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A Sunny Fall Day

October 18th marked my second month in the United States. It feels like I’ve been here longer and I mean this in the best possible way. What’s lovely about being an international student, and one who has never been to America before, is a lot of things are new and exciting. Every moment is an opportunity to learn.

I’m fortunate enough to have experienced the seasons turn from Summer to Fall. Having come from a tropical country, the Philippines, I can’t help but marvel at those who have dealt with cold climates all their lives. I’ve been warned it’s only going to get colder.

While freezing isn’t exactly on top of my “things to do in New York” list, the warmth of the everyone I’ve encountered—from the MA in Applied Theatre Program to the Creative Arts Team and beyond—will last me a lifetime of winters.

I’m excited to be part of this weblog. I look forward to sharing with you my experiences as an international student.

Laura is a teaching artist from the Philippines. She is a graduate student in the MA in Applied Theatre Program and is also an Apprentice in the CUNY Creative Arts Team. She enjoys theatre, music, literature, and silliness. This is her first time in the United States. While she finds New York City full of delightful surprises, she has to admit Netflix has made quite an impression on her.

Carrie has been a teaching artist in NYC for 10 years and a mom for 6 months. She received her MA in Applied Theatre from CUNY School of Professional Studies in 2011. Carrie is currently working for organizations such as TDF, The Roundabout Theatre Company, and The Museum of the City of New York doing playbuilding, and connecting theatre to literacy and the Common Core Standards. Below are her thoughts on the art of mothering:

If you had asked me a year and a half ago, a year ago, even six months ago, how I would feel as a working mother, I would have said: “I love my work as a teaching artist and an applied theater practitioner. I’m passionate about theater and the power of theater to transform, and my child will be proud of me for doing what I love. What an example I will set!”

Fast-forward five and a half months.

Applied MotherI am a mom to a beautiful baby boy, a wife, and a teaching artist. But the super-mom I imagined myself to be does not exist.

Instead, I feel pulled in a million directions. The passion for my work and my students are still there but I am also passionate about my son. I have noticed that when I am working with a difficult group of students, my patience is thin and I wonder why I am not at home with my own son who is probably crying because his first teeth are coming in.  When I am planning for my next day’s lessons, I feel guilty that I am putting effort into the development of another person’s child instead of playing with my own son. I feel guilty all of the time because my passions are split and I can no longer give one hundred percent to my work.

I wonder, how long does the guilt last? How long can I keep fooling everyone—my students, administrators, and teachers—that my thoughts are elsewhere? When I’m playing Walk, Stop, Jump, Clap, can I be fully in the moment and there for the needs of my participants? When will I stop recycling lesson plans and challenge my own creativity again?

I thought the art of applied theatre was challenging but the art of mothering is a feat as well. So, I am currently working on my master’s in applied mothering. I’ll let you know when I’m ready to share my thesis.

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.

The M.A. in Applied Theatre culminates with the Project Thesis. Our graduating students envision and implement original projects in Applied Theatre. These projects are the sites for their research, which they in turn document and evaluate in their final written theses. We invite you to attend the dynamic presentations in which they share their processes and discoveries.

The M.A. in Applied Theatre culminates with the Project Thesis.

Wednesdays, May 22, 29, and 30
At CUNY’s Creative Arts Team
101 West 31st Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10001

May 22nd
6:45pm, Celebrating Community: An Applied Theatre Workshop for Child and Family Specialists
Brisa Muñoz, Kristy Kadish, and Michelle O’Connor
A two-day theatre-based workshop for a community of social workers in Johnson City, Tennessee. The purpose of the workshop was to promote connection, celebrate strengths, and examine the challenges within the professional community.

7:35pm, The WHY Factor: A Decision-Making Workshop with African Diasporan Male Undergraduates
Antonio Lyons and Julia Reimer
This 5-week workshop series at a college in Queens used theater, storytelling, and creative play to explore choices through the lens of identity, relationships, conflict, systems, and personal goals and expectations.

8:25pm, Facing the Blank Page Together: Finding Collaborative Approaches to New Play Development
Dominic D’Andrea
This presentation documents the experience of an applied theatre-inspired writers’ group that was designed as a lab for a cohort of 9 working playwrights in New York City. Through a focus on group collaboration, individual process, and working with a senior population, the playwrights engaged with applied theatre practice to inform and/or impact their individual approaches to “facing the blank page.”

9:15pm, Acting Out in Math Class: Role play and Mathematical Discourse
Anna Zivian and Nicolette Dixon
The presenters implemented workshops and residencies to support math teachers in developing and facilitating role play scenarios for students based on mathematical word problems. The project objective was to use role play to stimulate engagement in mathematical discourse for enhanced conceptual understanding.

May 29th
6:45pm, Performing Legacies: A Family Storytelling Workshop
Ramy Eletreby, Rachel Evans, and Amy Sawyers
This workshop series was implemented over four Sundays at a church community room on the Upper East Side with a diverse group of 24 individuals. Through a variety of activities geared towards performing family stories, this workshop explored the significance in our lives of sharing family stories.

7:35pm, Looking at the Past: The Women’s Theatre Project
Lydia Gaston and Junko Ishikawa
The presenters implemented a 6-week series of theatre-based workshops with Filipino senior women immigrants in Jamaica, Queens. Looking at the Past used process drama, Freirean dialog, and an exchange of personal stories to address group dynamics and build community.

8:25pm-10pm, Integrating Theatrical Conventions into a High School Peer Education Program
Ellen Brown, Sara Orr, and Leah Page
The presenters spent ten weeks at a community center that offers peer education programs for and with teenagers. The group taught the young people how to create, rehearse and facilitate activating scenes, a convention influenced by Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. At the end of the ten weeks, the young people performed and facilitated three original scenes for their peers at the center.

May 30th
6:45pm, Arts Together: Celebrating Moms and Kid Through Theatre, Crafts and Fun!
Lillian Ribeiro and Ben Weber
Arts Together was a series of 5 workshops that took place in New Jersey for mothers and their children who live in a domestic violence shelter or supportive housing facility. These workshops explored how applied theatre may foster meaningful experiences between mothers and children during a period of transition.

7:35pm, Interracial Relationships Explored
Carli Gaughf and Reyna Bonaparte
A 5-week project that mobilized theatrical conventions to address the struggles and joys of romantic interracial relationships. Individuals and couples met on weekly basis for Boal-based workshops at the Queens Presbyterian Church in Long Island City, NYC.

8:25pm, ACTION! The Creative Student Leadership Workshop
Claro de los Reyes and Shamilia McBean
ACTION! was a 4-week interactive theatre project that explored the concept of leadership with undergraduate commuter students in Jamaica, Queens. The workshop series addressed civic mindedness and psychological ownership through an arts-based investigation of how students saw themselves in relationship to their school community.

Admission is free.
Guests are welcome to attend any or all of the presentations.

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:

Masters in Applied Theater students at The CUNY School of Professional Studies

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.

Masters in Applied Theater students at The CUNY School of Professional Studies

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 thomas.black2@spsmail.cuny.edu

For more information on the MA in Applied Theatre, please visit http://sps.cuny.edu/programs/ma_appliedtheatre

Maggie Keenan-Bolger (SPS ’10) and Rachel Sullivan (SPS ’10) are co-creators of The Birds and The Bees Unabridged, an original devised theater piece about female sexuality accompanied by a pre/post show art exhibit. Bringing together a diverse ensemble of 25 people, and over 15 visual artists, The Birds and The Bees…Unabridged uses theater and visual art to challenge the status quo and spark much needed conversations about women and trans sexuality.The Birds and The Bees...Unabridged

For years, many women have not had the time or place to discuss and define their own notions of sexuality or to challenge current definitions. Using the experiences, ideas and opinions of the individuals in the ensemble, and the 2000+ people who participated in a nationwide survey, The Birds and The Bees Unabridged tackles issues of sex education, partner communication, the sexual body, sexual health, identity, and how sexuality changes over one’s lifespan. This project examines real opinions and stories…because the gentle explanation of the bees pollinating flowers will only go so far.

The Birds and The Bees Unabridged was developed through the process of devising as learned in the MA in Applied Theatre Program at SPS.

School of Professional Studies Students/Alums involved in the project include: Directors: Maggie Keenan Bolger (’10) and Rachel Sullivan (’10) Performers: Meggan Dodd (“11), Chelsea Hackett (’14), Carrie Ellman-Larsen (’11), Jess Levy (’11), Ernell McClennon (’10), Suzu McConnell-Wood (’11), Heather Nielsen (’12), and Liz Parker (’11).

Showtimes and Details:
Wednesday, March 27, 8pm
Thursday, March 28, 8pm
Friday, March 29, 8pm
Saturday, March 30, 2pm and 8pm
Speyer Hall at University Settlement: 184 Eldridge St. New York, NY
Tickets: Sliding Scale $10/$15/$25, based on what you can give
For tickets and information, visit www.thebirdsandthebeesunabridged.com

In September, SPS announced that Linda Key (’12) received a prestigious Fulbright award. Applied Theatre students and alumni continue to break ground. At elementary schools in all five boroughs, Leah Page (’13), Liz Parker (’11), Rachel Evans (’13), Amy Sawyers (’13), Anneka Fagundes (’11), Shamilia McBean (’13), Brisa Munoz (’13), and Sara Hunter Orr (’13) deliver “Alice’s Story,” an interactive theatre piece about bullying. The piece was created by J’nelle Chelune (’11), Ria Cooper (’11), and Anneka Fagundes for the arts in education organization Making Books Sing, with the organization’s Director of Education. TIME for Kids magazine covered “Alice’s Story” in a recent October issue—in fact, the publication featured Rachel Evans and Liz Parker on its cover, in TIME’s iconic red frame.

In Chelsea this summer, second- and third-year students interviewed seniors at SAGE, the nation’s first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender senior center. Led by visiting professor Tony Goode, our students wove the interviews into an original piece of theatre, and then performed the piece for SAGE and other centers. Chelsea Now covered the performance, acknowledging Carli Gaugh (’13), who had “channeled a SAGE member” and captured the spirit of the singular seniors.

The Applied Theatre program’s collaboration with SAGE began in 2011 as a thesis project. Sherry Teitelbaum (’11), Kevin Ray (’11), and Jenny Houseal (’11) led LGTBQ youth and members of SAGE in creating a theatre ensemble. Foreshadowing this summer’s work, the ensemble drew on its members’ stories to create a dynamic original piece of theatre. Now, the project, called Bridging the Gap, has won major funding to return to SAGE; Bridging the Gap’s second original piece, “The Quest for Love,” premiered Saturday, December 1 at The LGBTQ Center. Also working with seniors, Abigail Unger (’12) was recently hired as Recreation Coordinator for Project Find, a network of senior centers throughout the city.

Downtown at Judson Memorial Church, Wil Fisher (’11) and Michael Wilson (’11) produced The New Masculinities Festival, an evening of performances addressing what it means to be a man. See www.manquestion.org/festival or to watch the performance.

The School of Professional Studies is delighted to announce that Linda Ames Key, a graduate of the School’s M.A. in Applied Theatre program, has been named a Fulbright Specialist.

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).