Community Engaged Theatre

PhD alumni Ashley Lauren Hamilton received a multi-million dollar grant to support the DU Prison Arts Initiative at Denver University in 2019. This fall, her important work was featured in The New York Times. A brief excerpt from the article follows.

Ashley Hamilton, center, who directed the prodcution, led a mindfulness exercise before the performance. Credit - Trent Davis Bailey for The New York Times
Ashley Hamilton, center, who directed the production, led a mindfulness exercise before the performance. Credit: Trent Davis Bailey for The New York Times

STERLING, Colo. — The cast was strip-searched before boarding the bus to their show. The leading man was shackled so tightly that he performed with abrasions on his wrists. And the moment the men finished their bows and the house lights came up, they had to slip out of costume and back into green prison uniforms.

So goes life on the road for a production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” put on by 30 medium-security inmates of the Sterling Correctional Facility, out on Colorado’s remote eastern plains. While prison plays have been around for decades, the challenge of this show was audaciously new: It went on tour.

Continue Reading at NYTimes.com

Ashley Lauren Hamilton is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of Denver and the Founder and Co-Director of the DU Prison Arts Initiative (DU PAI). Ashley’s work is vast, ranging from teaching full time, creating theatre and performance in medium and maximum security prisons and directing and devising university and professional work in Colorado and New York. Ashley’s research focuses on the complexities of teaching and creating theatre in prisons and how this practice can be used as a resource for authentic dialogue, affectual experience, transformation and lasting rehabilitation, leading her to launch DU PAI in late 2017. Ashley has a PhD in Applied/Educational Theatre from New York University where she focused on applied theatre, theatre for social change and devising theatre. Ashley also has an MA from New York University in Applied/Educational Theatre, Theatre for Communities and a BFA in Performance from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Ashley is also in the process of becoming a registered drama therapist (RDT).

Student and Alumni Updates – 2019

Ma Rosalie Abeto Zerrudo, MA, 2012

Ma Rosalie Abeto Zerrudo bridges multi-characters as cultural worker, performance and visual multi-media artist. She combines her BA in Psychology and her MA in a community-engaged culture-based process-centered art practice she calls soulwork. Currently she serves as Assistant Professor at University of San Agustin, Iloilo, Philippines.

Shizue Amano, BS, 1996

Karin (Shizue) Amano has been telling Japanese folktales professionally at number of settings including, Young Authors Conference, Read Across America, Asian American Storytelling Summit, as well as various cultural festivals, schools, libraries, and Walt Disney World. She is a board member of National Storytelling Network’s YES! (Youth, Educators, Storytellers Alliance).

Kristin Benner-Prentice, MA, 2012

After graduation from NYU, Kristin began teaching theatre for Montclair Public Schools as a K-2 teacher. She now teaches theatre for Tenafly Public Middle School in New Jersey. In 2016 she married her husband and they now have a son, Landon, who turned two in July.

Samantha Bessudo Drucker, BS, 1994

A lifestyle expert/personality/host/actress, Samantha has translated her twenty year career as an acclaimed image consultant into her new endeavors as AskSam and the production of Love and Design Project, a renovation series focusing on the stylist transformation of urban apartments with husband, architect Jeffrey Drucker.

Coutney J. Boddie, MA, 2003

Courtney is the New Victory Director of Education/School Engagement, TYA Community Impact Award recipient and Host of Teaching Artistry, a podcast. She oversees the Theater’s Education Partnerships; Victory Dance, free dance education for NYC summer schools; Create, teacher professional development for NYC Pre-K for All teachers; SPARK, serves arts-deprived school communities; and GIVE, equitable student engagement in inclusion classrooms.

Steve Borowka, MA, 2001

Steve is the Performing Arts Chair at Friends Seminary in New York City. He teaches drama to middle and upper school students as well as directs the school plays and musicals. Steve is also the owner and camp director of Acting Manitou – a theater camp located in Maine – now in its 17th summer.

Jason Boxer, BS, 2016

Jason moved to Buenos Aires in March for a nine-month physical theatre intensive at the Cabuia Escuela Internacional de Creación Teatral y Movimiento. He’s studying clown, mask work, Feldenkrais method, and more!

Lulzim Bucolli, MA, 2016

Lulzim has been working as an assistant acting teacher at the University of Prishtina, and also a theater practitioner in Kosovo, mixing up process drama and forum theater for different communities in the Balkans. After two years he has established a drama program at the juvenile center in Kosovo.

Jean Burgess, PhD, 2002

Jean has recently written a textbook entitled Collaborative Stage Directing: Creating and Managing a Positive Theatre Environment, published by Routledge/Francis & Taylor.

Andrew P. Burnstine, PhD, 2001

Andrew is an Associate Professor of Fashion Marketing and Management at Lynn University where he has been teaching for the past nine years. Burnstine, A.K.A “Dr. Fashion”, has also presented major red carpet fashion segments on South Florida local network affiliates.

Andrew Coopman, MA, 2015

Andrew is currently pursuing an MFA in Directing at the University of Washington. He is also a teaching artist at Village Theater, Seattle Opera, and other local theaters.

Gaspare DiBlasi, MA, 2014

Gaspare is completing his 5th year as a theater teacher at P.S. 217 in Brooklyn.

Suzanne Evans, MA, 1991

Suzanne is an Inc. 500/5000 business owner for five years and New York Times bestselling author. She provides support, consult, and business development skills to the over 30,000 entrepreneurs enrolled in her wealth and business building programs. She currently lives with her family in Chapel Hill, NC.

Sheng-Tao Fan, MA, 2008

Sheng-Tao has been working at National Taiwan Normal University where he mainly teaches Theatre in Education as well as Arts and Business Cooperation. Dr. Fan recently published his book Performing Arts Application: Teaching, Healing, and Facilitation in Mandarin Chinese.

Zak Ferentz, MA, 2016

Zak is currently teaching kindergarten at Schechter Westchester in White Plains, NY. This past October, he married fellow Ed Theatre alum Dana Shapiro. They are so grateful they met in Amy Cordileone’s Acting: Pedagogy, Technique, and Performance class!

Andrew Gaines, PhD, 2018

Andrew is on tenure-track as the Head of Theatre Arts and Communication at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen, Washington where he lives with his wife Michelle and baby daughter Shayna. Visit andrewmgaines.com to learn more about what Andrew has been up to.

David Graybill, MA, 2012

After graduating the Ed Theatre MA program, David went on to get a PhD in Shakespeare Studies from the University of Birmingham (UK) and the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon. He is currently the Technical Theatre Director for the Wildwood School in Los Angeles.

Laurie Gruhn, MA, 1991

Laurie is Head of Lower School/Asst. Head of School at the The Browning School an all boys’ school in NYC, where she teaches drama in the classroom whenever she can!

Ashley Hamilton, MA, 2013; PhD, 2017

Ashley just completed her second year as a tenure-track Assistant Professor at the University of Denver where she also founded and is Co-Director of the DU Prison Arts Initiative (DU PAI).

Clare Hammoor, MA, 2013; EdD, 2018

Clare is the Director of Inquiry and Instruction at Compositive Primary in Denver, Colorado. He is also devising and directing professionally with students at the University of Denver and with incarcerated folks in the Colorado prison system.

Liz Heck, MA, 2017

Liz found a theatre teacher position right after graduation in a NYS public school nestled into the Hudson-Valley. She currently teaches K-8 theatre class and is excited to have completed her second year at Garrison Union Free School.

Jonathan P. Jones, MA, 2004; PhD, 2014

Jonathan recently directed Quiet No More: A Celebration of Stonewall at Carnegie Hall for World Pride NYC/Stonewall50, featuring 564 singers from across the United States (a modern record at Carnegie) with new compositions from Julian Hornick, Michael McElroy, Ann Hampton Callaway, and Our Lady J, for which he was featured in a BBC News feature, Stonewall Riot: ‘It was the day everything changed.’ His recent edited publications include Paradigms and Possibilities: A Festschrift in Honor of Philip Taylor (Amazon.com) and ArtsPraxis (steinhardt.nyu.edu/music/research/artspraxis).

Laura Josepher, MA 1990

Laura runs ContemporaryMusicalTheatre.com with business partner David Sisco. Together they teach masterclasses and workshops about auditioning and how to work on new musicals all over the world. Their book Mastering College Musical Theatre Auditions: Sound Advice for the Student, Teacher, and Parent will have its second printing this summer.

Sobha Kavanakudiyil, MA, 2003

Sobha is Faculty in The Graduate Program in Educational Theatre at The City College of New York has also been Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable and is thrilled to begin the EdD in Educational Theatre at NYU in Summer 2019!

Jeff Kennedy, MA, 1995; PhD, 2006

Jeff is an Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Performance at Arizona State University, his book Staging America: The Artistic Legacy of the Provincetown Players is to be published by University of Alabama Press, and he recently received a Fulbright Scholar Award to research for six months at the British Library.

Heni Koenigsberg, BS, 1974

Heni is a producer of Broadway theatre, and is dedicated to making theatre accessible and relevant for all audiences. A lifelong passion that was ignited at Steinhardt, Heni has received numerous Tony Awards and is currently represented on Broadway by Hadestown, To Kill a Mockingbird, Tootsie and others.

Mary Ellen Lowe, MA, 1996

Mary Ellen has been teaching 4th Grade with Detroit Public Schools for 23 years. Teaching a predominantly Latino population, Mary Ellen incorporates arts infused education into lessons. She is a National Board Certified Teacher and a Fulbright Scholar. In her free time, she loves to explore the streets of Detroit by bike!

Peter Lubrecht, PhD, 2003

Peter has retired from active teaching and is currently an author and presenter. His next book Carl Schurz American Statesman for Fonthill Media is due to be launched in the Summer of 2019.

Natalie Mack, MA, 2012

Natalie teaches Drama & Humanities at The Institute for Collaborative Education in The East Village. She is a theatre and music maker, and proud member of Trusty Sidekick Theater Company and St. Fortune Theater Collective. Check her out here: www.natmack.com

Jerry Maraia, MA, 2005

Jerry recently completed his PhD in Educational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. He serves as the Academic Dean at Léman Manhattan Preparatory School across Pre K-12 with a focus on four major areas: curriculum, instruction, and assessment; teacher recruitment, retention and development; student support services; and accreditation.

Tommy Marr, MA, 2008

Tommy has been the Director of Theatre at Great Neck South High School for the past 10 years, where he teaches a full theatre curriculum and directs/produces a full season of shows and events including a musical, play, one act festival, TYA play, improv troupe, and coffee house.

Christina Neubrand, MA, 2007

Christina is an adjunct professor at LIM College and BMCC where she teaches courses like Public Speaking, Communication Across Cultures and Theatre. She is co-founder of The AJ Project, a nonprofit that uses the arts to promote organ donor awareness and also supports several start-ups under the Cantu Holdings umbrella as Executive Manager. Christina is working on a performance project incorporating her cello playing and singing with storytelling.

Cody Page, MA, 2014

Cody is a doctoral student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. His research focuses on historiographical adaptations of LGBT+ history within contemporary theatre.

Kimberly Poppiti, PhD, 2003

Kimberly has written a new book, A History of Equestrian Drama in the United States. The book is published by Routledge and was released in June 2018. She has also accepted a new teaching position, joining the full-time faculty in the Communication Studies Department at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, New York.

Daphnie Sicre, MA, 2004; PhD, 2017

Daphnie will be joining the faculty at Loyola Marymount University in the fall as Assistant Professor of Theatre with specialization in Directing & Social Justice. There she will be directing, teaching, helping shape their Social Justice program and their new MFA in Pedagogy of Theatre.

Robert Thaxton-Stevenson, BS, 2013; MA, 2014

Robert is a Brooklyn-based theatre maker and educator. For the past five years he has been a teaching artist for the New Victory Theater, Metropolitan Opera Guild, and New York Theatre Workshop. This fall he will start as the Upper School Drama Teacher and Technical Director at the Chapin School.

Richard Wallace, MA, 2005

Richard recently completed his doctoral work at The University of Alabama with Movie: The Musical! A three-article dissertation examining the phenomenon of Broadway musicals based on films, which was the focus of an article in Forbes: shorturl.at/jq457. He is currently the CEO and Founder of Optidefno, a consulting service that uses statistical analysis and dramaturgical expertise to predict the monetary success of Broadway musicals.

Britney White, MA, 2013

After being a Theatre Director at a performing arts school, Britney has been promoted to Clayton County Public Schools Performing Arts Center Specialist. Her duties include lead theatre & dance teacher, artist outreach, artistic partnerships, county-wide Arts Advocacy Day leader, director of all county musicals & musical theatre intensive camps.

Carolyn Marie Wright, MA, 2008

Currently based in Phoenix, Carolyn serves as Director of Education & Outreach of Valley Youth Theatre and Artistic Director of Humanity Play Project, and volunteers with Cancer Support Community of Arizona. She is a proud member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA and AATE (also Senior Content Editor of Incite / Insight Digital Magazine).

Carol Weinstein, MA, 1997

Carol is a mentor/tutor with the Each One Reach One playwriting program in San Francisco and SF Bay Area working with institutionalized youth, promoting empowerment through artistic expression and critical thinking 13 years and counting!

The Bystander: A Portrait of Apathy

By Suzanne Sweeney, MA ’01

My drama class is working on a play called “The Bystander: A Portrait of Apathy.” The play deals with teen harassment and bullying. The School Climate Committee,(an organization consisting of administrators, child study team, guidance counselors, student assistance counselor and teachers) asked them to produce this production to be viewed by other sending districts. It was reviewed  by my English supervisor and accepted into the drama curriculum. This play received a grant from the Educational Committee of Rumson Fair Haven for the royalties.

Regarding student resource support – the students were initially asked to refer to the school web page on School Climate. They were introduced to a HIB form, articles and videos dealing with the bullying and harassment as well a representative from the School Climate Committee addressing them on the subject as relating to our school environment. Other resources from a dramatic perspective were:March Cassady’s An Introduction to The Art of Theatre, Jonothan Neelands and Tony Goode’s Structuring Drama Work and Drama for Learning: Dorothy Heathcote’s Mantle of the Expert.

The class is producing the play by themselves – from casting, blocking, props, etc. Every day the class begins with a production meeting on the objectives. Theses objectives were provided by a teacher generated timeline. They play has 3 student directors which had to be interviewed by the production committee( in role). They had to present their qualifications to the class. Students selected an underscore to assist them with character development. The music is associated to the issue being performed. Every student shared their music during a production meeting. Students have also added drama conventions in the blocking- chanting, freeze frame, etc. This they believed “made the dramatic work more powerful- it sends a clear message.”  They felt that the narratives could be more interesting if they were also presented in a pantomime format.

Once the students felt comfortable with the dramatic piece, it was time for the Film Club to engage in the class and make decisions regarding the filming process – lights, camera action!! They held their own meetings with their advisor making decisions. Lastly, I would like to mention that during this whole process the students were maintaining a daily journal log. This log was divided into sections: Objective, Accomplishments and Personal Reflection.

Student and Alumni Updates

Jamie Lerner

Jamie Lerner (BS ‘15) was nominated by Professor Jess Barbagallo to be an Open Arts Research Fellow for a weekend-long workshop exploring questions and issues surrounding the arts.

 

 

 

 

Emily Schorr Lesnick's studentsEmily Schorr Lesnick (ETSS) facilitated workshops on Theatre for Inclusion with teachers from the US & India at edcamps in Ahmedabad and Mumbai while in India on an educators’ trip LINEGlobal. Participants engaged in drama work and discussed how to incorporate theatre into their classrooms. Additionally, Emily co-hosts a live variety show and accompanying podcast called The Soul Glo Project. Soul Glo features established comedic voices and up-and-comers in standup, sketch, improv, music and poetry. Previous guests include SNL writers and performers, Comedy Central performers, and high school students.

Amos MarguliesAmos Margulies (ETED ’11) is currently teaching 11th grade English at the Community School for Social Justice and extended a residency with The Moth for the third year running. He is also one of TDF’s Open Doors teachers. Their mentor is Alex Dinelaris, who this year won an Academy Award for his movie Birdman, and his new musical On Your Feet is coming to Broadway soon. Amos was recently published in the new Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in Theater (June 2015), in which he co-wrote the addendum on teaching theater to ELLs.

 

 

Kristen Tregar

Kristen Tregar (EDTC ’14) will be starting the PhD program in Drama and Theatre at University of California, San Diego this coming fall. In addition, this has been the second year of successful collaboration with Jenny MacDonald, one of the tutors from the Dublin study abroad program. Their respective students in Ireland and the US have been collaborating on devised works. In the spring, the Irish and American students came to NYU for an afternoon workshop where they had the chance to meet Nan Smithner.

Alumni Updates

Alum Christina Kosyla (MA ’11) has been hard at work assisting her second grade drama classes with their audio recording debuts! Her 28 second graders at Stuart Country Day School in Princeton, NJ, have been working on crafting clear enunciation, appropriate projection, and unique character voices. In October, her students produced two Halloween Radio Shows, capturing sound effects and working on creating a spooky environment. In late fall, Audible recording talent Virginia Bosch spoke with the girls about professional recording. As their culminating project, each class worked with a partner to record books by Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss, constructing unique voices to distinguish between characters. These fourteen titles were given to the kindergarten class to serve as a part of the media library for years to come. Christina is proud of her students and thrilled to share with them all she gained while at NYU!

Check out a few of the final products at the Stuart School website

Student and Alumni Updates

Kristin R. BennerKristin R. Benner (EDTA ‘12)  received a full time drama elementary (K-2) teaching position in the Montclair Public Schools in Montclair, NJ at the Gifted and talented/performing arts magnet. She puts on three productions a year and could not be more thankful for what NYU did to prepare her for this position.

 

 

Jeanine DeFalco (EDTC ‘12) is a Doctoral fellow in Cognitive Studies at Teachers College, Columbia, on an Army Research Lab grant studying detection of engagement and affect in a simulation-based combat medic training environment. Her general focus is on embodied cognition, narrative, and creative problem solving using role play.

Mary Leigh FilipponeMary Leigh Filippone (Undergraduate ‘06) runs the Theatre Department at Springfield High School just outside Philadelphia where her production of Our Town was recently honored as Best Play of 2013 by the Greater Philadelphia Cappies. She is pursuing a Master’s degree in Arts Administration at Drexel University. Mary currently serves as the President of the Board of Governors at the Players Club of Swarthmore Pennsylvania.

 

Julianna Krawiecki (EDTC ‘12) was awarded with a State of New Jersey Commendation Citation Award for the development and performance of “Our Stories of Sandy”, a student devised performance piece that illustrated Hurricane Sandy through the eyes of a middle school student. She teaches music and theater at Manalapan-Englishtown Middle School in New Jersey.

Christina Kosyla (EDTA ‘13) has accepted a teaching position with Stuart Country Day School in Princeton, NJ. Stuart is an independent, Catholic school for girls in grades K-12. Christina will be teaching religion (K-2), drama (3-5), and directing the Upper School fall play.

Robin Levenson (PhD ‘07) is currently a Professor at City College, CUNY, in the Interdisciplinary Arts Department where teaches speech and theatre, specializing in non-native speakers and actor training. Her students won prizes for speech at LaGuardia Community College in 2011 and 2012, and first place in 2013 at the CUNY‐Wide Annual Student Speech Contest.

Alex SarianAlex Sarian (EDTC ‘07) was appointed to the newly created position of Director of Finance & New Business at Lincoln Center Institute, the education division of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.  In this role, he oversees all aspects of business development, marketing, digital/social media and consulting services for programs with an annual reach of 350,000.  He joins Lincoln Center after serving as the Director of Education at MCC Theatre and founding Affinity Arts Group, a private consulting practice.

Robert Stevenson (UG ‘13, EDTC ‘14) was one of several recipients of the Ida Bodman Service Award at the Steinhardt Baccalaureate Commencement in May. The award, recognizing his work with Uproar Theatre Corps, celebrates superlative and extraordinary service and exhibiting the highest standards of leadership in school activities.

Lantie TomLantie Tom (EDTC ‘12) has been professionally designing and building masks, puppets, and the occasional prop for theatre and education programs – sometimes with Educational Theatre alumni! Each project is unique, and she had the recent pleasure of working with Barnard-Columbia Ancient Drama Group, The Forum Project, and Paideia Institute for Humanistic Study.