Student and Alumni Updates – 2018

Aisha Abdelmula, BS, 2014

After NYU, Aisha acquired an EdM in Student Affairs Administration to promote better access of underrepresented people in higher education. She uses her creative sprit to engage students as a social justice educator at Columbia University and is a writer, model, and personal stylist when she finds the time.

Isaiah Bent, MA, 2016

Isaiah continues to teach theatre at PS 206 in Rego Park, Queens. He loves his job and takes pride in presenting a yearly Shakespeare production with his fifth graders.

Andrea Bertola Shaw, MA, 2010

Andrea is currently the Artistic Director of the New York Film Shop. Her team has won numerous awards for their short films at national film festivals. She is currently directing a documentary that will be released in 2019. In addition to her film work, Andrea continues to work as a freelance website designer.

Samantha Bessudo Drucker, BS, 1994

Samantha is an image consultant, columnist, lifestyle personality, speaker, host and actress who uses dramatic constructs and humor with her clients, readership and audience. She is currently developing new media projects.

Micaela Blei, MA, 2004; PhD, 2018

Micaela does a lot of personal storytelling lately—including Moth shows, her solo storytelling show, an episode of the Panoply podcast “Family Ghosts” last year. She just finished her PhD in Ed Theatre, and she is the Director of Community and Education Programs at The Moth.

Brooke Boertzel, MA, 2005

Brooke has worked as Director of Education at New York City Children’s Theater, formerly named Making Books Sing, since 2007. She is also on the board of the NYC Arts and Education Roundtable. This summer, Brooke is transitioning into consulting work, specializing in curriculum development, arts integration, and trauma-informed training.

Tova Bomzer Halpern, MA, 2009

After working for 2 years as an independent teaching artist, Tova founded Fresh Theatre Arts, LLC, an educational theatre company whose mission is to introduce, educate and encourage youth to participate in performing arts programming while strengthening their creativity, self-esteem, and social skills. Fresh Theatre Arts is currently serving communities throughout New Jersey.

Steve Borowka, MA, 2002

Steve is the Chair of the Performing Arts Department and Theater teacher at Friends Seminary a K-12 school in NYC. He also owns and operates Acting Manitou—a theater camp in Oakland, Maine.

Jenna Briedis, BS, 2014

Jenna currently works at Warner Brothers in Domestic Television Distribution. She plans to pursue a lifelong career in the Film and Television industry.

Cheryl Brumley, MA, 2017

Upon graduation from Ed Theatre, Cheryl accepted a position with Campbellsville University as a full-time faculty member teaching theatre and is happy to report the completion of her first year!

Kristopher Casey, MA, 2018

Kris is a brand new graduate and is currently the Center Director for the NY Kids Club, Battery Park.

Sarah Chichester, MA, 2013

Sarah has directed shows Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, regionally, and internationally in Israel since finishing her MA. She’s spent the past year teaching as an Instructor of Record at Southern Illinois University.

Amber Grace Collins-Ives, BS, 2015

Amber is going on her third year out in Los Angeles working as an Actress, Writer, and Production Designer.

Andrew Coopman, MA, 2015

After graduating from NYU and doing the Dublin Study Abroad program, Andrew moved to Seattle, Washington where he works as a full-time director and teaching artist for many of the major local theaters, including Village Theater, 5th Avenue Theater, and Seattle Children’s Theater. Up next, Andrew will be attending the University of Washington to get his MFA in Directing through the Professional Director Training Program.

Liana Costable, BS, 2016

Liana is a proud member of Actors Equity with credits such as Sally in the 1st national tour of A Charlie Brown Christmas, Jenny in Theatreworks USA’s national tour of Click Clack Moo  and Lucy in A Music Box Christmas at the Hershey Theater. In between performance contracts, Liana works as a teaching assistant at Broadway Workshop.

Jessica Cressionnie, MA, 2017

Jessica is finishing her first year teaching elementary theatre at P.S. 94 The Henry Longfellow in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. This summer, she will be returning to Camp Tel Noar in New Hampshire as the Head of Drama where she and her staff will produce three musicals in seven weeks.

Jeanine DeFalco, MA, 2012

Jeanine is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow with the Army Research Laboratory, Human Research & Engineering Directorate, assigned to the United States Military Academy. Research includes motivational feedback in game-based training, and creative reasoning on accelerated learning. Jeanine received a PhD in Psychology, Cognitive Studies (concentration: Intelligent Technologies) from Columbia University, Fall 2017.

Jim DeVivo, MA, 2001; PhD, 2018

Jim is Director of Education at Writers Theatre of NJ, part-time theatre teacher at Lacey Township High School, and adjunct instructor of TYA for the Program in Educational Theatre. He is researching the history of youth playwriting in the US and abroad. Jim and Bridget (MA, 2001) live down the Jersey shore with three children.

Gaspare DiBlasi, MA, 2014

Gaspare currently teaches K-5 Theater at P.S.217 in Brooklyn, New York.

Jason Diminich, BS, 2005

Jason is the Education Director for Think 360 Arts for Learning in Denver, Colorado.

Sheng-Tao Fan, MA, 2008

Sheng-Tao has been working at National Taiwan Normal University where he mainly teaches Theatre in Education as well as Arts and Business Cooperation. Dr. Fan is published in international journals such as The Journal of Drama and Theatre Education in Asia. Dr. Fan is so thankful for the NYU Educational Theatre community and faculty.

Diane Feldman, MA, 2001

In addition to operating her educational musical theatre company (year 32), Diane is completing her seventh year as the award-winning Director of Drama, Musical Theatre & Vocal Performance at de Toledo High School in West Hills, California. Several of her productions have received Outstanding Production Awards from both The Jerry Herman Awards and National Youth Arts.

Mitalene Fletcher, MA, 1997

Mitalene earned her doctorate at Steinhardt in International Development Education in 2008. Since that time, she has been developing executive education programs at Harvard Graduate School of Education and volunteering as a mediator in a Boston municipal court.

Christine Fuchs, MA, 2012

Christine is a full-time theatre Instructor at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Georgia. She earned her MFA in Acting at Northern Illinois University in 2016.

Nicole Gebler, MA, 2016

Nicole is currently teaching grades K-5 at Riverhead Charter School on Long Island. RCS takes great pride in the arts and is pleased to have Nicole on board as they expand their theater program to middle school and a brand new high school starting in the year 2020.

Lisa Goldberg, MA, 2004

Since graduating from NYU, Lisa has been working at Trevor Day School where she serves as Director of Auxiliary Programs. She oversees the after school program, music conservatory, and camp. She also assists in helping choreograph the 4th and 5th grade musical and concerts. She is happily married with two daughters ages 9 and 7.

Honey Goodenough, MA, 2005

Honey is the Resident Teaching Artist at Puppet Showplace Theater near Boston, Massachusetts. She founded Good Hearted Entertainment and tours an original puppet shows, including a literacy based puppet show called Word Play throughout schools and theaters.

Robert Reid Goodson, MA, 2013

Robert is honored to be named the A.C. Reynolds High School Teacher of the Year.

Megan Ibarra, MA, 2016

Megan has been teaching theatre at an elementary school, building the theatre program to include: multicultural theatre, story drama, play writing, Shakespeare, and puppetry. She has enjoyed building relationships with students and seeing them grow in speaking skills, confidence, and expressing themselves.

Laura Josepher, MA, 1990

Laura recently directed Godspell for the American Musical Theatre Academy (AMTA). With partner, David Sisco, she runs ContemporaryMusicalTheatre.com, a subscription site for musical theatre songs. Last year they published the book, Mastering College Musical Theatre Auditions: Sound Advice for the Student, Teacher, and Parent available on Amazon.

Emily Kaczmarek, BS, 2012

Emily is a playwright and librettist. She has developed work at theatres across the country and held residencies at the O’Neill, Goodspeed, Orchard Project, and SPACE on Ryder Farm. She is a 2018 Jonathan Larson Grant winner and a Kleban Prize finalist, and is engaged to her writing partner, composer Zoe Sarnak.

Jennifer Kapitan, MA, 2005

Jennifer has been teaching elementary school since the fall of 2005. She currently teaches at PS 506 in Brooklyn.

Sobha Kavanakudiyil, MA, 2013

Sobha is on faculty in the Graduate Program in Educational Theatre at The City College of New York. During her sabbatical this year, she was accepted into the Fulbright Specialist Program, traveling to South Korea and Puebla, Mexico, hosted by Instituto Municipal Arte Y Cultura sharing her love of devising theatre and community building!

Britt Shubow Keshner, MA, 2009

Britt is a full-time drama teacher in Orange, New Jersey. She teaches at Oakwood Avenue Community School and Cleveland Street School. She teaches students from kindergarten through seventh grade. In the summer, Britt is an acting, dance, and vocal instructor at Performers Theater Workshop in Maplewood, New Jersey.

Robin Levenson, PhD, 2007

Robin’s book, Acting Chekhov in Translation: 4 Plays, 100 Ways will be published by Peter Lang International Publishers, Inc. later this year. It was conceived & edited from her dissertation, for which committee members Deborah Borisoff, Nan Smithner, Joanna Rotte, and Lowell Swortzell helped her develop the idea and initial musings.

Elyse Lewis, MA, 2016

Since graduating from NYU, Elyse has been teaching in the NYC DOE. She currently teaches drama to high school students (grades 9-12) at Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics.

Dara K. Marsh, MA, 2007

After completing her MA at NYU, Dara went on to receive her MPA from Baruch College. Though a lover of theater, Dara is currently focused on writing and performing poetry, especially from her two books, Black Man, Black Woman, Black Child and Casualty of Love.

Steven McIntosh, MA, 2008

Steven was a featured speaker at the REMIX Summit NYC this past spring sharing how the education department at BAM is using tech to reach new audiences. He recently joined the Board of Directors of the Jim Henson Foundation.

Christina Neubrand, MA, 2007

Christina is currently a Community School Director in Brooklyn, a Professor at BMCC in the Theatre, Speech and Communications department, and is launching her own public speaking coaching business.

Kimberly Poppiti, PhD, 2003

Kimberly has a new book coming out this year with Routledge, A History of Equestrian Drama in the United States: Hippodrama’s Pure Air and Fire.  She also won a second Greggs Award from the USITT for her 2017 article “Hamilton’s Turntable and Ring Stage.”

Sarah Ripper, MA, 2013

Since graduation, Sarah taught in Brooklyn at Acting Out! and then moved to California to go back to school to receive an MFA in Directing from California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). She has taught at CSUF as well as Orange County School of the Arts, and is the Associate Artistic Director of a new theatre company in Orange County called The Wayward Artist.

Norah Roderick, MA, 2010

Norah continues her work as a teacher and administrator in the afterschool and camp division of LREI in the West Village. Her daughter Juniper will be two this fall and teaches Norah new things every day!

Marisol Santana, MA, 2008

Marisol is the founder of TESOL Drama, an organization providing workshops in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and Florence instructing teachers how to use drama in the English and EFL classrooms both domestically and abroad (www.tesoldrama.org). Marisol is also a Professor of English at New Jersey City University.

Heidi Schoenenberger, BS, 2011

Heidi was awarded the 2018 Tom Behm Award from Southeastern Theatre Conference. This award will support her to present her research on the impact of live performance for elementary school students in Auckland, New Zealand at the 9th Annual International Drama in Education Research Institute.

Shannon Stoddard, MA, 2018

Shannon is teaching creative drama and directing/choreographing the Children’s Musical Theatre Company with the Community School of the Arts in Fort Smith, Arkansas. She is working with a wide range of students—from preschoolers through high school!

Robert Thaxton-Stevenson, BS, 2013; MA, 2014

Robert is a Brooklyn-based theatre maker and educator. He has worked as a performer or designer with Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, Spellbound Theatre, Bluelaces Theater Company, and Atlantic Pacific Theatre. He is a Teaching Artist with the New Victory Theater, New York Theater Workshop, and the Met Opera Guild.

Kari-Noor Thompson, BS, 2008

A recent graduate of the Ed Theatre Program, Kari-Noor will begin his teaching career as an International Teacher, teaching English and Theatre at an organization is Hangzhou, China in the fall of 2018.

Nicole (Losurdo) Upton, MA, 2005

As Director of Partnerships and Professional Learning at Ingenuity in Chicago, Nicole designs, develops, and delivers 40+ professional learning experiences each year for arts and cultural organizations, teaching artists, and teachers. She develops sector-wide strategies build capacity, strengthen leadership and facilitate collaboration within and among arts organizations and schools.

Christina Zagarino, BS, 2007

Christina lives in Santa Cruz, CA with her husband and cat and is working on kid and family products with Google. She’ll be welcoming her first baby in summer 2018.

Student and Alumni Updates – 2017

Michael Tommasone Aquilante, MA, 1978

Michael and life-partner Jon Laskin spend spring/fall in Italy, winter in Spain, and summer in Adirondack Mountains. Their English translations of plays by Nobel Prize-winning Italian playwright Dario Fo are produced in US, EU, Canada; and their latest projects are English translations/adaptations of works by Luigi Pirandello.

Dennis Baker, MA, 2009

Dennis is acting in Los Angeles where he was recently seen on Criminal Minds. As The Business Program Director at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation he teaches class and programs panels about the business of acting and the greater entertainment industry as a whole.

Isaiah Bent, MA, 2016

Isaiah is an elementary school theater teacher at PS 206 in Rego Park, Queens. Last January, his fifth graders performed a rousing production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He loves his job!

Courtney J. Boddie, MA, 2003

Courtney is Director of Education/School Engagement at The New Victory Theater and the Creator and Host of Teaching Artistry with Courtney J. Boddie podcast. Featuring interviews with artists and arts educators about the work that teaching artists do in communities. Tune in on iTunes or Soundcloud.

Toni Borkowski (Caracci), MA, 2008

Toni is currently teaching Theatre Arts at Eastport South Manor Jr.-Sr. High School in Manorville, NY. Recent directing credits include The Last Night of Ballyhoo, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Sound of Music, Inherit the Wind and The Music Man.

Steve Borowka, MA, 2001

Steve is the owner and director of Acting Manitou, a theater camp in Maine for campers 11 – 17. In the off season Steve is the Performing Arts Chair and drama teacher at Friends Seminary in NYC.

Deborah Bradshaw, MA, 2001

Deborah is a Broadway veteran and Director of Theatre Programs at Cumberland County College in Vineland, NJ. She runs an award winning theatre program and has received outstanding Direction awards from The NJACT Perry Awards, KCACTF and BroadwayWorld.

Paul Brewster, MA, 2014

Paul is now Assistant Director of Education; Teaching & Learning at Roundabout Theatre Company. He is also the new Managing Director for Trusty Sidekick Theatre Company.

Grace Chapman, MA, 1998

Grace is a playwright, director, puppeteer and educator. Currently, she is a lecturer in the School of Arts & Sciences at the University of The Gambia (UTG) and Director of its Educational Theater program. She is the 2016 recipient of UTG’s Lecturer of the Year Award.

Adam Crescenzi, MA, 2009

Since graduation, Adam has become the hardest working Teaching Artist in New York City. He currently works for a bunch of acronyms including FCCA at FTH, NYCCE, PS3, TDF, and TFANA’s NV and WTP programs.

Jeff S. Dailey, PhD 2002

Stage director Jeff was awarded a Jean Dalymple Award—which acknowledge innovation in theatre–in October, 2016, for his Off Broadway production of Plautus’ comedy The Captives, which was performed in John Collum Theatre in August and September–the first production in New York since the 19th century.

Elizabeth Dilley, BS, 1998

Elizabeth was ordained in the United Church of Christ in 2003 and currently serves as Minister for Ministers in Local Churches in the national setting of the UCC, where she finds her Educational Theatre background extremely useful. She lives in Cleveland with her spouse, child, and two dogs.

Jason Diminich, BS, 2005

After working 11 years as a middle school drama teacher in Queens, Jason moved to Denver, CO in August where he is now working as the Education Director at Think 360 Arts for Learning.

Jay DiPrima, PhD, 1998

Dr. DiPrima served as the drama education instructor for Endicott College’s Teacher Training Program in Madrid last summer. His article, “Remembering Ruth Draper,” was published by The New England Theatre Journal (Fall 2016).

Zachary Ferentz, MA, 2016

By day, Zak is a kindergarten teacher in the Bronx, and by night, he is an academic coach in Westchester. He hopes to return to NYU to get his PhD in the future.

Benjamin Frimmer, MA, 2002

Ben is a theatre educator working in Westport, Connecticut. For the past 22 years he has successfully run Coleytown Company, a middle school theatre program that pulls in Broadway professionals. His former students have won Oscar Awards and are regularly seen on Broadway, television, and film.

Andrew Gaines, PhD, 2017

Andrew successfully defended his dissertation on multimodal applied arts praxis in an LGBT senior center while publishing, teaching, and applying for jobs!

Laurie Gruhn, MA, 1991

Laurie is the Assistant Head of School and Head Lower School at the Browning School. She adopted her daughter from China in 2008.

Maryam Habibian, PhD, 1993

Maryam taught Educational theater at a couple of renowned Public High Schools in NYC for 30 years and directed several plays. She retired from the Department of Education in June 2016 and teaches part time at a college now and spends her other time in finishing up translations and editing film footage.

Tova Halpern, MA, 2009

After receiving her Master’s from NYU, Tova created Fresh Theatre Arts, LLC, an educational theatre company whose mission is to introduce, educate and encourage youth to participate in performing arts programming while strengthening their creativity, self-esteem, and social skills. FTA’s goal is to provide professional instruction in the areas of acting, dance, voice and technical theatre. FTA currently serves communities in NJ and NY.

Ashley Lauren Hamilton, MA, 2013; PhD, anticipated 2017

Ashley was awarded the NYU 2017 Steinhardt School Outstanding Doctoral Student Teaching Award and has been appointed Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of Denver.

Deborah Hathaway, MA, 2010

Deborah (Jacoby) resides in a suburb of Seattle, WA and currently teaches interdisciplinary arts courses at the University of Washington Bothell. She is proud to announce the birth of her daughter, Eleanor Sophia, this past November 2016.

Jennifer Holmes, MA, 2006; PhD, 2013

Jennifer has been appointed an Associate Dean at the School of Drama at The New School.

Dennis Scott Holsclaw, PhD, 1996

Dr. Holsclaw recently completed 32 years of service at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He has served as Chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dean of the School of Fine Arts. Currently he has moved back to the classroom teaching and directing in the Department of Theatre and loving every minute of it.

Atsuko Isahai, MA, 2000

Atsuko published a book about her study abroad at NYU.

Emily Kaczmarek, BS, 2012

Emily’s work as a playwright, screenwriter, and librettist has been developed and produced locally and nationally, most recently by Musical Theatre Factory/Playwrights Horizons, This Is Water Theatre Co., Women in Arts & Media Coalition, and the Eugene O’Neill Theater Institute. She is represented by UTA.

Heni Koenigsberg, BS, 1974

Heni is a producer of Broadway theatre, and is dedicated to making theatre accessible and relevant for all audiences. A lifelong passion that was ignited at Steinhardt, Heni has received numerous Tony awards and is currently represented on Broadway by Hello, Dolly! and A Doll’s House, Part 2.

Jessica Lisboa, MA, 2006

Out of 1100 nominees, Jessica was recognized as a Tony Awards Excellence in Theatre Education – Honorable Mention for her work as Performing Arts Chair at North Star Academy College Preparatory High School.

Julia Ohm, MA, 2011

Juila is currently the Program Director for a private school in North Central Massachusetts, acting as Performing Arts Chair and Director of Theatre.

Linda Pallotta, MA, 2002

Linda is currently working on a screen play and revising her stage play. She has a short film ready for a web series soon (looking for a director/cinematographer). Additionally, Linda is working with a volunteer improvisational group touring NY, bringing theatre to those who can’t go out or afford theatre. Readings of her works were held in midtown throughout this winter season.

Kimberly Poppiti, PhD, 2003

Kimberly is a writer and professor. This year, she published an article on “Hamilton’s Turntable and Ring Stage” in TD&T: Theatre Design & Technology, contributed numerous reviews to Electronic Media Reviews Online, and directed both a musical and a drama.

Jennifer Pytleski, MA, 2009

Jennifer is currently in her third year as the Performing Arts Department Chair at the Darrow School in New Lebanon, NY. This year the students performed Burial at Thebes and an all original student work, Darrow on the Fringe.

Jeffrey Querin, MA, 2004

Jeffrey is currently serving as Artistic Director of 34 West Theater Company in Charleston, SC. After taking over a former yogurt shop, he converted the venue into a small bistro-style theatre which produces a full season of original work and hosts live broadcasts from the National Theatre, London.

Shannon Riley, MA, 2011

Shannon is working as the Assistant Director of Advising for NYU University Programs and Adjunct Voice Faculty for NYU Steinhardt (Vocal Performance). She is set to receive her certificate in Vocal Pedagogy from the Steinhardt school this May and is looking to transition to a full time faculty role.

Stephanie Schneider, MA, 2012

Stephanie Schneider continues her work on audience engagement at the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at NYU. She was an artistic associate on Anna Deavere Smith’s Notes from the Field, which premiered off-Broadway in 2016 and was named one of the year’s best plays by the New York Times, Time Out New York, and Time Magazine.

Emily Schorr Lesnick, MA, 2016

Emily is in her sixth year of teaching drama at Riverdale Country School. Since leaving NYU, her play, How We G.L.O.W., has traveled to over 20 schools and community centers, facilitating urgent dialogue about LGBTQ+ youth identity.

Jonathan Shmidt Chapman, MA, 2008

Jonathan has been named the new Executive Director of TYA/USA. Jonathan is a respected leader in our field and our community bringing over a decade of wide-ranging experience in TYA to the organization, and they are delighted to work with him in this new chapter of their organization.

Dani Snyder-Young, MA, 2005; Phd, 2008

Dani was appointed as a full-time faculty member at Northeastern University’s Department of Theater. She will teach Activism and Performance in the fall. Her areas of expertise include theatre and social change, devised theatre, performance studies, and dramaturgy.

Lauren Soprano, BS, 2003

Lauren has been teaching grades K-2 at Putnam Valley Elementary School for the past 13 years. She also sits on the Board of KJK Productions, a non-profit theatre company located in Westchester County, NY.

Robert M. Stevenson, BS, 2013; MA, 2014

Robert is a theatre maker and educator, specializing in ensemble-based devising, puppetry, and Shakespeare. He works as a Teaching Artist for several organizations and is the Project Development Manager for Trusty Sidekick Theater Company.

Michael S. Tick, PhD, 1997

Michael is currently Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. Previously, he was Dean of the College of Fine Arts, University of Kentucky, 2010-16 and Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance and Artistic Director of Swine Palace, LSU, 1999-2010

Nicole Upon, MA, 2005

Nicole is the Director of Partnerships & Professional Learning at Ingenuity in Chicago where she develops sector-wide strategies to strengthen student learning in and through the arts. Ingenuity ensures the arts are a component of every public school student’s education by leveraging the vibrant communities, knowledge and resources of Chicago.

Samantha von Sperling, BS, 1994

Samantha is a lifestyle personality, host, image consultant, etiquette expert, and columnist. For 20 years Samantha has frequently been featured in the media that has included ABC, NBC, CBS, Time Magazine, New York Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. She continues to create entertaining ways to share her knowledge with audiences.

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!

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).

Lucky Disaster Banner

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 the Cutting Room website.

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!