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Claire Yang is a 2011 graduate of the CUNY School of Professional Studies MA in Applied Theatre program. She recently took a moment to send us this update:
In September 2012, I moved back to Singapore after three years in New York City. I was sad to leave a wonderful community of theatre practitioners, community workers and educators and yet excited to see what was in store for me in the place and cultural context I had grown up in.
A week after I arrived, I had the privilege of attending the Community Cultural Development Symposium with fellow artists, community workers, and policy makers. I sat amongst students and pioneers of Singapore theatre, in the midst of dialogue about new initiatives and old issues. It hit me right away that the community I was about to be a part of had a truly rich history. It is a history not without struggle (performance art and forum theatre were banned in the early 1990s and several theatre practitioners were accused of Marxism), yet the present seems hopeful (government/ quasi-government organisations now commission forum theatre pieces, some by those same theatre practitioners). That was the start of my on-going journey of speaking to, learning from and collaborating with this extraordinary arts community.
I now work for the Singapore Repertory Theatre as Education Manager. I am constantly filled with an exhilarating mixture of fear and excitement in this role and department that is new to the company and new to me. In CUNY’s MA in Applied Theatre program, we spoke a lot about the idea of “praxis” and how one can only make discoveries upon taking action. I think now is the time for some of that!
The Master’s Degree in Applied Theatre, the first program of its kind in the United States, is a sequential, ensemble-based program for students interested in the use of theatre to address social and educational issues in a wide range of settings. The program stresses the unity of theory and practice, and is linked to the professional applied theatre work of the renowned CUNY Creative Arts Team.
Current student, T.J. Black (’14) contributed the following recap of the inaugural Master of Arts in Applied Theater Lab Conference that was held in mid-March:
On March 17, 2012, students and alumni of the Master of Arts in Applied Theatre program gathered for the inaugural MAAT Lab Conference. The MA in Applied Theatre was developed in 2008 in collaboration with the CUNY-Creative Arts Team as the first degree-granting program of its kind in the country. It is committed to the goal of creating leading practitioners in the field, using theatre as a tool to address educational issues and affect social change. The Lab Conference, organized by current students T.J. Black (’14), Olivia Harris (’14), Leah Page (’13) and Ben Weber (’13), was designed as a forum for current students and alumni to explore pressing topics in applied theatre, and to further cultivate an ever-growing community of applied theatre practitioners coming through the program.
Despite issues with scheduling—the conference was rescheduled due to Hurricane Sandy—nearly a third of all current students and alumni chose to participate. The sessions were a mix of participatory workshops and plenary discussions, covering a range of topics including sex and gender in the classroom, fundraising, applied theatre work in prisons, and many more. Several of the sessions were inspired and/or developed by class work done in the MA program.
During the closing reflection, the community expressed that the conference was a useful and effective exploration of current questions in the field of applied theatre. Attendees also found it to be an ideal opportunity to network with colleagues from different graduating classes. There is an enthusiastic interest in continuing to develop the conference as a venue for collaboration, dialogue, and exploration of the major issues facing this emerging field, potentially opening to the wider community in the near future.
Presenters included current students Rachel Evans (’13), Olivia Harris (’14), Shamilia McBean (’13), Brisa Munoz (’13), and Ben Weber (’13), as well as alumni Ria Cooper (’10), Max Forman-Mullin (’12), Maggie Keenan-Bolger (’10), Jessica Levy (’12), Heather Nielsen (’12), Kevin Ray (’11), Julia Taylor (’12), Sherry Teitelbaum (’11), and Michael Wilson (’11).
For further information on the MAAT Lab Conference, please contact T.J. Black at email@example.com
For more information on the MA in Applied Theatre, please visit http://sps.cuny.edu/programs/ma_appliedtheatre
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.