Our First EdD: Michael Yurchak

To recognize the achievement of our first EdD graduate, Michael Yurchak, we invited him to reflect on his experience in the program and to articulate his future plans. Congratulations, Michael!

What were your expectations when you entered the EdD program?

My expectations were that I would continue my own learning and understanding of educational theater and applied theater praxis. Since I live in Los Angeles, I worried that my geographic challenges would hamper my experience or become an issue for my professors and classmates. I assumed I would have a hard time connecting with the community due to my location, but that was not at all how things went. Because of the intensive semesters offered over the summer and January terms, as well as weekend intensives during the fall and spring, I was able to attend most of my classes in person in an immersive curriculum that allowed a deeper personal connection than I would have thought possible. As a graduate assistant in London and Puerto Rico, I felt very connected to the student community, and I absolutely loved being involved as much as I was. I did have a few classes during my time in the program where I had to attend class meetings via Skype. Every one of my professors and fellow students were supportive and open to making the best of that challenge when it came up. What might have been a distraction was actually kind of fun, because of the novelty it presented!

What aspects of the program were helpful in your academic and professional development?

The collaborative nature of crafting a program that fit my needs and interests was incredibly useful in my development as a professional in the field. My advisor (Jonathan Jones) and mentor (David Montgomery) as well as my dissertation committee members and readers (Philip Taylor, Nisha Sajnani, Amy Cordileone, and Nan Smither) were all extremely approachable and helpful in charting my course through the program. There was a collegial nature to the discussions we had from the very beginning. The sense that I had agency and choice within the context of the requirements was empowering. Finding the intensive courses and study-abroad programs that allowed me to fully participate was really important to me. Also, designing and applying my own practicum and independent study projects was enlightening. That independent work served as a barometer of my own understanding and illustrated some ways in which I might incorporate my coursework into real world application. An unanticipated outcome has been an increased confidence in my writing and how I might contribute to the academy in that way, which is not something I had thought about before finishing the program.

How will you apply what you learned in the program out in the field?

I will be teaching voice in the MFA program at Cal State University Los Angeles and will remain on the faculty at the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio where I teach voice and acting. Independent projects in the applied theater space also pop up throughout the year, and I look forward to participating there as well. Since defending my dissertation, I have been asked to adapt a portion of it for the publication associated with the Voice and Speech Trainers Association (VASTA), and I’m looking forward to that too. I had not anticipated going into academia after graduating because, ultimately, I would like to lead an education department for an arts organization. Still, at the risk of being a bit sappy, I guess I see everything I do academically and professionally as part of the journey of a life-long learner. That is exciting to me, and I look forward to seeing how the future unfolds.

What advice would you give someone considering applying for the EdD program?

My advice would be to enter the program with a clear sense of why you think you need to be there. It’s a big commitment, and it can feel overwhelming at times. For me, a strong understanding of why I felt I had to make it happen kept me going when things got tough. I also think it’s important to stay open to the possibility that new discoveries may change where you thought you’d end up. I found it incredibly useful to stay flexible!

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/.

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.


Reflections on the Program in Educational Theatre and Beyond

Hello Educational Theatre Blog Readers! My name is Naomi Avadanei, and I graduated from the Undergraduate Program in Educational Theatre this past May (2013). I consider myself very lucky to have found and been a part of the Educational Theatre community for 4 years–those 4 years were filled with so many incredible opportunities, inspiring moments, and (of course) invigorating classes. Upon entering senior year I had to make the ever-so important decision: to go to grad school right away or to take a few years off and apply what I’ve learned in the workforce. Clearly, I decided on the latter.

I started applying to jobs pretty early during my senior year around October/November and didn’t really stop until I got my first teaching job in mid-August. Currently I’m what many would call a “freelance teaching artist.” I work as the Theatre and Movement teacher at Hunter College Elementary School (3 days a week), the Education Associate at TADA! Youth Theatre (4 days a week) and a Teaching Artist with TADA! (several times a month), Brooklyn Children’s Theatre (1 day a week), Salk Middle School (1 day a week) and The Paperbag Players (several times a month). Throughout my application process I would estimate that I applied to over 100 different positions in total. It was a long, arduous, and VERY stressful process, but I’m really happy with the companies I’m working for, the people I’m working with, and the work that I’m doing. It all paid off. When I was applying to jobs I was pretty stubborn about only applying to and accepting positions teaching theatre. In my case this was the most important non-negotiable. I realized I wouldn’t be happy in my chosen career path unless I was working in some respects teaching theatre to kids. As I was applying to positions (and it got closer and closer to the beginning of the school year) I started to have doubts about my non-negotiable. Was I being unrealistic? It turns out that just as I was starting to give up hope, a posting for a Theatre Teacher at Hunter College Elementary School came up on the List Serv (the List Serv is a gold mine–read those emails, they could lead to something!), and I applied. I was offered the position on August 19th, just 23 days before the first day of school. After that I kept getting various Teaching Artist positions from previous connections and interviews and everything sort of just came together. So while my story is unique to my experience, I’d like to share with you some of the things that helped me get where I am now and what I wish I knew/know as I was looking for a job and as I start my first year of teaching Theatre and Movement with students ages 3-12.

Classes (required and not) that you should take (and pay really, really close attention in):

First and foremost, I think this needs to be said because I didn’t figure it out until late in my Junior year/early Senior year. There’s a point in your college career where you have to stop thinking about classes and class work in terms of being a student and getting good grades and start looking at it as preparation for your future career. This may sound really silly but let me explain; I always prided myself on good grades and completing assignments well but often once the assignment was handed in that was it. I forgot about the bulk of the work necessary to complete the assignment (these are the details are really valuable and helpful later on) and moved on. My advice to you is to take those good ideas, great activities, and awesome tools and create a running list (preferredly an organized one). You’ll thank yourself later on. Ask questions in class and complete assignments through the lens of a teacher and an artist, not just a student–you will inevitably get good grades and you’ll make your transition into teaching much easier.

  • Any of the artistry/practical classes (Playwriting, Directing, Physical Theatre, Stagecraft, any Shakespeare Class). Even if you’re not interested in a career in Shakespeare or don’t want to become a playwright it’s important you LEARN about these things so that you’re prepared to TEACH them later on.

  • Dramatic Activities in the Elementary and Secondary Classroom–that running list I was talking about, these classes will be the equivalent of gold for that list.

  • Theory of Creative Drama

  • Some sort of Movement Class–I took Intro to Teaching Creative Movement through the Dance Ed. department. This class will help make you a more dynamic theatre teacher and a more attractive candidate.

Things I wish I had known:

  • Teaching Portfolio

    • Spend a lot of time on it, it’s worth investing the time.

    • Be organized when creating it, you will inevitably print and reprint the material in your portfolio. You will add, you will subtract, you will create new material. Create separate folders and documents for everything.

    • Be pushy about showing your portfolio to your interviewer. I wasn’t always so assertive in presenting my portfolio. For my first few interviews I waited for the interviewer to ask me for it. They didn’t. Assert yourself. Bring your portfolio and gently suggest (read: force) them to look at it. Show them all of the time and effort you put into it. Pick a few highlights to show them–no one will have time to look at the whole thing. Show what’s most relevant to the position.

  • Letters of Recommendation

    • Ask for them even before you need them. Don’t expect people to have a fast turn over. You want the person who is recommending you to take their time and do a good job on your letter so give them the opportunity to do just that. Ask them for the letter 1-2 months before you anticipate needing it.

    • Get a variety of letters: people who have seen you teach (both in the elementary and secondary classroom–if you’re interested in teaching both–you want those letters to be separate so that you can have them ready should you be applying for a position in that area), people who have supervised you in an administrative position, people who have worked with you in an artistic setting etc. You want a variety so you have at least one letter for every type of job you might apply to.

    • This point is similar to the Teaching Portfolio point. Most employers won’t ask you for a letter of recommendation. Give one to them even if they don’t ask for one either in a hard copy at the end of an interview or as an attachment to your follow up email.

  • Get all of your certification paperwork and exams out of the way and submitted as early as possible. You don’t want to be thinking about them when you’re applying to jobs–you’ll have enough stress without worrying about whether or not you’re teaching certification went through.

  • Get in touch with past employers and internship coordinators, let them know you’ve graduated and are looking for work. You never know, sometimes the stars align and they’re looking for someone just like you.

  • Have a backup curriculum prepared for all age groups you’re interested in teaching–even if it’s just an overview

    • Some employers might ask you to create a curriculum on the spot (mine did).

    • In case you get hired last minute (I did) you won’t have to start from scratch, but you’ll have somewhere to pull from and creating a year long curriculum in 2 weeks (or 2 days) won’t seem as daunting as it could be. Remember that list I talked about? This is when that comes in handy.

    • Speaking of creating a curriculum I don’t think we really talk so much about the logistics of creating a curriculum. It’s an area the program could work on. This is not to say you don’t get a lot of tools during your time at NYU, but not exactly: How do I create a curriculum? What should YOU do? Take initiative. I recommend you ask your Cooperating Teachers, they’ve been there and they’ve done it. So while their teaching styles might be very different from your own, take the time to ask them and talk through the process. It’ll help you when you have to create a curriculum of your own.

I really hoped this post helped you. If you have any more questions please feel free to contact me at Nja235@nyu.edu

Pleading for Better People

By Caleb Winebrenner

It’s now been 12 months since I was officially conferred my degree in Educational Theatre. Every time I think about that, I realize that one year seems like a short amount of time. But 12 months is 12 miniature chapters of growth and discovery working as a teaching artist out in the real world.










No, this isn’t a post outlining what I’ve done month-by-month. But it is about how my views of  working as a teaching artist have shifted, every time I’ve flipped a page on the calendar. I’m very fond of NYU Steinhardt, and I always look forward to my next trip to the city. There is so much more that I could have gained from my time there. There’s also a lot that no amount of study will get you.

I’ve come to see that as a teaching artist, I must set my sights more broadly than being an artist and educator. In a recent chat with my wife she said, “The world pleads for better people.” Every day she asks me how my day was when I get home from work. Like any teacher or teaching artist, I answer with stories about my students and what I am doing in my classroom. Recently, I’ve been trying something new.

In my work at the local Boys and Girls Club, I noticed something. Students rarely looked me in the eye. They didn’t greet each other. Instead, they moved about in the room like dust particles, none of them really aware of any of the others. When they were aware, it was more for gossip or teasing. When I shared this with my wife, we had the conversation I mentioned above.  I lamented that my students didn’t have those social skills. She responded that it’s not something our world really teaches any more, but it should. Frankly, I think she’s right.

So now I have a rule that every student must greet me as they enter my room. One-by-one, each of them has to look me in the eye, and shake my hand. Some of my students resist it and try to shove past me, but I don’t let them. Why? Because as I see it, my work as a teaching artist isn’t really about arts education. It’s about genuine human connection. That’s the real magic of theatre, as I see it. It’s a way for people to play together, and it’s a way to practice things not done much outside of that space.

But more than that, it’s a way to regain a sense of being a part of something. Many of my students want to resist what we’re doing, because it’s after school and they think that I should be as apathetic as they are. Or at best they think its silly.

But it isn’t silly to expect something from your students, even after school. It isn’t silly to ask for a world where our young people are raised with integrity, kindness, awareness, and perseverance. Our world needs gifted artists and educators, but it pleads for better people. As a teaching artist, that means I have a role to play.

Outside my room at the Boys and Girls Club there’s a mural. It’s a little speech bubble with the words — Imagine, Hope, Dream, Create. That’s the sequence with my students, and to grow as a teaching artist. Right now, let’s imagine a world where our young people become better people. Then move into hope: asking  what small actions can be done to make visible the world we imagine. My students and I can dream of that world together, dream it with theatre, and ultimately create it out in daily life.


Caleb Winebrenner is a teaching artist based in Tempe, AZ. His work focuses on empowering youth through creative play, storytelling, and devised theatre — and the more he does it, the more he loves it. He is currently working on a book of games and stories for community and youth development and launched a crowdfunding campaign to support it. He writes the blog Discovering Teaching Artistry and tweets, @caleb_teaches.