Monday, April 30, 2012

Johnny Saldana visits CCNY by Erin Jean Jewell

Johnny Saldana visits CCNY! by Erin Jean Jewell

 The City College Educational Theatre club had the honor of hosting our winter workshop with the master of Ethnodrama, Johnny Saldaña. January 21 turned out to be a snowy morning, but even Johnny, who is accustomed to the sunny weather at Arizona State University was in good spirits. The morning snow put a delay on our events, but once we got started, we hit the ground running! First, Jonny shared different forms of Ethnodrama with us...books, plays and performances. As a group we learned exactly what an Ethnodrama is and they myriad of ways it can be used to produce theatre. After creating a better idea about the different forms Ethnodrama can take, we dove in and learned how to create Ethnodrama for both ourselves and with our students. We began by simply sharing what we discussed with our peers over breakfast. Such a simple task that students could easily perform, right? We talked about winter break and places that we traveled to, people who had started dating someone new, YouTube videos that were taking the internet by storm and even about the NFL playoffs. I would imagine our conversations weren’t all that different than those of high school students!  After sharing out our conversations with partners we chose one conversation to focus on and create a small piece around. Johnny gave us room to be creative but each small scene was to be about 30 seconds each. Once we had rehearsed, these short scenes were combined with our peers in a large circle and created a small scale Ethnodrama production of our "breakfast conversation."  The results were incredible. Our morning conversation was used to create a piece about today’s hot topics. We saw that we could easily transition this work into interests of our students and then create small, meaningful performance pieces devised and performed by our students.

After lunch Johnny gave us a sheet of prompts that he would give to his students which included phrases such as - "Who was your first love," "Discuss a challenging moment of your life," or "Discuss a funny or embarking moment that has happen to you." We were first given time to flesh out our ideas and write down key moments of this event in our lives. Then we were asked to share with different partners. I chose my first love; a boy from my hometown who I had a crush on for many years. After each sharing Johnny would ask us to notice or comment on different details that needed to be included. With every sharing we would get more comfortable, our writing would get stronger and our delivery would grow to more of a performance. What started out as writing our story ended up becoming self monologues or - Ethnodrama pieces. In the end we shared out in small groups. Our stories ranged from embarrassing moments, to stories about our families and moments of triumphs in our lives. In such a short time I wrote and performed a piece that I was proud of. I shared something about my life, my first love and the memories that came rushing back with that.

 I could not believe that we came up with 2 performance pieces during our short workshop. Yes, these ideas would have to be scaffold for students, but everyone left with amazing ideas as to how we could get our students to create original pieces and use those pieces to create a performance. The power of Ethnodrama is amazing. Taking real stories, personal accounts or interviews and turning them into a theatrical production is an amazing way to share research and use the power of theatre in a strong, productive and engaging way. The day was incredibly rewarding. As a group of graduate candidates we were able to explore a new type of drama that would engage our students and allow them to create productions from topics that are on their mind daily. In the end, the snowy day left us excited about theatre education and prepared to share Johnny Saldaña's Ethnodrama work with our students. 


  1. It was such an amazing day!! So inspirational... In fact I am reworking my prompt from the afternoon Ethnodrama "who was your first love" for a piece in a cabaret:) Thanks Johnny Saldana and The Ed Theatre Dept for keeping my creative juices flowing!

  2. It was awesome how quickly we took normal conversations an created an audience-worthy piece!