By Chelsea Price
Since I have fully recovered from the jet lag, I am happy to share with you my amazing experience participating in the NYU Steinhardt Community-Engaged Theatre study abroad program in Dublin, Ireland!
With a home base in gorgeous Dublin city at the historic Trinity College, this program provided both theory and practical experience in the growing artistic realms of applied theatre and community engagement. We participated in site visits to renowned theatres and community centers to hear how top notch Irish practitioners were tackling and expanding on these vast categories of theatrical work, and even got to produce and perform some work of our own.
Now, if you think you’re going to Ireland to learn a few things about applied theatre and then being unleashed on some poor community group to change their lives, you’re sadly mistaken. This program challenges participants to think of their program colleagues as the community and includes a myriad of practical small group projects and performances.
So, collaboration is key in this program. You won’t get very far if you can’t learn to work with and work well with other people. If that’s not a problem for you, then you’ll have an absolutely wonderful time learning from and about others with vastly different life perspectives and talents, and you might even make some lasting bonds and friendships along the way. I certainly did!
I started off knowing next to nothing about the term, “Applied Theatre” other than what the pre-readings assigned before the program could illuminate. However, being immersed in another culture and taking trips to locations such as the Upstate Theatre Project in Drogheda, the National Theatre in Dublin, Dalkey Castle, and the Giant’s Causeway in Belfast, things started to click.
As I heard from guest speakers, saw work firsthand, personally devised theatre, and proposed plans to engage communities, this term started to take on a lot more depth for me. My general understanding has come to rest with the idea that a facilitator who uses theatre or theatrical elements to indirectly solve and combat social issues in a given community is working in the area of applied theatre. This is something that I have always known and believed about theatre and its ability to create social change, but I now have the academic terminology, research, and practical experience to back it up.
Honestly, if this study abroad program fits into your academic plan, but maybe you’re debating on whether to dish out the dough, take it from me: it is totally worth every penny. On top of being a fantastically fun and adventurous learning experience, it was some of the most practical work I’ve done in my entire Educational Theatre program at Steinhardt. I highly recommend it and I’m sure the Irish people will warmly welcome you!
For over 30 years, the program in Educational Theatre has offered unique opportunities for concentrated study and daily field participation in the uses of theatre education and applied theatre which are designed for teachers, teaching artists, university students, recreational leaders, language and speech arts specialists, theatre directors, actors, integrated arts educators, and community leaders.
For additional information about the program, visit the Global Studies website.