Sarah Chalmers graduated from the CUNY SPS MA in Applied Theatre program in 2010. In 2012 she started her own company, Civic Ensemble, and was recently awarded the Civic Leader Fellowship from the Cornell University Public Service Center. She will teach applied theatre techniques to Cornell students and engage them in the community-based play process. Below is a reflection on her road to success:

Sarah Chalmers is a graduate of the MA in Applied Theatre program at CUNY SPS

My life since completing the MA in Applied Theatre with SPS in 2010 has been a whirlwind. I promptly left New York City for Ithaca, NY for what many might think would be a quieter life. While we certainly drive slower up here and, unlike NYC, it is against the rules of decorum to honk at someone sitting still at a green light, we do keep busy. My son was born in July of 2011 and I spent a glorious year almost exclusively hanging out with him. In June 2012, ready to scratch my applied theatre itch, a few colleagues and I started a new theatre company, Civic Ensemble. The theatre scene here is thriving and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

While Ithaca has many small community theatre companies and two well-established regional theatres, there was an opening for a new company committed to engaging communities in theatre-making as well as theatre-going. Civic Ensemble is focused on just that. In our first year, in addition to producing a reading series of new plays by women, we implemented several applied theatre programs which we put under the heading of Civic Engagement.

We were commissioned by the Sciencenter (a children’s science museum) to create an interactive theatre workshop about hydraulic fracturing for young children which included debate on both sides of this contentious issue. This workshop was conducted throughout the summer of 2013 and continues into the fall. We also conducted a free two week summer youth theatre for teens ages 13-21 to explore topics of importance to them. This project was in partnership with the Greater Ithaca Activities Center and was funded by the City of Ithaca. We hope that becomes a year round program in the future. Also this summer we implemented a program at a detention center for young men in Lansing using Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed techniques to provide a structure for participants to step back and think critically about their lives and the external forces that shape their circumstances as they explore the ways that they can effect change in their lives. For this project, funded by the State of New York Office of Children and Family Services, and for the Youth Theatre, we hired my fellow MA in Applied Theatre alum Ernell McClennon (’10). It was a wonderful reunion and chance to work with someone who speaks my language completely!

The cornerstone of Civic Ensemble’s season every year is a community-based play. The play tells our collective story as devised by the participants with the guidance of Civic artists. All members of our community are welcome to participate in these plays. The topic of our first play was parenting and resulted in a production called, Parent Stories. Our topic this year is Safety: Community-Police Relations in Ithaca. This is a hot-button topic here in Ithaca, as in many communities in America. Through the sharing of personal stories and perspectives, participants can examine this challenging topic and potentially rethink entrenched positions. We will take these personal stories and craft a play that we will then rehearse and perform for the broader Ithaca community.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the response to Civic Ensemble and the work that we do with communities. When I look at what we’ve done in one year I am convinced that the applied theatre techniques we bring are needed by our communities. People are hungry for a way to connect and having the tools to facilitate that connection means I am able to create the life I want, doing work that is meaningful to me.

#FindYourReason

Hello All,

This is my second post. I had to work through the kinks.  Well it’s officially week 5 and although it’s a lot of work but I am actually loving school.  I feel so academically inclined these days.  Tonight I am going to rush home to do some schoolwork and get ready for the season premiere of Vampire Diaries and Scandal.  Two of my favorite shows.  I have to admit I am a television enthusiasts.  Thank God for DVR, now I tape my shows just in case I am too busy to catch them.

I don’t know about other working adult students, but I’m so busy.  Dinner will be Cap’n Crunch cereal.  Speaking of cereal.  For those of you who don’t know, since starting school my dinner options have been pared down to cereal, canned soup, and the occasional sandwich with a protein shake.  I have to admit school is giving me more of a reason not to cook (I hate cooking). It’s just easier to say I’m a busy college student and I don’t have time, then to say I hate cooking and I have always hated cooking.  LOL!  That may be one of the reasons I am still single but OH WELL, I AM A BUSY OLDER (but fabulous) WORKING COLLEGE STUDENT.  As you can see I am going to milk this older college student excuse for all it’s worth. :-)

Pssst…  Gotta go and do some work, work. I don’t think the whole college student excuse is going to fly on the job.  So goodbye for now.  Stop by and say hi, and if you have any other easy dinner ideas feel free to share. :-)

Until next time!

Xan Bullock is student in the HIM program. She is 40+, loving life and surprisingly school too!

Hello All,

I have no idea what I am doing and this is a test as I try to keep up with the 21st century by starting a blog. This is from a woman who does not indulge in social media. I don’t tweet or Facebook, but I decided to join the Community Blog to discuss being an older (47), single, and fabulous college student. I also plan to write about the ups and downs of trying to hold down a full-time job, attend college half time, and the perils of being single and dating in this technologically inclined world we live. Today marks my first blog post so wish me luck.  LOL!

A little more about me: this is my first semester as an undergraduate student at SPS, and I am majoring in Health Information Management. I currently work full-time as an Administrative assistant in the Radiology Dept at NYU Medical Centers.

I decided to start writing for the blog because there has to be other students trying to walk through the murky waters as an employed, busy, single, older (but should I say fabulous), college student. Other students who also happen to be looking for love, while trying to gain and maintain at least a 3.5 GPA, of course. Not to mention the whole social media thing is enough to drive one into early menopause. It’s all so exhausting. So here I am joining the millions of bloggers in the hopes of venting my stress away while updating my skills as a computer savvy, multimedia goddess.  LOL!

Feel free to stop by and say hi and wish me well on my new adventure.

Xan Bullock is student in the HIM program. She is 40+, loving life and surprisingly school too!

While NYC wilted in the sticky, sweltering weeks of early July, twelve fortunate members of the SPS Master of Arts in Applied Theatre program (eight students, three faculty members, and Linda Key, a MAAT alumna who returned to Rwanda as a Fulbright Specialist) spent seventeen dry and temperate days and nights in Kigali, Rwanda. This was the fourth such annual venture, a partnership between SPS/MAAT and the Kigali Institute of Education through which K IE undergraduate drama majors receive practical training in such areas as play-building, teaching through theater, and Theater of the Oppressed, and CUNY graduate students hone their skills as teachers and facilitators and absorb the transformative culture, beauty, and contradictions that are present-day Rwanda.

Professor Helen White and students from the Kigali Institute of Education and the SPS Master of Arts in Applied Theater

Professor Helen White and students from the Kigali Institute of Education and the CUNY SPS Master of Arts in Applied Theater

In 2010 Rwanda was still digging out from under the psychic, social, and political rubble of the 1994 genocide that killed up to a million citizens and catapulted this tiny, lush, and previously obscure nation onto the world stage. With unprecedented candor, Rwandans remember the slaughter and pay tribute to the dead with local and national memorials, in village churches and roadside monuments, and at the Genocide Memorial Museum in the capital. Many of these sites include underground crypts and display skeletal remains, clothing, ID cards, rosary beads, and other personal belongings of the victims so that history cannot be denied. Pledges of “Never Again” appear on signage. Alongside remembrance and mourning, Rwandans pursue justice and reconciliation, a 21st Century economy, and universal education.

In 2010, the Rwandan Education Board added drama to the national curriculum, believing that it could be a vehicle for national dialogue. KIE, the central teacher-training institution, initiated a drama major. But Rwandan performance tradition consists mainly of music and dance. There is no national theater or body of dramatic literature, and few Rwandans were trained in acting, directing, or playwriting. The KIE curriculum was based in the theoretical study of other theater traditions, primarily European, until a fortuitous connection brought KIE and CUNY together in the summer of 2010.

Ariyan McDaniel (’14) shares some hip-hop during an afternoon of cultural exchange with KIE students.  The author, Professor Amy Green, follows along (back left).

Ariyan McDaniel (’14) shares some hip-hop during an afternoon of cultural exchange with KIE students. The author, Professor Amy Green, follows along (back left).

This summer, KIE students who were in their first year of study in 2010 are graduating. They worked consistently with MAAT founding faculty Chris Vine (Academic Program Director) and Helen White (Director of the CAT Youth Theatre) every summer and credit them with revolutionizing their ideas about the power of theater and helping them acquire the skills and confidence to create meaningful performances with and for a wide variety of school and community participants. They are the first cohort of Rwandan students to have served their teaching internships as drama specialists, and they will be the first professional drama teachers. My role this summer was to observe the program and begin to assess its impact now that the first KIE-CUNY cohort is ready to move on to professional careers.

Eva Burgess (’14) and colleagues perform a scene from "The Great Sleep."

Eva Burgess (’14) and colleagues perform a scene from “The Great Sleep.”

What I saw and heard was nothing short of remarkable. In ten intense days, the KIE-CUNY collaborators performed Forum Theater about sexual harassment in the workplace, corruption and gender discrimination in hiring, alcoholism, and domestic abuse; and the plight of orphans and stepchildren (hundreds of thousands of children lost parents in the genocide); analyzed and dramatized Langston Hughes’ “A Dream Deferred”; created scenes with props and fabric and their bodies; and rehearsed and performed two plays for a public audience of approximately two hundred. Creating together fused the KIE and CUNY groups, enabling us to share artistic, academic, and personal stories and concerns.

Rwanda is re-creating itself. As Professor Vine said, on behalf of SPS and CUNY at our closing celebration with KIE students, faculty, and administration, “We are honored to have played a very small part in this remarkable transformation.”

Check out the Project Rwanda Blog for a daily recap and reflection.

Piper Anderson is a 2011 graduate of the CUNY SPS M.A. in Applied Theatre program. She is currently the Director of Education & Artist Development at Young Audiences New York. She is also a performance artist, writer, educator, and life coach. Below is her reflection on the question “Where are you from?” based on time spent in Rwanda working at the Kigali Institute of Education. 

The busy stretch of road from the Kigali Institute of Education to Hotel Civitas is about a 20-minute walk on a narrow sidewalk. J’nelle and I slowed our pace and fell into step together similarly feeling reflective and inspired by all that we were seeing and experiencing in our brief time in Rwanda. Sharing our growing expertise in Applied Theatre was exciting. Learning about a new country and the ways Rwandans were finding creative solutions to the call for reconciliation and healing was powerful and confirmed the deep resonate value of our work. But there was another layer to this trip that I wasn’t quite expecting: “Where are you from?”

It’s a question that I get on Brooklyn streets or the Walmart in small town USA. But when an African asks me this question while standing in a school yard surrounded by the lush hills of the Rwandan country side, I’m not quite sure where to begin. “I’m from the U.S.,” but of course that’s not useful. Africans move to the U.S. all the time seeking opportunities, an escape, a new beginning. The question is not where you ended up. No, where are you from? Where do you begin? So I began with what I knew of my history. I began with the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Which for many Rwandans sounded like some legend, some Grimms tale used to trick naïve children into obedience; it couldn’t possibly be true. But I told the story again and again with the certainty that hours spent in my small public library after school reading every volume on that one bookcase devoted to African American literature. That history finally came in handy on the streets and in the schoolyards where I met people in Rwanda. But my facts seemed to leave more questions than answers and each conversation left me feeling more and more displaced.

Where do I begin? I may never know. Dr. John Henrik Clark says, “History is not everything, but it is a starting point… It tells them where they are, but more importantly, what they must be.” So as J’nelle and I walked along that Kigali road we began to hatch a plan to explore our being, our being a part of the African Diaspora. Our thesis project took the shape of one amazingly simple, complex question: “What does it mean to be part of a Diaspora?” We returned to the states and to our final year in the M.A. in Applied Theatre program and began structuring a creative gathering for a diverse group of Black women artists to explore this question. Our exploration took the shape of a devised theatre piece called “The Offering.” In April of 2011, The Diaspora Project performed “The Offering” at The Brecht Forum in New York City.

Re-Writes_1

When we reconvened the women who participated in the project for a final reflection, there was an urgent desire to continue creating. What we had created together had become a vital means of generating radical material that challenged perceptions of Black women and revealed the complexity of our identities. We wanted to do more. We wanted to create a theatre company and so we did. On September 18, 2011 Re-writes of Passage Ensemble Theatre was born in my Harlem apartment. This is where we get to define our existence. This is the re-writing of our passage. Where we get to decide who we must BE. To learn more about our company visit www.rewritesensemble.com.

Re-Writes_2

 

In 2004, Senator Robert Byrd [D-WV] introduced legislation that lead to the passage of a bill establishing Constitution Day.


Here are five fun facts about the Constitution of the United States that you might not know:

Thomas Jefferson didn’t have a chance to place his “John Hancock” on the Constitution. He was in France and missed the signing altogether.

There are several spelling errors in the Constitution, but the most egregious might be “Pensylvania.”

Benjamin Franklin, “Sage of the Constitutional Convention” was the oldest signer at 81 and needed help because of ailing health.

Vermont ratified the Constitution before it even became a state on January 10, 1791.

Amendment XXVII, ratified May 7, 1992, was the last to be adopted and declares: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.”

The complete text of the Constitution of the United States can be found on the The Charters of Freedom website of the National Archives.

The City University of New York offers several initiatives aimed at providing assistance to the community on constitutional rights. Citizenship Now!, perhaps the largest and most diverse program, offers individuals and families law services to help them navigate their path to U.S. citizenship. CUNY SPS has proudly supported the efforts of Citizenship Now! through technical support of webinars featuring top immigration attorneys and advocates.

The CUNY SPS’s Graduate Certificate in Immigration Law program is planning a webinar on the immigration implications of two recent Supreme Court decisions: DOMA/United States v. Windsor, in which the court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional; and the striking down of Prop. 8, California’s ballot measure banning same-sex marriage. More information will be posted on our Facebook “Events” page so check back often.

*Fun facts above can be found on the Oak Hill Publishing Company’s website ConsitutionFacts.com.

The following was submitted by Brandon M. Chiwaya (Murphy Institute ’13):  

After graduating from SPS in June, I reached out to Tanya Fields for a bit of career advice. Tanya (who you may remember from my last blog post was the commencement speaker at the spring 2013 SPS graduation ceremony) is the executive director of The BLK ProjeK, a food justice and community development organization in the South Bronx. About a week or two after graduation I sat down with Tanya over a cup of coffee to talk about strategies for career planning. As the conversation gradually shifted toward The BLK ProjeK, Tanya mentioned she was extremely busy planning the upcoming launch of The South Bronx Mobile Market, her latest project. In fact the project was growing so fast she was looking to bring someone new onboard to help mitigate the workload. Tanya floated a proposal to me to come work with her, to which I quickly accepted.

Tanya Fields Mobile Market With Brandon

Since the beginning of the summer, the launching of the South Bronx Mobile Market (SBMM) has been the main focus of the organization. The SBMM is a former school bus, which has been repainted (in a cool paint scheme) and converted to run on used vegetable oil. When fully operational, the SBMM will supply the neighborhoods of the South Bronx with fresh, organic, and locally grown Hudson Valley produce.

New York state’s 16th congressional district, which encompasses the South Bronx, was ranked number one in the 2011-2012 Food Hardship Poll and is the poorest of the 436 congressional districts in the United States. Combined with an over abundance of fast food and take out establishments, area residents rank among the nation’s highest in health related problems due to poor food nutrition. This makes the work of The BLK ProjeK, and the SBMM all the more vital to the local community.

I hit the ground running on my first day at The BLK ProjeK. With the launch of the mobile market only a few weeks away, there was no time to waste. Creating a community needs assessment and survey to help understand the local attitudes toward healthy eating was my first assignment. Feeling a bit unsure where to start with such a task and halfway freaking out, I quickly reached out to a few of my former SPS professors for help. Professor Michael McNeil who teaches Research Methods and Professor Basil Smikle, Jr., who teaches Policy Analysis, were both willing to help out and give me some advice. Throughout this initial phase, it was incredible to know I was using skills and knowledge I’d acquired at SPS a few months ago in a practical application. In a matter of months I’d gone from sitting in Professor McNeil’s 6pm Thursday night class, wondering to myself, “when will I ever need to know about survey sets?” to creating my own. I’d gone from writing abstract policy papers in Professor Smikle’s class to drafting real research reports.

In addition to the mobile market, Tanya and The BLK ProjeK, have been working hard to turn a few vacant lots owned by New York City into urban gardens. Community organizing at this level presents its own share of obstacles. Canvassing neighborhoods, conducting bus tours, and holding community meetings requires an enormous amount of time and manpower. To help support the continued development of The BLK ProjeK, we will be hosting a fundraiser tonight, Thursday, September 5, at the Brook Park Community Garden. For more information about this event please visit: http://theblkprojek.ticketleap.com/an-evening-with-the-bus/.

Tanya Fields BLK ProjeK

To find out more about The BLK ProjeK or ways you can get involved and support our work, please contact us at info@theblkprojek.org or call us at 718.635.0951, and the next time you find yourself in the South Bronx be sure to keep a look out for the colorful school bus.

Brandon M. Chiwaya studied Public Administration and Public Policy at the Murphy Institute, and is a class of 2013 CUNY SPS graduate. While in school, he was a member of the 2013-2014 Technology Budget Fee Committee, and was awarded the CUNY Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Leadership Award. He is currently a Research Analyst with The BLK-ProjeK

An Evening With the Bus Fundraiser

shieldNow that the fall semester has begun, some students have reported issues accessing content in their Blackboard course site and have reached out to the Help Desk to ask which browser is best for use with Blackboard. Firefox is SPS’s preferred browser; however, the most recent release of Firefox may impact your viewing of YouTube videos and other media from within Blackboard and Digication.

Both Firefox 23 and Google Chrome 26 have introduced “Mixed Active Content Blocking,” a security enhancement that prevents active content delivered through an unsecure (HTTP) connection from displaying on secure (HTTPS) environments such as Blackboard and Digication. This security improvement prevents active content added to courses  (JavaScript, embedded objects, Flash animations, streaming video or audio, and external hyperlinks) from loading automatically. However, this feature works similar to your browser’s pop-up blocker and is easy to “turn off” and unblock desired media.

If you have trouble viewing embedded media from within Blackboard or Digication, look for a small shield icon to the left of the web address in Firefox or to the right in Chrome. Click on the shield and follow the prompts to unblock the missing media. View videos for detailed instructions for allowing blocked content in Firefox or Chrome.

To access all of SPS’s Help Desk videos click here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 92 other followers