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With critics awards almost completed and the Academy Awards a little over a month away, I felt inclined to share some of my favorite movies from the past year. Mine is just another list for people to roll their eyes at. I mean, who’s reading this? I’m just some guy who really likes movies. A guy who would rather stay at home on a Friday night to watch one, and then wake up Saturday morning to hit the matinee for another; a matinee that sometimes sparks an entire day in the theater. I wrote in an earlier post about this not being a banner year for film. At the time, summer had come and gone. The bombardment of overwrought blockbusters, sequels, reboots, and end of seasons dumps were coming to an end. As 2015 grew older, however, the output seemed stronger than in recent years past.

The sequel/reboot fad didn’t end with the summer season; however, this fall gave us two reboots that reinvigorated franchises beloved by millions. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, though not as iconic or as unique as Episode IV or V, was an enjoyable movie-going experience. The first 30 minutes is as fun and exhilarating as anything released this year, even if the film is essentially A New Hope remix. Another reboot, what I would call my surprise of the year, Creed, knocked it out of the park (or ring?) for what amounts to the best of the Rocky franchise since the original.

The end of 2015 also re-introduced the world to the 70mm format. The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino’s mystery-western set in the 1800’s, is the first film projected entirely using the Panavision equipment since Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master (2012). 70mm allows for a higher film resolution than the most frequently used 35mm, as well as capturing colors more vividly. It’s a glorious and exciting way to see a film. Questions arose about why a story such as The Hateful Eight needed to be shot in 70mm. It probably didn’t, but kudos to directors like Anderson, and Tarantino (as well as Christopher Nolan who has championed the idea of film use to the studios for several years) for attempting to bring this beautiful format (KILL DIGITAL) back to the forefront. These are filmmakers that truly care about the art. Whether or not every movie is a hit is irrelevant. They’re making them the way they want to make them about what they’re interested in. It’s something for anyone to admire.

The digital vs. film debate is a heated and contentious one as described by this Vox article.

***PRO TIP: Do not see The Hateful Eight and The Revenant back to back on the same day as I did. It was an endurance test I nearly didn’t survive. I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan of either, though Hateful had some big laughs.***

There needs to be a willingness to find great movies. This is not to say that a movie not seen by mass audiences are always better, but in watching there’s a feel they’re made with more care. I’m coming off as a snob, but I point this out because much of the following list will not be seen during the Oscars telecast. Go and find them.

1. Phoenix

2. Queen of Earth

3. Carol

4. It Follows

5. The Clouds of Sils Maria

6. Spotlight

7. Sicario

8. Mad Max: Fury Road

9. 45 Years

10. Creed

11. The Diary of a Teenage Girl

12. Ex Machina

13. Tangerine

14. Heaven Knows What

15. The Duke of Burgundy

Twitter: @BobbyJDaniels

Robert is a current student here at CUNY SPS, pursuing a degree in Communication and Media. He is interested in platforms of media, especially those related to digital media; and a fan of serious film as well as this current golden age of television.

The following blog entry was submitted by Acting Assistant Director Michael Wilson, M.A. in Applied Theatre.

On April 16 and 17, the Arts in Education Roundtable hosted the 2014 Face to Face conference at CUNY’s City College of New York.  The conference is an annual gathering for educators, artists, and administrators in the City’s arts education community.  I attended to represent CUNY SPS’s M.A. in Applied Theatre and keep an eye out for developments in the field.

At least ten students and alumni of the SPS M.A. in Applied Theatre participated in the conference, representing every cohort in the program’s seven-year history, including a member of the new cohort entering in 2014.

Andre Dimapilis (’12) presented on the use of drama to teach math to young children.  Participants in the session explored how to adapt and frame familiar games around basic mathematical concepts such as distance, numerical correspondence, and patterns.  In addition to considering math instruction, participants in the session wrestled with the more universal question of how to offer creative challenges to students without embarrassing them in front of their friends.  Andre suggested that mindfully scaffolding activities helps make it safe for young people to take risks.  Andre’s contagious love for learning disarmed the conversation, illustrating that passion and care go a long way, too.  Andre drew his presentation from his work as a core team member of the Early Learning Program at the CUNY Creative Arts Team (CAT).

CUNY SPS M.A. Applied Theatre

Joey Schultz (’12) and Kevin Ray (’11) presented on devising theatre with middle-school youth, drawing from their work as staff members of the CAT Youth Theatre.  Their approach will be familiar to students and alumni of the M.A. in Applied Theatre: play drama games to develop community and common theatrical vocabulary; investigate ideas that are of interest to the group; and provide a clear structure for participants to follow to create their own original pieces of theatre about their ideas.  For this session, Joey and Kevin lead participants in using physical images to assert how they would change the world.  The assembled teaching artists and administrators viscerally lampooned gluttony and inequality in many areas including, pointedly, arts funding.

CUNY SPS M.A. Applied Theatre

I also attended “The Many Hats of a Teaching Artist: Cultivating Professional Partnerships,” a session led by members of the Roundtable’s Teaching Artists Affairs Committee.  We used image theatre and other techniques to address issues that arise in relationships with parents, administrators, and classroom teachers.  Afterward, I spoke with committee member Lauren Jost about organizing to support teaching artists: what will it take to have reliable healthcare coverage?  Reliable pay for preparation and travel?  The issue is near my heart: when I was a teaching artist, I struggled with the inconsistency of the work.  I began a meetup group with Anneka Fagundes (’11) and Reka Polonyi, a graduate in Applied Drama from the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, to workshop issues that arose in our work as teaching artists.  We imagined a structure for combining our resources and elevating the status and treatment of teaching artists in the field.  I am eager for our graduates to pick up that torch and run with it.

CUNY SPS M.A. Applied Theatre
Plenary speakers were concerned with the status of the field in the City.  New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said that making art teaches children how to approach learning.  Making art also develops skills tested by the city’s Common Core academic standards.

Later in the day, City Comptroller Scott Stringer presented from his report State of the Arts: A Plan to Boost Arts Education in New York City Schools.  The report, which was released in April, shows that one in five City schools has no part-time or full-time certified art teacher.  Stringer said he is working to secure funding to place an arts teacher in every school.  Reflecting on the day, Roundtable Co-Chair Ted Wiprud said that we arts educators now have a place at the table more than ever.  I shared this news and Ted’s outlook with my officemate, Maureen Donohue.  “More certified teachers?” she mused, “does that mean more jobs for teaching artists, or the other way around?”

I looked in Scott Stringer’s report and found that one in six schools have no arts or cultural partnerships—in other words, no teaching artists.  Would increasing arts spending expand those partnerships?

The intelligent advocacy of our graduates would help in that direction.  Interested in being involved?  Write me at Michael.Wilson@mail.cuny.edu.

CUNY SPS M.A. Applied Theatre

 


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:

Clair Yang

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.

Dance With The Sun

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

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:

Echoing Memories
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.