Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Thrills, Chills, and Hills – Starting Something New

Patrick G. McGee 

There is always the thrill of starting something new. Sometimes, it is starting a new hobby, trying a new recipe for a dinner party or even taking a new route home from work.  Starting something new always seems to bring a breath of fresh air to my daily routines and starting my first semester in this program is no exception.   As a teaching artist, I love the first day of classes or rehearsal.  There is always a great sense of excitement from both the young artists and myself.  
The past few weeks have been nothing but exciting and definitely thrilling.  I am slowly discovering the balance of finding my voice as an artist as well as developing my own teaching style.  The rainstorm of new terms like scaffolding, TYA, process vs. product, and devising theater have sparked my interests as a student in so many ways. 
I am thrilled to be in class with so many teachers and teaching artists with such varied backgrounds.  I am both humbled and inspired by my classmates’ discussions and feel myself growing both as an artist and student in these past few weeks. Both the discussions about the combination of  innovative technology and cutting edge theater for young audiences  and being exposed to productions like The Old Man and The Old Moon at The New Victory have a struck a new chord in my artistry.  Also, I was fortunate enough to take Devising Theatre over the summer and that class really allowed me to find the importance of my own artistry as a teaching artist but more importantly understand that we are all creating something together.  I was really struck by our discussions about community that were sparked by the devised theater pieces.  Ultimately, I think as both teachers and artists it is this idea of building a community or ensemble that is extremely important both inside and out of the classroom.  I am excited to find my place in this graduate program ensemble over the next few years. 

With any new experience, there are also so many anxieties.  For me if I am not a little bit nervous starting something, the passion must be missing.  Well needless to say those chills were there the first day of class.  With so many new people and new experiences, how would I fit in?  Also it has been some years since I have been in the world of academia, and I was a little worried that I would not be able to keep up.  Needless to say, the work load is a little intense, and the drama in education paper still makes my stomach churn but all these things combined remind me of my passion to be a better teaching artist. 
 Passion is what drives and fuels my every day existence.  It is why I get up every day with such vigor, and with that passion comes many, many hills to conquer.  I think our lives are series of hills that we are constantly trying to climb.  We have moments of glory when we reach the top and look down at what we accomplished. Maybe it is that lesson you thought could not be pulled off or that production of The Little Mermaid that you have to direct with 18 other directors.  Regardless of the hill you are currently climbing, the reward is in the journey.   I am excited to start climbing this new hill and start my journey towards my Master’s Degree.  Bring on all those thrills, chills, and hills!

Monday, September 29, 2014

No Beach this summer!

No Beach this summer!
Mari Martinez
This past summer, I decided to forgo the beach and instead headed to the mountains in beautiful Denver, CO.  I didn’t get a tan, or sport a new bikini, but instead saw old friends, made new connections and learned new and exciting things about the field of theatre education at the AATE conference.

Going to the conference this summer was such a great experience. I was a bit hesitant about going alone; I was worried about feeling out of place and under experienced to be at National Conference of this size-but immediately felt a sense of relief and empowerment when I saw that I knew people there! Our field is indeed, quite small! I re-connected with a former boss and mentor from over five years ago when I worked as a teaching artist at the Omaha Children’s Theatre.   

We both felt a sense of nostalgia at reconnecting and it was so great being able to discuss the field not as an employee or student, but as a peer in the filed. It turns out that my former boss is very much involved with AATE and through him; I was able to meet many artists from all over the country and many AATE committee members as well. We promised to keep in touch and remember to share new ideas and he also said he would be more than happy to connect me to other people and opportunities in the future. I also was able to meet with other teaching artists I worked with at the children’s theatre who have since moved on to work in other theatres all over the country and through them was able to meet new people and learn about new programs.

The sessions offered at AATE were numerous and at times, hard to choose which ones to attend. Even if you went to a session that turned out to be not as great as you expected, it still was an opportunity to meet and talk to new people and form new relationships. No session, or event at AATE was a waste of time. 
 Most of the time, you did go to very interesting sessions-but there seems to be one in particular that stands out to every person who attends. Again, going to AATE for just that one session-that one that shows you something new, or inspires you in a new way it is worth it all. For me, that session was with a theatre company called C&T based in England. This company presented new ways technology and theatre can work together to engage and teach students.  As someone who isn’t very tech-savvy, this session was very exciting and interesting to me. It definitely got my creative juices flowing and opened my mind to new possibilities.

So, no tan, no beach but I got the mountains and the amazing experience that AATE made possible. I am so glad that I was able to go-and I am so thankful to Sobha for introducing me to new people and for guiding me throughout the conference. After four days, I left the conference feeling engaged, inspired, validated as an artist that was lucky to belong to such an amazing community. See you all in Milwaukee next year!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Welcome Back, Everyone!

Welcome Back, Everyone! 
Jackie Avitabile

The Ed Theatre Club Officers would like to welcome everyone to a new semester at City College!  Last night at the Cupcake Social it was wonderful to see so many new and familiar faces.  

  I think it’s super exciting to hear about all of the interesting and varied experiences that our fellow students had this summer, and know that we are all coming back together to continue the journey as grad students this fall.
 My name is Jackie Avitabile, and I am one of the Ed Theatre Club Officers.  I am starting my second year in the program, in Stream A, and plan to graduate in May 2015.  What I have loved most about my time in the program are all of the opportunities to gain hands-on experience in classrooms and in the community.  Sobha’s Devising Theatre class this past summer was no exception—we spent the majority of our class days creating and reviewing lesson plans in the morning and then traveling to a transitional home and a senior center in the afternoon to facilitate our lesson plans with participants there.  Seeing the joy on faces ranging in age from 2 years to 82 years is a great reminder about why I decided to go to grad school and what I love about teaching theatre.

After Devising Theatre, I spent the rest of my summer working, traveling, and missing my friends from the program!  I am excited to be back for my last year and know that there are a lot of wonderful teaching and learning opportunities ahead of us this semester.  Here are just a few of the things that I am most looking forward to:

1) Three chances to learn from the greats: talks with guest artists Nilaja Sun and Amanda Gronich, and a process drama workshop with Cecily O’Neill.  I had the good fortune of seeing Nilaja Sun’s No Child… in Minneapolis and found this story about the impact that theatre can have on urban students incredibly moving.  And, I am a huge fan of Tectonic Theatre Project’s work (The Laramie Project, Gross Indecency) so it should be fascinating to hear from company member, Amanda Gronich, about their process.  Cecily O’Neill, master practitioner, did a process drama workshop here last January with the high school cast of The Inspector General, and it was incredible, so this workshop is not to be missed!

2) The Ed Theatre Club is trying something new this year- a Trivia Night(/possible Halloween Costume Contest?)!  This October evening event will be a chance to hang out with your friends in the field, win prizes, and show off your skills, while also reviewing theatre facts for the Theatre CST and/or Drama in Education midterm.  Plus, all proceeds will serve as a fundraiser for the program!  Should be an awesome night!

3) Ed Theatre Meet-Ups.  Stay tuned for specifics, but basically we were feeling like we don’t get enough chances to hang out together and we want to meet up with y’all!  Meet-ups may or may not include fieldwork opportunities, chances to study attending theatre performances as a group, etc!  We want to hear your ideas for meet-ups, so let us know what you would like to do!

4) The Little Mermaid at P.S. 161.  I had such an incredible time co-directing Aladdin last year with my Fundamentals of Teaching Theatre class.  I can’t wait to see those talented middle schoolers go underwater this year as Ariel, Sebastian, and the rest of the crew. 

Oh, Ed Theatre, I am so glad to be “Part of Your World”!

Have an amazing first month back, and we’ll see you soon!

And of course check out the fantastic items you can purchase with the Ed Theatre logo 

-Jackie Avitabile, Ed Theatre Club Officer

Friday, May 30, 2014

Reflections on the Spring 2014 Semester

Reflections on the Spring 2014 Semester
Faculty, Sobha Kavanakudiyil

Maya Angelou said, “Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it.” And boy did we do that this semester! 

We saw diligence and hard work, we saw laughter, sacrificing time that could be spent doing something easier, something less time consuming but probably less fulfilling. We are artists with passion, we are educators with strength, we are people who inspire.

Looking back, we began the semester watching Master Theatre Practitioner on Process Drama, Cecily O’Neill work with students from Repertory High School, deepening their understanding of The Inspector General.  Not only an amazing experience to have our candidates work with Cecily but to watch Cecily work with students was so valuable.

Candidates challenged themselves in classes to learn about how to present research, work with inclusive populations, discuss best practices in teaching English Language Learners or Emergent Bilinguals, and learn how to teach technical theatre and the history of theatre. For example in the History of Theatre class, candidates were asked to read the play, understand the history of the play, deepen understanding by making connections with why the play is relevant today, consider why it might be a good choice to produce in a school today, and what challenges producing the play would present.

Candidates were popping up at conferences this semester, as conference coordinators, as volunteers, as learners, as facilitators, as advocates, networking with emerging practitioners as well as experienced ones at events such as the NYU TA Forum, The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable’s Face to Face Conference (held at The City College of New York), and at TIOS in March.

We noticed that many of our candidates have been working in the field as teachers, teaching artists, and administrators; balancing artistry and education as well as school work and life!

We kicked off the end of the semester strong as well!  Family Art Saturdays classes mostly serving children under the age of 4 years; Family Arts Day premiered the Readings on the Road Performances, “Yuki and the Elephant; Hosting a special workshop sponsored by the Office of Arts and Special Projects with International Theatre Practitioners: Michael Finneran and Michael Anderson, open to not only CCNY Ed Theatre, but also the NYU Ed Theatre Community; And of course our Research/Artistic Share – presenting the research in various forms, including ethnodrama and documentary style!

This semester we also honored two of our students, Elizabeth Simmons with The Frances Blumenthal Award in Research and Stacey Bone with the Howard Wexler Scholarship, as well as Program Director, Jennifer Katona receiving the City College President’s Award for Outstanding Faculty Service in the School of Education!

We were reminded this semester of the strength of ensemble, the power of artistry in the joy of the work we do, and that the most inspired educators are those who are life long learners.  As we say goodbye to the semester and to our graduates, we also say goodbye to an inspiring practitioner and so I leave you with this quote from In Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education, the Arts, and Social Change Maxine Greene said, “In my view, the classroom situation most provocative of thoughtfulness and critical consciousness is one in which teachers and learners find themselves conducting a kind of collaborative search, each from his or her own lived situation.”

To our Spring 2014 Graduates, may you have as strong an ensemble with your students as you have here in the CCNY Ed Theatre Program!
Happy Summer!

**to read about any of the above mentioned events, please go to our blogs: http://www.ccny.cuny.edu/edtheatre/news_and_events.cfm***

Friday, May 16, 2014

Professional Development Reflection

Professional Development Reflection
Meredith Akins

I grew up during the age of milk cartons with missing children on the backside.  There had been a couple of tragic stories in the news of kidnappings of innocent boys and girls.  Out of nowhere, my community was shedding light on the terrible things that our innocent lives were too young to understand.  We were being told by our parents and teachers to not speak to strangers.  It was drilled into our heads, and rightfully so.  Times were changing and our safety was paramount, but I noticed that sharing stories with others was not encouraged anymore.  I found myself becoming silent.  I was reminded of these memories when I volunteered at NYU’s Teaching Artist Forum and I attended the session called, Telling True Stories:  The Moth and Personal Narrative Performance in the Classroom.  I walked away reflecting on why I love to talk and ask questions.  I walked away knowing that people find that making connections with others gives us meaning.  As an educator and graduate student studying theater pedagogy, it is clear that connective stories allow students to share their “artful voice”.  And I believe, more than ever, that making connections and speaking to strangers actually sets us up for success and new possibilities.

 At some point growing up, I started speaking to strangers again.  It unnerved people when I would strike up a conversation and share so much about myself.  I loved talking about race, gender, and relationships. I had performed for many years in several shows and inevitably, someone would ask why I would talk about the uncomfortable issues going on in the world.  Many of them would have rather discussed who was up for this or that Tony Award.  I would always rather sit down with a glass of wine and talk about life.   That is why I enjoyed Sobha’s Kavankudiyil’s class in Conflict Resolution last fall at City College. It was fulfilling to take a class that provided a space to create theatre based on real stories and real thoughts.  The class had sociological themes at its core.  I was also able to make new connections after the NYU Teaching Artist Forum when I learned that there are artists that share their stories in monologue form.  Unlike a play where someone does a monologue of a character, MOTH has students tell stories from their experiences.  Wait, I love telling stories and I love listening to other people’s stories!  The conference session reminded me of an acting teacher who had me write my own monologue about being betrayed by someone because I had a tendency to “clean my characters up”, by not allowing myself to get messy. I wanted to be the perfect acting student, which prevented me from letting go as a performer.  It was memorable moment when I did my personal monologue.  I was completely and utterly vulnerable.  I had done it in front of a room of working actors I did not know well.  Although they were strangers, everyone in the room was moved and inspired.  I walked back to my seat a different person because I told my story.

The students that work with MOTH Teaching Artists are so fortunate to have ownership of their stories.  They get to reflect about their perspective continually and isn’t that the true measurement for growth?  As a participant of the workshop, I once again got the chance to share a story after being given several prompts, such as “a time I took a big risk”.  In a safe space, we were encouraged to share our feelings and be moved by others.  I took the train home in an excited state.  I told Catherine McCarthy and Michaela Blei, the presenters of the session, that I was ready to take a big risk and sign up for an Open Mic at their StorySlam.  Attending their session made me become bold.  That is the positive of attending conferences.  If you are lucky, you get to hear a different worldview.  Worldviews and perspectives are at the core of making choices as an actor and they are the ingredients to a successful pedagogy.