Monday, November 2, 2015

First Hand Fieldwork, Being a Teaching Artist and a Parent

First Hand Fieldwork, Being a Teaching Artist and a Parent
Amanda Grundy

If you’d have told me 20 years ago when I was an undergraduate student getting my BFA in Musical Theatre, that one day I’d be a teaching artist, I never would have believed you.  First of all, I had not heard of a job called a “teaching artist” and secondly, although I’ve always loved working with children, I saw myself strictly as a performer.  But 20 years ago if you had told me I’d be married and raising two going on three children in while living and working as an artist in New York City, I would have been thrilled.  Although, I never could have imagined what that would have looked like and what challenges that would bring, thankfully, that is what I’m currently doing. 

At present, I am a teaching artist for Disney Theatrical Group, Covenant House Crossing Bridges Project, Trinity Baptist Church, and my husband and I have started our own company to promote creativity in adults and children called Eli Draws.  I am slowly and persistently pursuing my Masters Degree in Educational Theatre at CCNY.  My husband is a working actor.  He and I are raising two amazing children, Eli, aged 7 and Ava, age 2 and we are expecting our 3rd child in February.  Although not easy, I love what I do and I have found that being a teaching artist/ Ed Theatre graduate student and being a parent can actually go hand in hand. 

 As a teaching artist and graduate student I am always learning about theatre for young audiences I can take my children to see.  I have taken Eli, 7 years old, to many performances at The New Victory Theatre and now I have started taking Ava to performances for theatre for the very young.  Eli and Ava also both have come to see Disney Kids productions I have helped to direct as a teaching artist with Disney Musicals in Schools. 

Eli goes to Broadway shows on a regular basis and gets the full effect of the magic by often having backstage tour with friends we once worked with in our professional theatre jobs. 

I love that I get to enjoy these shows with my kids from the   point of view of a teaching artist and a parent. I am watchinghow my own children react to the shows and pre-show workshops which gives me true feedback from their experience.  I get to ask them questions I want to know as a teaching artist and a parent, which helps me to further develop my skills as an arts educator and as a mom.  

Being a teaching artist also helps me to be a more informed parent with my children’s education.  Because I work at many schools as a guest, I know how to quickly assess the culture of that school.  This proved to be incredibly helpful when we were looking for elementary schools for our son to attend.  As we toured many public charter schools and zoned elementary schools prior to my son’s kindergarten enrollment, I was able to know which school we felt was the best fit for Eli.  After a few months on the waiting list Eli got in to a wonderful charter school which is perfect for his giant imagination and learning style.

Because Eli is in such a great school, I also get to learn from his teachers.  At Eli’s school as a parent you are allowed to stay for the first 45 minutes of the school day which they call morning meeting.  Every morning of Eli’s kindergarten year, I stayed for that 45 minutes not only to help Eli adjust to his new school, but also to learn from his amazing teachers!  I noticed their classroom management strategies, the scaffolding of their morning meeting and how it would fit into the rest of their instruction for the day, and their joy in teaching.  I would then take these techniques and fold them into my own teaching whenever possible.  

As many benefits as there are to being a teaching artist, graduate student, and a parent, of course there are also challenges.  Truthfully, I have written many papers and lesson plans while my children watch Thomas the Tank Engine and Dora the Explorer episodes.  Artist careers are not the most lucrative careers.  It can be difficult and expensive to figure out childcare with a freelance teaching schedule and evening and weekend show schedule. 

Despite these challenges, I will continue on my teaching artist career path.  The lesson my husband and I want to teach our children is that there are creative ways to manage challenges and it is worth it to manage these challenges.  Working in the arts has an important, lasting impact on people.  Our hope is that our children see that we both get to do what we love to do and one day they will follow that example. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Arts Education Advocacy: A Blog Based on the Arts in an Urban Setting Course

Arts Education AdvocacyA Blog Based on the Arts in an Urban Setting Course
Jenni Mabrie

In the midst of a very exciting time in the world of arts education, there is a great calling for advocacy. Only three weeks into classes for the Arts in an Urban Setting course and I am already gaining a wealth of knowledge in regards to the history of education as well as its current standing. I have discovered that while we do have active powerful figures that support our cause, there is still a long way to go in terms of getting our point across. As arts educators, we have all been exposed to the tremendous benefits that an arts education brings to its students, but surprisingly there are some who are not aware of how imperative it really is.

After reading Jennifer Katona’s blog for Americans for the Arts, about the meaning of the proposed reauthorization of the ESEA and the effect that it will have on theatre education, I quickly realized that advocacy is calling. It is very exciting that the new version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act includes the arts as a core academic subject, but there are a House and Senate version of the bill. Our goal as arts education advocates is to ensure that the Senate version of the bill is agreed upon, which is the version that implements language that supports open accountability, (which could include the arts).

On Tuesday, September 29th, our class had the pleasure of attending a presentation lead by Jeff Poulin from Americans for the Arts. This presentation consisted of information directly connected to advocacy for arts in education. He spoke about what advocacy is and its different forms. He then spoke about making a case, crafting the message, and getting started. I found that one very powerful form of advocacy is social media. What a great way to start building awareness! Americans for the Arts also has E-books available online for more information regarding advocacy.

Jennifer Katona has set an excellent example of advocacy as she has spoken in class about her journey at Public School 161. When she first approached the Principal at Public School 161 about bringing theatre to the school with the team of the Fundamentals of Teaching Theatre course, they were not jumping at the idea. The school believed that it was simply not a place where theatre belonged. Jennifer and her different teams of  graduate candidates have now successfully produced a number of musicals with the students at Public School. 161. This year, the school has  50 students auditioning for our Fall production of “The Lion King Jr.” It is incredible to see that this program has come so far within a short span of time.

It is our duty as passionate arts educators to do our best to ensure that every student in America has the opportunity to have a sustained arts education. President Obama says, “The future belongs to young people with and education and the imagination to create.” Lets ensure that we support this essential growth of creativity in our youth, and we can do this informing our cause!

It’s not a question of “should we advocate?”
But rather,
“can we afford not to?”
 -Americans for the Arts

Thursday, October 8, 2015

New Student, New Year

New Student, New Year
Erica Hill
I never thought that I would go back to school after undergrad. In fact, I vowed that I would never go to school again.  After a couple years of not practicing my artistry as the triple threat I once boasted to be, I took a position as an administrator at the Gold Coast Arts Center. My focus was the school for visual and performing arts. I answered phones, and discussed class options with parents, sometimes for hours. I was invested in the program and forged relationships with students and their families. There was a moment when I became overwhelmed with the feeling that I needed to do more. To be in a position that made more of an impact in the lives of others.  I watched a drama teacher drive students away from theatre, with his techniques of teaching. I answered complaints, and on several occasions heard a phrase that broke my heart, “MY CHILD NEVER WANTS TO DO THEATRE AGAIN BECAUSE OF THIS PROGRAM”. I reassured parents that not all drama teachers conducted themselves in the same way that our current teacher did. I knew I had to make a change to our program. So I began teaching an Intro to Theatre class for younger students between the ages of five and seven, and made sure this teacher was evaluated and alerted of what he was doing to his students. I could not let the children of my community be put off from theatre because of one bad experience with a teacher. Working so closely with arts teachers and their students, made me realize that I could no longer sit behind a desk, I wanted to be in the classroom as a drama teacher. But first, I needed to equip myself with the education and skill set of a true theatre educator, so, here i am.  

            The Educational Theatre program at The City College of New York is exactly what I needed to further myself and my career. I know this is where I’m supposed to be and I am so grateful to be part of such a innovative, ever changing field, with a mission that goes further than merely theatre history or putting on plays. It seems that the leaders in the educational field have a greater concern for the whole child; in developing creative and empathetic citizens of the world. During my first week I looked around my Drama in Education classroom, at my peers, from all walks of life and who are all in different stages in their careers, and it was quite intimidating. I don’t think I spoke for a couple weeks. I mean, some of my peers were drama teachers for years! Some, are already working at famous institutions that provide theatre for youth, and some even have their very own theatre companies! In my Theatre for Young Audiences class, the second session, I caught part of a conversation so dominated with educational jargon that I thought, “Maybe nobody would notice if I just packed up my bag and backed out of the room slowly...very, very slowly...How will I ever compare? The people sitting around me really know what they’re talking about.”
  A couple more weeks passed, and the realization that my a lot of my peers are already professionals in this field became a mode of encouragement, because as time has gone on I realize how much of a collaborative effort this program demands of its cohort, and I’m excited, and so eager to learn from my peers, our students at PS 161 and of course, my professors. In Fundamentals of Teaching Theatre, the first week, we were  given the chance to speak of how each of us would like to utilize our future degrees and certifications, and it really became clear that there was something that truly united all of us, and that is passion for the field of educational theatre and a thirst for knowledge.

            We all do our best to create lesson plans and rehearsal schedules and execute them. We can do this because we are for the most part, actors, dancers, choreographers, directors, and designers with background and various degrees in theatre arts. Or we’re teachers, with interests and experiences in the theatre.  However, there is a art to this field and a necessity to being trained in the art of teaching drama. In my short time in the Educational Theatre program at the City College of New York, I’ve already been given some knowledge, language and tools to be a more effective educator in my current position. I’m excited to embark on this journey.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Welcome to the 2015-2016 school year!

Welcome to the 2015-2016 school year! 
Elizabeth Harvey

I am so excited to be back, seeing classmates, friends, and getting to know the new cohort.
My name is Elizabeth Harvey, and I am one of the Educational Theatre Club officers. I am stream A and starting my second year in the program. I spent my Summer traveling, working, running all over NYC trying to soak up every bit of Summer, and taking classes (devising and integrating, both of which I loved), and I am excited to be back working with some amazing people. 

As an Ed Theatre Club officer I am fortunate to be working alongside Patrick Mcgee, Kimberly Cecotti, Meredith Smart, Jeff Seabaugh, and Brigitte Loftis. I think I can speak for all of the officers when I say that we are so excited for this school year and look forward to a lot of fun events.

The first event which occurred just a couple weeks ago was the ice cream social. This event gave us a chance to get to know the new cohort. Though I don't know many of the new students well yet, they all seemed so excited about being in the program and they come across as passionate about their graduate school endeavor. I am excited to get to know them better as the semester continues.

There are a lot of great events planned for this semester, both by the club and by the department. I would love to give you some highlights of what's coming up!

Guest Speakers: There are three great guest speakers coming to talk with Educational Theatre students this semester: Jeff Poulin who is the Arts Education Program Coordinator for Americans, Nilaja Sun who is the author of No Child,and Amanda Gronich from the Tectonic Theatre Project.

I can tell you I went to several events like these last year and they were amazing. Each guest speaker gives us amazing insights on working in the educational theatre field and I found myself motivated to work even harder after listening to guest speakers.

The Educational Theatre Club is planning a Trivial Night on October 28th. While details are still being worked out I can tell you there will be a Halloween theme (costumes encouraged) and it is a fun way to get to know each other outside of the classroom. I attended trivia night last year as a new student to the program and had a blast getting to know everyone.  

And of course there is the event that we all look forward to each Fall semester: the performance at PS 161. This year the students at PS 161 will be performing in The Lion King JrIt is an amazing experience whether you are working on the show or in the audience, and I hope that everyone can make it out to support the talented students of PS 161!

Whether you are brand new to the program or a returning student I hope you will join us for some amazing events!
Also, don't be afraid to show your program pride! Educational Theatre program merchandise can be found here:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Five Lessons I've Learned in My First Year

Five Lessons I’ve Learned in My First Year
By Amanda Urban

1.      Grad School is a Blast and Half
Graduate school is a scary notion. We all wonder: How on Earth am I going to balance grad school, working, and my personal life? While it seems many of us are still struggling to find that balance, I can at least say that our program makes the challenge easier because classes are a blast and a half. I legitimately look forward to going to classes every week because I know that we’ll be doing something engaging, purposeful, and fun. In most classes, our professors ask us to get on our feet and the moment we begin our warm-up activity, the stresses of the rest of the world melt away—we’re here in class together to learn how to be better teachers, and to have fun while we do it.
The moment I fell in love with our program was when Sobha told our Artistic Lab class that the purpose of the course was “to play and have fun” for an hour every week. For that hour, I engaged in an artistry that my classmates were passionate about: we learned how to juggle, how to engage in stage combat, how to parody music, how to dance, sing, and play with one another. I appreciated that the program encouraged us to set aside time in our own busy lives to practice what we preach—to make time for the arts.
Moreover, my other classes kept me smiling throughout.  In Drama in Education, we collaborated to create a moving dragon using all of our bodies and traveled to imagined places using Guided Imagery. In my Teaching Literacy Through Drama class, we happily wrote and performed plays for each other. In my Conflict Resolution Through Drama class, we enthusiastically created flash forum pieces that sometimes made us laugh, but always made us want to make a difference. My classes invigorate and empower me every week. I doubt anyone else can say that about their grad school experience.

 2.      Take Every Opportunity
I’ve learned that this program has so many wonderful opportunities and I should take every opportunity to challenge myself as a student, artist, and teacher. On a small scale, I learned that I should take every chance to volunteer in class. How will I learn to facilitate Rainbow of Desire if I’ve never participated in it? How will I learn to make my students excited about a Dance Party warm-up if I don’t dance my heart out at the beginning of my class?
On a larger scale, the program offers weekend elective classes once a semester that I chose to participate in. In the spring semester, I took a Baby Theatre course and learned about the art of engaging 0-5 year olds in drama. Although I’m primarily interested in teaching adolescents, I was glad I took the opportunity to learn about early childhood development and to see the fascinating effects theatre can have on the very young.
Additionally, I volunteered at the Harlem Children’s Theatre Festival in the spring. I helped at the dress-up booth and enjoyed imagining with the children who would pretend to be Queen of the Forest when donning a crown, and a train conductor in the next moment because of a simple costume change. I loved watching the smiling children play with puppets, create crafts, and participate in a sing-along. Most exciting was watching them exit the theatre, possibly having seen their first performance ever. It was powerful to know that we may have played a part in exposing some of those children to theatre for the very first time in their life and I was happy that I chose to take advantage of the opportunity to do so.

3.      Practice Makes Perfect
Our program has taught me that being a good teacher means being prepared and being willing to take risks. In many classes, we are required to facilitate a lesson, either individually or in groups. I’ve enjoyed these facilitations because it allows me to try different strategies in a safe space before trying them with my high school students. Through my own facilitation and my classmates’ facilitations, I can see what works and consider ways I could modify an activity to better fit my personality as a teacher.
I like that our program makes me feel safe to share my teaching experience and encourages me to make my classroom engaging. Sobha told us to think of our program as a salad bar: just as a person can choose ingredients to make a salad that’s perfect for them, we as teachers should take the tools that our classes teach us and choose to use them in a way that will feel right for us and for our classrooms. In the end, we’ll learn the tools that work best for us, but for now, we’ll continue to experiment because practice makes perfect.

4.      Ensemble, Ensemble, Ensemble
Anyone who is involved in theatre knows that by the end of a rehearsal process, the cast and crew become a family. It’s one of the best parts about being involved in theatre. Amazingly, our program flawlessly builds ensemble in each class and has left me with a wonderful sense of family. We laugh together, share our challenges, and support each other. This program has taught me that it is pivotal to build a strong ensemble in my classroom because I see the benefits of a strong ensemble every day: our classes radiate positivity, we all feel safe sharing our ideas, and in the end, we learn more from each other and from our professors because of it.

5.      The Importance of Advocacy
While many of my friends and family have supported my passion for theatre since I was in my first role as Mama #1 in Fiddler on the Roof in sixth grade, I’ve noticed that people who do not normally participate in the arts or are not regularly exposed to the arts, may not see the value in our program or worse, the value in an arts education. This year has taught me the importance of not only fostering our artistry and pedagogy, but also the importance of advocacy.
When I tell my coworkers that I’m getting my Masters Degree in Educational Theatre, I can tell that some seem skeptical. I know they’re thinking: What place does drama really have in an English classroom? Are you really learning anything that will challenge your students? Is an Arts Education really all that important in the grand scheme of education?
I’ve learned that I need to take a stand for Arts Education. I can advocate by kindly informing my coworkers of the countless benefits of integrating the arts into the classroom. I can also advocate by actually facilitating lessons that require students to engage in drama practices. In doing so, I’ve already enlightened my co-teacher to the benefits of arts integration. “They’re so engaged,” she’s said to me. “That grad program you’re in really is amazing.”

I just smile at her because I already know it is and because I can’t wait to learn more as I continue the program.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Harlem Children's Theatre Festival

Harlem Children’s Theatre Festival

This year’s Harlem Children’s Theatre Festival was a huge success, mostly in part to our dedication, talented and innovative Master’s candidates! Here is a little discussion from a few who participated in the event.

This year marked the third time I was a part of The Harlem Children's Theatre Festival (formerly Family Arts Day). It was very exciting to take the event in a new direction this year, which made the three live theatrical performances shine as the festival centerpiece. Theatre is a collaborative art form, and I have enjoyed participating in the group-driven process to make the event possible. The talents and resourcefulness of my peers in the Graduate Program in Educational Theatre at the City College of New York, under the visionary leadership of Jennifer Katona and Sobha Kavanakudiyil, make the “magic” happen.   From the initial stages of planning through the event execution and clean up, the process has showed me the power of surrounding myself with like-minded people who share my passion for theatre and the arts. An essential part of being an arts educator is learning how to be an arts advocate, and bringing one’s artistic vision to reality for the communities you serve. Being a part of the festival has allowed me to participate in the extraordinary process of creating theatre for young audiences and inspiring a new generation that will benefit in learning about themselves and developing empathy for those around them in a way that only theatre can provide.
-Lauren Adler

 Assistant producing the Harlem Children’s Theatre Festival was such an amazing learning experience.  Though I have directed and produced various and sundry children’s theatre shows over the years, I had never produced a festival like this, juggling volunteers, donations, activities, publicity and multiple shows.  I have to say that though I was brought on to make our fearless leader Sobha’s life easier, she made it pretty easy for me, walking me through the steps and supporting me, always with grace and patience.  My co-assistant Lauren was another huge asset, since she was involved with the festival last year when it was Family Arts Day, filling in the blanks and giving sage advice.  I especially loved coordinating the Creative Play Workshops for young children and their families that led up to the festival.  It was such a joy to watch the community come together in the intimate setting of a small workshop, watching some of our wonderful teachers-to-be practice their art, igniting joy and wonder in young children.  It was no surprise that that joy and wonder were multiplied times a thousand at the Harlem Children’s Theatre Festival.  So many little ones were exposed to the beauty of theatre for the first time that day.  So many families engaged with the arts and their community dynamically, in a way they never had before.  This festival gave me the opportunity to bridge Educational Theatre volunteers with the families and children of our neighborhood, making beautiful connections through the many aspects of theatre.  I cannot wait to continue to bridge those connections, and I definitely cannot wait till next year for the second annual Harlem Children’s Theatre Festival.
-Meredith Smart

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned during my time in the Educational Theatre program at CCNY is the importance of building ensemble whether it is in our classrooms or our community.  The Harlem Children’s Theatre Festival is a prime example of this. It took an ensemble from the CCNY community to produce a festival of this magnitude that could bring together so many families from the NYC community for the purpose of celebrating the arts and families experiencing art together.   The process began for me last semester as I watched this script evolve from a brainstorming idea to a fully realized play.  Working on this project allowed me to share my artistry as a director with my fellow graduate students and I got to witness their acting talents shine as they shared this wonderful story with the children and families who attended the festival.  As our performance began I stood there and watched the audience enter the world of Harry the Dog and I saw their delight as Harry and his friends and family traveled through the story.  It was the first exposure to live theatre for many of the children and what an honor it was to be able to share this story and the beauty of live theatre with them
-Jeff Seabaugh

As an artist, I am a story teller, and the Harlem Children's Theatre Festival reminded me that the stories created in the theatre can bring joy to both children and adults. As an actor, I was captivated by how invested audiences were in the stories we created on stage. Children have an honesty that they bring to a theatre piece and after all, the audience is the final character in the story. Finally, this festival allowed families to come together to enjoy storytelling without looking at a screen or phone.  The audience and the actors were experiencing something together. As an actor, I was able to actively respond to the audience which enhanced my experience and shaped the story that was told.  Through laughter, song, and movement, something magical was created through this theatrical experience, and I could see that magic spark in many of the eyes of the young audience members. I am excited to see how this festival grows in years to come.
-Patrick McGee

I worked as tech support for the Harlem Children Theatre’s Festival, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with my Educational Theatre classmates as artists! I spent most of my time with Busy Bea and The Sixth Borough, which I felt served as excellent complements to each other. While one was a story about nature and the other was about the city, each story fostered appreciation and excitement for our surrounding environment—whether it was for the wonders of bees or the intrigue of  New York City. This festival was also a fantastic opportunity to see in action the positive impact that the Educational Theatre program has on its community. I’m looking forward to more artistic collaborations with my CCNY colleagues!
-Hannah Johnson-Walsh

 Last year I had the opportunity to co-write and direct a Theatre For Young Audiences piece for Family Arts Day entitled Yuki and the Elephant. This work, which was developed in the Educational Theatre Program's TYA course, premiered at Family Arts Day and went on to tour in public schools last fall. Working on that production not only provided an opportunity to build essential skills needed in the field, but it also gave me a chance to reconnect to my artistry as a director and choreographer. 

When Sobha announced Family Arts Day would be re-branded the Harlem Children's Theatre Festival this year and would premiere three original shows, I looked forward to seeing how the event would grow and change. I was blown away by the high level of creativity and dedication poured into every aspect of this year's event. It was a huge success, and the TYA pieces were clever, joyful, well designed, and poignant. Although I was unable to participate in the shows this year, I had a blast leading sing-a-longs with my hot pink guitar in between each performance! The costume photo booth was an extra special treat, and I loved singing with the kids as they paraded about the space in tutus, hats, wigs, fairy wings, and other colorful attire! 

I am extremely proud of everyone involved for dedicating themselves to providing entertaining and educational experiences for families in the Harlem community, and look forward to the continued growth and success of this event!

-Robin Cannon Colwell

When Mari Martinez and I wrote the first draft of Busy Bea in our Theatre for Youth and Young Audiences class in Fall 2014, the concept was a little different. The original script included shadow puppetry and "normal" staging, but in the nature of wanting to expose the talents of our actors, as well as our interest in the performing for the very young--the audience we knew we would have at the HCTF, Busy Bea looked quite different in production. Shadow puppets became actual hand puppets, and the staging became interactive--children sat in the center and the action happened in 4 small different sets that surrounded them. It was fabulous first hand experience in the importance of being flexible and working with what you have in children's theatre.  It truly turned out for the best.
 It has been an absolute honor to be able to watch our seed of an idea grow into a full blown production. I could not have been more proud of my cast and crew, and the audience feedback was overwhelmingly positive. I can't wait to continue with this project in the fall in the Readings on the Road series. 
-Kim Ceccotti

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Attending Face to Face

Attending Face to Face
Brigid Warnke

Over spring break, I was fortunate enough to attend Face to Face, a conference put together by the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable at CCNY.  I’d been looking forward to the opportunity to meet and learn from other theatre teachers and teaching artists since the beginning of the semester.  I teach theatre and music at a small special education school, and because I teach both, I am the entire performing arts department.  I’m also a first-year teacher.  It’s pretty intimidating and can be rather isolating, so I was thrilled to have this opportunity to connect with others in the field and see what kind of work they were doing.  But as thrilled as I was, I could never have imagined just how inspiring this conference would be. 


One of the sessions I attended on the first day was called In Full Color: Cultivating a New Generation of Leaders in the Field of Arts Education, a panel discussion involving James Miles and Michael Wiggins of Urban Arts Partnership, Courtney J. Boddie of The New Victory Theatre, and moderated by CCNY’s own Sobha Kavanakudiyil.  This panel set out to address the question, “Why doesn’t the make-up of our non-profit leadership more accurately reflect the demographics of the populations arts educators serve and how can we achieve more diversity?”  While this panel was set up mainly to discuss non-profit organizations, I attended because the same lack of diversity exists among school teachers and administrators; a lack of diversity that persists even as public schools are now serving a student body that is majority students of color.   As a white teacher of primarily African-American and Hispanic students in the Bronx, I am part of this trend.  I wanted to hear from others why they think this lack of diversity exists, what steps we can take as a community of arts educators to combat this and finally, as a person who is passionate about achieving equity in our non-profit and school leadership, but whose presence in those spaces symbolizes a lack of equity, what is my role in this conversation?  What can I do?

Well not to worry, because in the 90-minute panel discussion we totally answered all of my questions and solved all of these problems.  (Kidding, but wouldn’t that be nice?)  As one might expect, the energy in the room was tense, as conversations about racial equity frequently are.  The further we delved into the question, the more obstacles we uncovered; again, not an uncommon theme in these kinds of conversations.  But Sobha and the panelists did an excellent job of making us focus not just on the problem, but on action steps that we as teachers, teaching artists and administrators can take to combat the problem.  I was reminded that while this issue is incredibly complex, some of the action steps I can take as teacher are so simple, like teaching theatre and music history in a way that emphasizes the rich artistic contributions of people of color, or making a conscious effort to bring in guest artists of color to work with my students, because, as James Miles reminded us, it is important for all students to see people who look like them in positions of leadership and authority.

Another panel I attended that gave me some concrete ideas that I’m excited to implement in my classroom was Mixing the Digital and Drama: Making Performance-Based Online Maps.  This workshop came from a partnership between the New York City Department of Education and C&T, a UK-based applied theatre company that focuses on mixing drama with digital technologies.  They showed us an application they developed called Stratar that allows students to create their own interactive online maps.  As I was watching their presentation, I was frantically scribbling reminders to myself to talk to the computer teacher about working together on a project like this.  This workshop made the possibilities of a cross-curricular project between computers and theatre seem endless- why had I never thought of it before?  Apparently I’m not the only one who missed this boat- when asked what other organizations are doing work like this, the guys from C&T exchanged a smile and simply said, “No one.”  Well C&T, The New LIFE School will take that challenge!  The computer teacher and I are planning a trip along The South Bronx Culture Trail, a map of significant places in hip-hop history created by a non-profit in the neighborhood.  We’re going to have the students prepare performances to be recorded at some of the sites and try to create our own interactive version of The South Bronx Culture Trail.

Overall, Face to Face was a wonderful, thought-provoking, exhilarating and exhausting two days.  I wish I could write about all of the sessions I attended, but that would be less of a blog post and more of a book, so I’ll just say thank you to all of the presenters for sharing your work.  I look forward to doing this all again next year!