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In 2011, while completing her M.A. in Applied Theatre degree at SPS, Ms. Key participated in the School’s Project Rwanda: Drama and Theatre Education for Reconciliation and Development program, teaching applied theatre techniques to drama teachers at Kigali Institute of Education, Rwanda. The twin goals of the Project are: (a) to develop the use of theatre and drama strategies as educational tools to help promote unity and reconciliation among Rwandans, and (b) to create job opportunities by building applied theatre troupes, first in schools and colleges, and later in the professional, cultural milieu.
The Fulbright award will now enable Ms. Key to continue this work with two possible return visits through 2017. “I am thrilled to be given this opportunity,” said Ms. Key. “I look forward to returning to Rwanda, continuing to professionally develop through this work, and learn from the Rwandan students. I credit CUNY SPS and my phenomenal professors in the Applied Theatre program with opening up this new and exciting career opportunity that I had never imagined.”
Ms. Key is the Education Director of Vital Theatre Company, New York City, whose teaching artists integrate theatre arts into the humanities curriculum in an effort to jumpstart academic progress. A lead partner with Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School in Canarsie, the Company also holds partnerships with Fordham High School for the Arts, Bronxdale High School, PS 6, PS 166, PS 199 and PS 452. Since its founding, Vital has presented over fifty original productions for over 160,000 children and their families.
The Fulbright Specialist Program (FSP) promotes linkages between U.S. academics and professionals and their counterparts at host institutions overseas. The program is designed to award grants to qualified U.S. faculty and professionals, in select disciplines, to engage in short-term collaborative 2 to 6 week projects at host institutions in over 100 countries worldwide. International travel costs and a stipend are funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Project activities focus on strengthening and supporting the development needs of host institutions abroad. Eligible activities include short-term lecturing, conducting seminars, teacher training, special conferences or workshops, as well as collaborating on curriculum planning, institutional and/or faculty development. U.S. faculty and professionals apply to join a Roster of Specialists for a 5-year term. Roster candidates are reviewed by peers in the same discipline, and by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board (FSB).
For the past three years, faculty and students in the M.A. in Applied Theatre program at CUNY’s School of Professional Studies have traveled to Rwanda to implement the project “Drama and Theatre Education in Schools for Reconciliation and Development in Rwanda.” The twin goals of Project Rwanda are: to develop the use of theatre and drama strategies as educational tools to help promote unity and reconciliation among Rwandans, and to create job opportunities by building applied theatre troops; first in schools and colleges, and later in the professional, cultural milieu. SPS participants blog about their experiences to share with us back home. Below are the reflections from one student about her time in Africa:
By Amy Sawyers
I echo Joey’s sentiment, and find myself back in New York City, missing Rwanda, and wondering how to apply what I’ve learned to my life back in the states. I sat in Fort Green Park this morning, processing my emotions and memories. I expressed them through a poem that I’d like to share. While our trip may be over, it is only the beginning of a new chapter in our lives: Shamilia, Ramy, Bennett, Joey, Rachel, Kristy, Micheal, Claro, and myself. This chapter will contain the spirit of praxis, in which we reflect on what we’ve experienced in Rwanda, and then apply that to our future work. I miss you Rwanda, and I hope to visit you again one day.
“Letter to Myself: How You Encountered Rwanda”
It is said that God spends the day elsewhere to work, in the night, he rests in Rwanda -Proverb
Through a sliding van window as you spiral down a mountain, you see the clouds whispering to the hills, close, like two elders telling secrets. Let the incense scented air intoxicate your senses, and lean in to listen closely. Through the wind, you will hear years of stories–
Tales of old peacetime- when kingdoms ruled over a country united, when beer flowed and sacred cows chewed rain soaked grass–
Tales of the colonialists who helped spark the great darkness of a rainy season in 1994, when the sky could not stop weeping for its children… When the cries of the people were not enough, and the whole world turned around and shut its eyes.
But now, wait, you hear the clouds whisper words like: reconciliation, recovery, challenge, peace–
Like the turtles we saw, gently singing, crawling slow as patience, in the student’s folk tale play they performed for you.
Did you realize that a place like Rwanda would change your perspective, your life?–
Teach you how to love more openly, to see the power of applied theatre more clearly, and to mourn for a people’s history more deeply?
And when you returned to New York City with its smorgasbord flavor and frenzied buzz, charged like a lightning bolt–
Did you know that every time you saw a stranger, you’d want to say Amakuru–
That you would be followed by the memories of the smiles of the students and people of Kigali, Byumba, Kibuye, Nyanza–
That you would sing Wiriwa and Simbuka out loud as you walk the streets?
Rwanda is like dancing with hundreds of children,
It’s like the big breath of transition after you’ve had a huge cry,
Or like your heart overflowing with love in a way you never thought possible.
It is there, waiting for you to return like a mother with open arms.