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.

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!

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Michael Yurchak

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!

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Michael Yurchak leads participants through breathing and stretching exercises.

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.

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Michael prepares the participants to release the breath and engage in voice work.

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.

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Michael Yurchak, EdD

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

Imagine / Hope / Dream / Create

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.

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Caleb Winebrenner 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.