Please join us at the Provincetown this weekend!
Please join us at the Provincetown this weekend!
Please join us at the Provincetown this weekend!
By Eric Gelb
“Can I get a drumroll please?”, I would ask. Students would use their hands to drum on the floor. This would lead into the following dialogue – “today’s question of the day is…” and on this day, the question was ’why is musical theatre important to the world?’”
“Musical theatre is important to me because I don’t have a lot of friends at school and when I come here, I feel accepted”, one student said. Another sitting nearby leaned in for a hug. “It doesn’t matter what kind of day you’re having because once you get onstage you get to be another person and live in their world”. Some students “snapped” to show their agreement.*
Doing the “question of the day” warm-up was one of the rewarding parts of my summer as a teaching artist intern at The Rose Theater in Omaha, Nebraska. Working at The Rose was an experience I could never have been perfectly prepared for.
The Rose Theater is committed to enriching the lives of children through theater and arts education, home to the Omaha Theater Company – one of the largest professional children’s theater in the country! Accessible to all, no child is turned away for economic reasons. Live performances are shared from two stages: the main stage and the Hitchcock Theater. Professional actor/educators offer classes in theater, directing, musical theater and more.
As a summer intern, I co-taught creative drama camps and assistant-directed a production of XANADU. With almost 40 hours of contact time with students every week, I had opportunities to lead classes, observe and lead lunch and before/after class activities. Sitting in on weekly education meetings, intern meetings and participating in lesson planning was part of my weekly schedule as an intern to gain a better understanding about how an education department at a professional theatre company works.
“How was Omaha???”, people asked when I returned. “I bet Omaha was like, super different than NYC”, some would say, almost sympathetically. So here are five things I learned…
When I was assigned XANADU for the summer, it became my goal to make the show GREAT. I purposefully asked students to dig deeper into their roles than I knew they ever have been in the past. My co-workers often reminded me not to push them too hard, that they’re only 13. I was 13 when I co-produced my first musical. I knew they were capable of performing like professionals. And to be clear, performing like a professional doesn’t mean hitting all the notes or acting like Meryl Streep. It’s being a responsible actor and a team player. During the run, I was told by multiple people that the show was “the most prepared show of the summer” or “the best show in a LONG time”. Seeing their faces after opening night and hearing the applause confirmed my theory that we CAN test kids. They can handle it.
Teaching creative drama was particularly tricky because it asks students to be silly and LOOK silly in front of their peers. Part of our creative drama courses was spending part of the morning in-role as characters from the story we were studying. Of course we had students who suddenly “had a stomach ache” or “felt sick” as soon as we got in-role. In one class, we were pirates looking for Peter Pan! I didn’t dare step back and watch them act out the story – I was right there with them. If I didn’t join in, I wouldn’t be able to have gotten THEM to do it either.
I am a tough teacher. I want my students to be the best they can be. When I am in charge, students do not sit out. They do not pass, and they do not skip. Everyone has to attempt or try the activity before they decide they don’t like it. Why? Because this is a theatre. We instill the concept of speaking in front of others, being a team player and taking responsibility. So if I let a student skip because they’re scared, or quit because their team isn’t winning… I’m not letting them learn those lessons. I often say “we don’t quit things because they’re hard”. Not everyone agrees with me – some have a softer, gentler approach. And that’s okay! We all approach students differently.
I spent, probably, at least ten man-hours on the two lesson plans I presented solely by myself in classes at The Rose. I’d say we actually did about 60% of both of them. The truth is, no matter how hard we try, as artists, we can never really accurately estimate how long something is going to take in class. Sometimes inspiration strikes and we think of a fun medication to a game and it takes longer. Sometimes a new game doesn’t land well with the students, and it’s clear that you have to move on earlier than you expected. And that’s okay.
No one teaches to be rich. People teach because they simply cannot live if they are not impacting the lives of young people, so those that do choose to work inside of a children’s theatre have some sort of passion for it. The people that work in the costume rental shop, those that work upstairs in accounting and even the teaching artist you may teach with daily – they all have a very heavy tie to the arts. Stopping to listen and hear their stories are fascinating.
In the winter, I will be joining the team at WICKED on Broadway in the stage management department as an intern. Broadway has always been the dream, and although not too similar to the work I did at The Rose, I am POSITIVE I will, probably without knowing it, allow all I learned at The Rose into my work at WICKED, which leads me into bonus number 6 – once you’re a teaching artist, you’ll never shake all you learn.
Eric is a published author; you can buy his book “Growing Up in the Wings” on Amazon at www.bit.ly/GUITWBUY or at the NYU Bookstore. Follow him on Twitter (@DirectorGelb) or visit his website www.bit.ly/ericgelbofficial for more content.
* Answers have been fabricated to be generic and protect students’ identities.
In the Applied Theatre section, Kay Hepplewhite investigates the applied theatre artist’s praxis, attending closely to their responsivity to participants. John Somers identifies the unique features of community theatre in the UK and the role it plays in fostering community cohesion. Linden Wilkinson documents her experience developing an ethnodrama about efforts to create a memorial for the Australian Aboriginal massacre at Myall Creek focusing on trauma and reconciliation. Finally, Kaitlin O. K. Jaskolski chronicles her experience utilizing applied theatre practices to teach life skills to adolescents and young adults in Lagos, Nigeria.
In the Drama in Education section, Scott Welsh reflects on his experiences teaching monologue workshops and interrogates the relationship between education and theatre.
In the Theatre for Young Audiences section, Jessica M. Kaufman unpacks dramaturgy-as-research, specifically looking at her work in devised theatre for young audiences. Dennis Eluyefa provides a brief overview of children’s theatre in the UK, navigating both the educative and entertainment values of the work.
In the final section on Youth Theatre, Clare Hammoor employs auto-ethnography to investigate what he calls, “the production of meaning and the possibilities of children’s theatre.” Pamela Baer illuminates a myriad of ways in which youth can engage in a participatory aesthetic. And finally, Sean Mays looks at the many challenges of adapting Broadway musicals for young performers.
During the next few months, we will invite Joe Salvatore, Chair of the 2017 NYU Forum on Ethnodrama, to serve as guest editor, looking to identify highlights of the diverse offerings at the Forum for inclusion in a special edition of ArtsPraxis (Volume 5 Number 1). Following that issue, we will again engage members of the Educational Theatre field who may or may not have been present at the Forum yet want to contribute to the ongoing dialogue around our three areas of specialization: applied theatre, drama in education, and theatre for young audiences. The call for papers will be released concurrently with the next issue (November 2017) and the submission deadline is February 1, 2018.
Volume 4 Issue 1 May 2017
Editorial by Jonathan P. Jones
The Long Game: Progressing the Work from Thesis to Practice by Linden Wilkinson
Discovering a Planet of Inclusion: Drama for Life-Skills in Nigeria by Kaitlin O. K. Jaskolski
Drama in Education
The Evolution of Monologue as an Education by Scott Welsh
Theatre for Young Audiences
Children’s Theatre: A Brief Pedagogical Approach by Dennis Eluyefa
Feeling Blue: An Investigative Apparatus by Clare Hammoor
Participatory Aesthetics: Youth Performance as Encounter by Pamela Baer
Dr. Jonathan P. Jones, New York University
Amy Cordileone, New York University, USA
Norifumi Hida, Toho Gakuen College of Drama and Music, Japan
Byoung-joo Kim, Seoul National University of Education, South Korea
Ross Prior, University of Wolverhampton, UK
Nisha Sajnani, New York University, USA
Daphnie Sicre, Borough of Manhattan Community College, USA
Prudence Wales, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Hong Kong
James Webb, Bronx Community College, USA
Jeff Church, Producing Artistic Director of The Coterie in Kansas City, Missouri, “is pleased to be back with New Plays for Young Audiences in the Steinhardt’s terrific Program in Educational Theatre at NYU.” Jeff directed for NYPA in its very first year (1998) and continued for the next seven years though 2005. “Lowell Swortzell was leading the summer developmental festival at the time, and he was one of the greats. One of The Coterie’s most important commissions, The Wrestling Season, by Laurie Brooks, was developed here in 1999,” said Jeff. Jeff used the NPYA program to work on some experimental scripts as well, such as a transgender-themed play, The 12:07, also by Laurie Brooks.
“You’ll read about it in the papers tomorrow, if you don’t see it on your TV tonight.” – Edward Albee has passed away.
On the death of Tony-Award winning playwright Edward Albee, the Program in Educational Theatre salutes this giant of the American Theatre who last spoke at the historic Provincetown Playhouse (now owned and run by NYU) in 2010 just after a multi-million dollar refurbishment. Albee had a long history with the Provincetown, as it was the site of the long running production of his first success, The Zoo Story, in 1960 when it appeared on a double-bill with Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape.
Video from the 2010 re-opening of the Provincetown Playhouse event, which featured Albee along with Obie Award winner and founder of the Living Theatre Judith Malina, and director of the archives of La Mama Experimental Theater Ozzie Rodriguez, in discussion with Village Voice theatre critic Michael Feingold can be accessed at this NYU News Release.
NYU Forum on Ethnodrama:
The Aesthetics of Research and Playmaking
April 21-22, 2017
Join us for next year’s NYU Educational Theatre Forum for a robust conversation about the aesthetics of ethnodrama. How do artist-researchers engage audiences with the presentation of data? Theatre artists and academic researchers will come together to share ideas, vocabularies, and techniques.
Save the dates: April 21 & 22, 2017
If you’re interested in participating, please email Joe Salvatore.
** Image from Towards the Fear: An Exploration of Bullying, Social Combat, and Aggression, produced in spring 2014
The Program is excited to announce that the fall show will be The Miracle Worker by William Gibson based on Helen Keller’s autobiography The Story of My Life. The Miracle Worker is a three-act play about Helen Keller, a girl who is blind, deaf, and mute who learns to communicate through the help of her teacher, Annie Sullivan. The original production of the play premiered on Broadway in 1959 and was subsequently adapted into a film featuring original Broadway cast members Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, both of whom won Academy Awards for acting in the film.
Educational Theatre faculty member David Montgomery is excited to be directing this show in the Blackbox Theatre. All students are welcome to audition and audition announcements will be made soon.