Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Finding the Balance

Finding the Balance by Sarah Malone Kenny

When Sobha asked me to write a blog post about work/life/school balance, I honestly laughed out loud. At first thought, I didn't think it was something I was managing all that well. In the past 6 months, I have started a new job, started grad school, gotten married, and co-chaired AATE's Theatre in Our Schools conference! 

When I talk about it all with my family and friends, they tell me I'm crazy and that they don't know how I'm doing it all. But in truth, it's really not all that hard! Every one of the things I listed has provided me with a lot of joy and satisfaction. Sure it's a lot, but it's all related (well, maybe not the getting married part), I have passion for what I'm doing, and each of these things feeds the others.

When I'm in class, I'm thinking about how everything I'm learning can help me do my job every day. And when I'm at work, I'm practicing what I'm learning. And co-chairing the Theatre In Our Schools conference beautifully tied it all together; TIOS was the first event where my work life and my school life truly intersected. It was so great to see colleagues I know from work and colleagues I know from school interacting with and learning from each other. And as a current graduate student, I was able to bring the perspective of another area of AATE's reach (and of course, score some field work hours!) to the conference.

Ultimately, what I've learned about balance in the past 6 months, is that it's all about joy, passion, and loving what you're doing. When you love coming to work each day and you love learning from your peers and teachers in the glamorous classrooms at CCNY, it all becomes a lot more manageable, productive, and, of course, joyful. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Volunteer at TIOS

A Volunteer at TIOS - Jackie Avitabile

I attended my first educational theatre conference as an intern at the TIOS Conference at Lincoln Center Education on March 3, 2014.  I didn’t really know what to expect out of the conference- I was hoping to attend some interesting sessions, and I was counting on the fieldwork hours for two classes!  As it turned out, volunteering at the TIOS conference made for a busy, fun, and fulfilling day!

 My day started very early when I ran into Sobha Kavanakudiyil on the 1 train at 6:30 am.  We talked about the frigid weather that had raised concerns about whether the conference would happen, and our expectations for the day.  Luckily, chatting with Sobha gave me an excuse to put my reading aside- I love McCaslin’s book, but it was just too early for Creative Drama!

When we arrived at Lincoln Center, my first tasks as an intern were a bit unusual.  As part of setting up registration, Nathan Schwartz and I crossed between buildings and loaded up our arms with 50 coat hangers each for the coat racks in the lobby.  We looked like we were wearing creepy wooden wings and we tried to catch the eye of passersby!  Registration kept us occupied for the next hour, as a steady stream of friendly faces, some familiar, came in out of the cold.

In the morning, I was able to attend Caitlin Stanton’s presentation on her project-based learning classroom.  It was inspiring to see the amazing work that an alumna of City College is doing with her theatre students!

I helped the conference committee members set up lunch from Potbelly, and I was impressed by the level of planning that went into such seemingly minor details as the order of items on the buffet table.  All of the committee members worked incredibly hard to make the day run smoothly, and their great care and thoughtfulness was evident throughout!  They managed to make a small space effortlessly fit 100 attendees, and I will steal some of their organizational tips for the future!

In the afternoon, I attended Paul Brewster’s session about technical theatre curriculum, which was terrific and super relevant to the Fundamentals of Teaching Technical Theatre class, which I am taking this semester.  By the Keynote Plenary session, my brain was buzzing with all of the information that I had learned and interesting discussions from the day.

For me, the most enjoyable part of the day was connecting with other theatre educators and realizing what a small world we do live and work in.  It was exciting to meet alumni of our program who are further along in their careers and hear about their amazing successes with students.  And I loved engaging in discussions with my cohort at City College, who are all open-minded and eager to learn new things.  

 I found this conference to be so energizing (even after a short night’s sleep and an early morning!) and I am excited to continue connecting with other theatre educators.  Teachers in our field are some of the most innovative and reflective practitioners and I admire how so many of them strive to continually improve their practice and become better for their students.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

History of Theatre

History of Theatre 
Jenni Mabrie

After my first  incredibly insightful and inspiring first semester in the Educational Theatre program at City College, I felt as though I was obtaining a solid idea of what to expect from my next set of classes. Though I knew every class had different knowledge to offer, I was pensive about what to expect from a  History of Theatre class. As a theatre performer from the age of five with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Theatre, I thought it might resemble the types of classes that I wasalready familiar with from the past.

Boy was I wrong...

Since the day our first class met, I knew I was in for a treat. Peter Royston, our incredibly knowledgeable professor, gave us a list of plays from different eras that we were going to be asked to read.

Here comes the fun part...

Not only were we going to be asked to read these plays, but we were going to be required to fill out a worksheet with information regarding the history of the play, why the play is relevant, why the play would be great to produce in a school, and what challenges producing the play in a school would present. We were also told that every student would be asked to lead an insightful discussion on one of the plays, be asked to direct a scene from one of the plays, and create an active school activity based on one of these plays.

 This incredible format has forced me to analyze  what plays will be significant to expose to students within my classroom. I no longer think in terms of "I want to do Guys and Dolls because it is fun and the score is amazing." I now think in terms of "Maybe I should do Hedda Gabler because in an all girls school the focus on Hedda and her human rights as a woman in the 1800's would be highly relatable for female students in this day in age."

Not only has this class forced me to think about creating theatre that is relevant within the culture of my own classroom, it has taught me to make distinct connections between different pieces of theatre. This was something that I never took the time to think about before this class. Who would have known that one the shows that I worked for, Wicked, was so similar in theme to the Greek Tragedy, Antigone? Both of these protagonists fought for what they believed in and were willing to sacrifice their lives in order to do what they believed to be the right thing.

Noh Theatre?

On the third week of class, it was my turn to direct a scene from the play, The Kasuga Dragon God, which is a very famous Noh play very famous in  Japanese culture. I was extremely anxious about presenting this play with the few resources that I had because of the fact that I did not want to disrespect this form of theatre in any way shape or form, but after days and days of research, I came to the conclusion that there was a way to present this piece without being disrespectful and in a way that would shed light upon the themes of the play.

Since Noh Theatre is a type of theatre that is extremely stylized, I decided to stay true to the form by incorporating traditional Noh characteristics. Peter was generous enough to bring me some amazing props and costumes, which added so much to the authenticity of the piece. I also used traditional Noh music to  add to the authenticity of the piece as well. While directing my actors, I was very specific in terms of physical instruction of the piece. Since Noh has very specific rules in terms of the physicality of the actors, and the way the stage and the space is being utilized, I felt it was important to stay true to that aspect of this style of theatre. It was not nearly as hard as I thought it might be and the class seemed to receive the piece very well and gave very positive feedback!

Two thumbs up!

All in all, I am so incredibly happy that I am taking this class. With the support of Peter as well as my fellow classmates, I am having so much fun while simultaneously learning so many things in an environment in which I feel comfortable and safe.  I would strongly recommend this class to all of the students in this program!