo:

Megan Minutillo is an alumni of the Educational Theater program – (ETED M.A. 2009). In October, she will be producing and directing the fourth volume of Lucky Disaster, a concert series that she created.

Lucky Disaster Volume 4 features the music and lyrics of Ryan Scott Oliver, with original monologues inspired by the selected songs written by Anna Ty Bergman, Megan Minutillo, and The Write Teacher(s).

The concert features a cast of recent graduates and current musical theater/acting students – Kerri George, Kasie Gasparini, Melissa Rose Hirsch, Blake Joseph, Angelo McDonough, T.J. Newton, Olivia Polci, Taylor Sorice, and Stephanie Turci, with special guests Gabe Violett and Jessica Vosk!

The Lucky Disaster Concert Series is conceived, produced, and directed by Megan Minutillo, and Lucky Disaster Volume 4 will feature musical direction by Nat Zegree.

Stephanie Turci and Jacob Samuels singing \”Collide\” by Drew Overcash

Additional information about the concert can be obtained by visiting: http://tickets.thecuttingroomnyc.com/event/675061-lucky-disaster-volume-4-new-york/.

The School for Scandal

By Jason Boxer

It is a chilly February evening. The condensed rehearsal process for The School for Scandal is in full swing, and I am unshaven, tired, and behind on homework. With only a month to get this show up, I need to be managing my time wisely. I ought to hop on my bike and head home as rehearsal ends; there’s work to do.

But as I exit the historic Provincetown Playhouse, I decide to linger and talk with friends. Unknowingly, I have just set myself up to bear witness to the most memorable event that two years of collegiate life have thus far provided.

Our director – a Clinical Associate Professor of Educational Theatre – an educational veteran with a PhD, decades of experience, and numerous awards in her field – a woman who I had met only weeks before – approaches us.

“Did you know I can burp on command?” she asks.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Dr. Nancy Smithner burped a mighty burp, and I had found a new role model. I will never forget my time in Scandal, nor the dozens of friendships that were forged in moments like the one described above. Thanks for the burp, Nan. It was very impressive.

New Plays: The Visceral Spirit of Theatre

By Jason Boxer

Perhaps appropriately, I am in many ways an academic lover of theatre. The nuanced design of each Spolin game is an incredible feat to me – the meticulousness with which Aristotle explains story structure is as entertaining to me as any of the plays he influenced – and at the risk of brownnosing, I’ll admit that the history and overarching philosophy delineated in Theater for Change is a great read. (Incoming freshmen, bug David Montgomery to let you read more of that in Intro to Ed Theatre; it’s awesome and it’s a hell of a lot more exciting than Everyman).

Despite all this, I am happy to report that I was pushed out of this theoretical, theatre-nerd comfort zone when I was cast in John P. McEneny’s play Pollywog this past summer. Pollywog was the first of three plays produced for Ed Theatre’s annual New Plays for Young Audience series, and in it I was tasked with bringing to life a 14-ish year old kid named Francis. Punky, misunderstood, and confused, Francis is a supporting character whose biggest contribution to the play is his in-flux sexuality. There are rumors all over school that he is gay.

He eventually comes face to face with the primary spreader of this gossip – Tammy, McEneny’s main character – and the confrontation is a harsh, inelegant one. To put it as the character probably would, the scene hinges upon Francis being really pissed off.

He’s so mad he can’t get his words out. He can’t think. His dialogue – which could ideally be a delicate explanation of profound frustration – comes out bluntly and sloppily. McEneny placed him in the throes of a rabid, involuntary, and quintessentially teenage outburst.

The scene called for a wholly unacademic performer giving a wholly unacademic performance. The words of Spolin, Aristotle, and even our fearless leader David Montgomery weren’t going to help me this time.

I didn’t get it right until our second and final performance. I clenched my fists and felt them moisten with sweat. I spit my lines out antagonistically, genuinely hoping they would hurt Tammy. I began to feel dizzy and nearly out of control. For the first time in my life, I think I was really getting a taste of the living, visceral spirit of theatre, and I loved it. The audience did too.

My identity as a theatre practitioner was challenged by this experience. What kind of phony actor only gets excited about theory – I thought – and worse, what kind of phony teacher only gets excited about the on-paper potential of his field of study? I hope to be neither of those phonies, and New Plays for Young Audiences helped me realize that.

I’ll conclude by confessing that I’m uncertain of one thing and certain of another. The uncertain thing is if the words of Marceau and Lecoq will prove my next big theoretical inspiration. The certain thing is that Everyman is the most boring play ever, and I wish the incoming freshmen good luck in trudging through it.

Educational Theatre students perform in Think Pink, New Plays for Young Audiences 2014; Photo courtesy of Chianan Yen

From the Program Director

By: David Montgomery, PhD

As we prepare to embark on a new school year, I would like to extend a heartfelt welcome to new and returning students to the Program in Educational Theatre at NYU. For many students, the beginning of the school year is a time filled with excitement and anticipation as they prepare to reacquaint themselves with friends, develop new friendships, and enter the next phase of their educational journey.

Summer 2014 for the Program was one of our busiest yet—with courses, projects, international presentations, and performances. Students attending our London study abroad program, Drama and Youth led by Dr. Philip Taylor, took part in a variety of transformative experiences, including TYA programming at Rose Bruford College, site visits to Oily Cart, stimulating Drama in Education workshops and loads of theatre visits!

Our two annual projects on campus, New Plays for Young Audiences (NPYA) and Looking for Shakespeare, received critical acclaim. For its 17thseason, NPYA presented three new works at the historic Provincetown Playhouse: Pollywog written by John McEneny and directed by Annie Montgomery, Pink Think written by Eric Pfeffinger and directed by Nancy Smithner, and Welcome to Terezin written by Philip Glassborow and directed by Deirdre Lavrakas from the Kennedy Center. The culminating staged readings of each play showcased strong performances from our undergraduate and graduate student actors who worked with the playwrights, directors and dramaturg Cecily O’Neill to help develop the plays. NPYA also collaborated with NYC middle school students as they as they participated in drama workshops connected to the plays, created their own original TYA plays, and provided valuable feedback to the playwrights about their work.

The other major summer project at Washington Square was our young people’s ensemble, Looking for Shakespeare, which presented Twelfth Night. This show was wonderfully mounted and directed by Dr. Jonathan Jones, and produced by alum Robert Stevenson. Adding to this was our ‘Applied Theatre on the Square’ suite of courses, which included a course in Devised Theatre taught by Dr. Nancy Smither, Applied Theatre Praxis taught by Dr. Philip Taylor, and Methods and Materials of Research in Educational Theatre taught by Joe Savlatore. Dr. Amy Cordileone and I also taught courses in directing and drama across the curriculum.

Summer 2014 virtually came and went, but we are exciting for what lies ahead. The Program will continue to offer splendid courses in the three areas of concentrated study: drama education, applied theatre, and play production for artists and educators. Last year, we saw student-teaching transpire throughout NYC schools, teams of Educational Theatre students create applied theatre on a range of social justice issues; an acting troupe travel to schools with adaptations of Shakespeare; various theatre of the oppressed events showcased; directors’ scenes that were presented weekly; and the planning and hosting of an international conference on Teaching Artistry. All of this activity will carry on and grow as we move into 2014 /2015.

For a number of Educational Theatre students, they will be mentored in New York City schools, fulfilling their requirements for teaching certification. This field based work is central to developing professionals, as students plan, implement and evaluate their teaching in partnership with cooperating mentors. Likewise, our wide ranging applied theatre work in community sites, like our prison theatre initiative, will continue with the goal, as stated by Philip Taylor in his book[i], of ‘raising awareness about how we are situated in the world and what we as individuals and as communities might do to make the world a better place.’

Looking toward our exciting production calendar, I will be directing Little Shop of Horrors this fall, which will include a most fitting performance on Halloween. With Rachel Whorton as musical director, it promises to be a whole lot of fun. We invite you to audition for the musical that will be mounted in the Black Box Theatre.  Our Shakespeare to Go (STG) troupe will also be inviting you to audition, as adjunct instructor and alum Daryl Embry will direct a Shakespeare play (TBD) that will travel to various schools in New York City, providing a wonderful theatrical experience for young people.

Our annual storytelling events, produced and curated by Regina Ress, will feature renowned artists from around the globe telling their tales, and our Theatrix! project will keep on profiling new work by students, providing them with opportunities to develop their artistry. Last year was highly memorable as Theatrix brought new musicals to life, and this year promises to be equally stimulating. Theatrix provides a wonderful opportunity for collaboration and looking back, I have seen time and time again the ways in which the relationships developed through Theatrix! have turned into professional artistic relationships after graduation (see Student and Alumni Update on ‘Play/Date’ in this newsletter as an example). Also, our Writers’ Roundtable will maintain their exploration of the roles of structure and accountability in the creative processes of playwrights at various stages of their careers. Finally, superb artistic happenings will take place through the Uproar Theatre Corp and Lamplighters, two active Steinhardt clubs that were formed by Educational Theatre students. All this exciting activity reveals that there are many opportunities for students to get involved in projects outside of their course work.

A program as rich as ours is dependent on great teaching and teamwork.  I am grateful to my colleagues—Philip Taylor, Nan Smithner, Joe Salvatore, Amy Cordileone and Jonathan Jones—as well the exceptional adjunct faculty and our office administrator Rochelle Brown, for all their hard work, dedication and care.

Student and Alumni Updates

Current and Former Faculty and Students Sharon Counts (EDTA ’06), John Del Vecchio (EDTA ’05), Daryl Embry (BS ’05), Emily Kaczmarek (BS ’12), Blake McCarty (EDTC ’08) Jamie Roach (EDTC), Joe Salvatore and Sara Jo Wyllie (ETED ’09) have teamed up for Play/Date, an immersive and voyeuristic theatrical experience set throughout the four levels of Fat Baby, a nightclub and lounge on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. During the performance, the lines between reality and fiction are blurred, allowing guests to view and experience the “show” as it emerges in unlikely ways from unexpected directions.

Jenna Briedis (BS ’14) was hired at Empower Charter School of Crown Heights, Brooklyn as a 6th & 7th Grade ELA Teacher.

Durell Cooper (EDTC ’14) was appointed to the position of Program Manager in Educational and Community Partnerships at Lincoln Center Education. In this role, he will be responsible for leading the recruitment of new teaching artist, implementing professional development workshops, and managing the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Kenan Fellowships.”

Andrew M. Gaines (Doctoral Candidate) has been busy presenting at conferences this past spring, including  Ethical praxis: At intersection of teaching artistry and creative arts therapy. (NYU’s Forum on the Teaching Artist); The digital mirror: Video drama therapy (American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama), and this summer he will chair a symposium with David T. Montgomery, Juliana Saxton, and Ashley Forman entitled, Ethical praxis discourse: Theatre, education, therapy, and activism (American Alliance for Theatre and Education).

Christopher Goslin (EDTC ’10) is going into his second year as the Technical Director and Instructor of Theatre at Florida International University’s Theatre Department in Miami, FL. Previously, he was the Technical Director and Instructor at Miami Dade College in Miami, FL.

Christina Neubrand (EDTC ’06) After four years as the Arts Integration Specialist with Counseling in Schools, Christina recently became the Arts & Leadership Program Manager for The CityKids Foundation.

Donna Kelly Romero (EDTC ’06) received the “To Fill the World with Love” Award from Upper Darby Summer Stage, one of the nation’s oldest and most successful youth theater programs, for “living and teaching the Summer Stage Magic.”  Donna has taught acting and storytelling there since 2007. She currently teaches drama and runs the theater program at Friends Select, a Quaker K-12 school in Philadelphia, and serves as a mentor for the Greater Philadelphia Cappies.

John Shorter (EDTH ’93) is very excited to report that his prop rental business is continuing to grow. This January, he moved into his own warehouse space in Ronkonkoma, on Long Island. His company, Prop Rentals NY worked with over 100 schools across the country this school year on props for their shows. Recently, the company expanded to create themed props for weddings, parties and other events.

Sara Simons (Ph.D. ’13) was accepted to participate in an NEH Summer Seminar/Institute, Finding Mississippi in the National Civil Rights Narrative: Struggle, Institution Building, and Power at the Local Level where she will study the civil rights movement with other scholars from around the country.

 

Kids Receive a Story As an “Explosion”: A Discussion on Storytelling in TYA

By Arielle Sosland

A month ago, Lamplighters, the Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) Club at NYU had their annual professional development panel. This year’s panel focused on the significance and importance of storytelling in TYA. The panel consisted of six professionals, five panelists and one moderator, of all varying experiences including teaching artists, artistic directors, teachers, and professional storytellers. After the panelists enjoyed some food, tweeted about the panel and took selfies in the style of Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars, we were ready to begin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Shmidt-Chapman, adjunct Educational Theatre professor acted as moderator and led the conversation in a very dynamic way.

The panelists jumped into the discussion with fervor answering the question, what engages you in a story? James Miles, adjunct professor in Educational Theatre began the conversation articulating the importance of conflict in a story. As an actor, Miles explained he is often drawn toward comedy and comedy usually works best if there is a conflict at the center of the story. Lauren Jost, artistic director of Spellbound Theatre expressed a conflicting opinion explaining that in her work, creating theatre for the very young does not always need a conflict, but rather should be relatable to children and adult audiences. Spencer Lott, Artistic Manager with Trusty Sidekick Theater, enjoys fantasy that has “roots in reality, but is a little bit warped.” Carolyn Fagan, an Education Programs Manager at The New Victory Theater, likes to laugh. She prefers to listen to stories that make her laugh and occasionally surprise her! Lastly, Laura Simms, internationally acclaimed storyteller, writer and humanitarian, loves to watch a shift in the audience as a story is being presented or performed. With a flood of fascinating and differing opinions, our panel had begun.

Next, Shmidt-Chapman brought up the question of the difference in telling a story to young people versus to adults. Miles was the first to answer this question explaining that he finds great importance in making sure under represented populations are in his stories, aka women, minorities, etc. Lott pointed out the overused idea of creating TYA based upon “what we think that kids will want” rather than challenging kids and realizing that kids live in an adult world and therefore can experience theatre similarly. Simms brought up the criticality of finding what is meaningful for children versus adults and bridging the two. Fagan finalizes the answer to the question describing how kids receive a story as an “explosion.” Kids have a visceral reaction to theatre that is less seen in theatre for adult audiences.

Shmidt-Chapman subsequently brings up the topic of the difference between stories in a classroom and stories in a theatre. When presenting a story in a classroom, you immediately lose the aesthetic frame available in a theatre. Simms reminded us that when a story is told without theatrical or spectacular elements, children are able to “see through the focus of [their] own imagination.” Miles adds that in more intimate settings like classrooms, the young listeners are just as involved as the performers themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what is the future of storytelling, asks an eager audience member. Carolyn initiates the conversation with the importance of technology. She retorts that technology should be used to our advantage in telling stories to young people. She reminds us that social media is about telling your story about other people’s stories. Shmidt-Chapman brings in an anecdote about a teacher that had his class participate in Show & Tell by finding Youtube videos that they wanted to show and present to the class. This is using technology and today’s social media world to our advantage. Lott adds that young people desire interactivity and we need to interweave interactivity into our work in TYA.

As we wrapped up with this idea of interactivity, Lamplighters members eager to learn more, got a chance to continue the conversation with our panelists over brunch afterwards. It was thrilling to hear professionals in the field of TYA and storytelling talk about their stances on a fairly narrow topic and I could tell it really excited the group of students about the future of this field.

I want to thank our panelists Carolyn Fagan, Lauren Jost, Spencer Lott, James Miles, and Laura Simms along with our moderator Jonathan Shmidt-Chapman for being so gracious with their time and ideas at this panel! On behalf of Lamplighters, we thank you and look forward to another great panel next year.