Session Block 1

Friday, July 23rd, 12-1:15pm (EDT)

All of the Session Blocks will be hosted on Zoom Meeting. You will be sent an email, 24 hours prior to the next day's events, which will contain all of the log-on details for each event. As in an in-person Conference, please feel free to select whichever workshop you would like to attend in the moment.

Network: High School 

Creating Healthful Narratives: With Students 

Session Chair: Alex Ates

Other Presenter(s): Shanaé Burch 

How do politics, public health, and the theater classroom relate? In the fall semester of 2020, in the storm of compounding global health crises and the presidential election, an international cohort of high school students at Westtown School, a forward-thinking K-12 Quaker school, worked online with guest artist Shanaé Burch (Teachers College, Columbia University) to create Healthful Narratives using Burch’s framework. In this session, Burch will define Healthful Narratives and Alex Ates (Westtown’s Director of Theater) will present examples of student Healthful Narratives created online from around the world. Together, Burch and Ates will share reflections on the process of pedagogy and performance of Healthful Narratives.

Network: Applied Theatre

Amplify US!: Building Communities, not Audiences through Racial Equity work 

Session Chair: Arianna Ross Queiroz

Other Presenter(s): Regie Cabico, Michelle Faulkner-Forson, and Steven Barker

Story Tapestries will model the landmark initiative, Amplify US! and provide participants examples of the administrative, marketing, and programming materials that are used to make the program a success. The Amplify US experience draws on the experience of both spoken word artists, theatre educators, racial equity facilitators, community leaders, business members, certified educators, youth and community social workers to bring an ethically and socially responsible approach to community engagement that ensures dignity and respect for all participants. Recents events have made clear the monumental task ahead of us to heal from the injustices of systemic racism. As residents of the most diverse small cities in America, Story Tapestries led the development of the Amplify US!, an initiative initially born in response to the Montgomery County, Maryland Police department reporting a 26% increase in race or ethnicity bias incidents in 2017. The Initiative now represents a collaborative of artists, activists, and community members who are dedicated to using the arts as a means to combat racism and bias by sharing stories with the intention to connect across lines of difference and to advocate for oneself. The workshop is led by a facilitator and teaching artist who work together to create a safe, non-judgmental environment in which participants are comfortable to share their experiences, perspectives, feelings, and engage in a creative process. This unique team gives children and adults tools to appropriately handle conflicts, advocate for their needs, and become more compassionate listeners. We will use multiple art forms to offer multiple-means of representation and expression. We also use trauma-informed practices to support individuals as they share in our dialogue circles. Participants engage in low-risk, high success nuggets of experiences that build confidence and deepen understanding so they are better prepared to effectively share their stories and advocate for themselves and others.

Network: High School 

The Arts ARE Education Campaign 

Session Chair: James Palmarini 

Other Presenter(s): Alexis Truitt

The Arts ARE Education Campaign. In January, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards launched a campaign to support K-12 arts education including theatre--throughout the country. As schools move out of the COVID era of education, the economic fallout of the pandemic, along with lost learning in core subject areas, has put school arts programs--including theatre--at risk in the coming years. The ARE campaign is a grassroots effort for teachers, students, parents, and other supporters of arts education to advocate on behalf their district programs for the 2021-22 and beyond through specific outreach to their schoolboards and legislators. In this session learn how you can pledge support for arts education in your district and engage in specific outreach with your school and district decision makers.

Network: Applied Theatre 

Applied Creativity: How can you cultivate creative approaches to social change? 

Session Chair: Jeff M. Poulin

As the world continues to grapple with injustice, young creatives must be centered in community-led approaches to healing collective trauma, developing future economies, reorienting economic development, and leading social change. As theatre educators, we have a unique perspective on the cultivation of that creativity and how it gets applied. From several years of research, join Creative Generation's Jeff M. Poulin to share the findings of two large-scale studies on the impact young creatives can have on community development and social change (and how they did it!) and how theatre educators can best support them.

Network: Playwriting 

The Hero's Journey, Virginia's Promise, and Crafting Teen Theatre 

Session Chair: Joni Newman 

Joseph Campbell’s revolutionary analysis of storytelling in The Power of Myth changed how stories are constructed and analyzed. Epic stories for stage that appeal to teen audiences like The Lion King or Hadestown follow the Hero’s Journey well, providing familiar yet still engaging storytelling. Not all stories follow this format, however. Billy Elliot, Dear Evan Hansen, Wicked, and Mean Girls all follow what Kim Hudson has codified as the Virginia’s Promise. Where the Hero’s Journey requires a character to sacrifice themselves to save their communities, the Virginia’s Promise focusses on a character seeking to save themselves from within a community that threatens their sense of self. In this panel, we will outline the two different story formats and discuss how understanding the Virginia’s Promise can help us expand our vision to create and produce shows that better resonate with the experiences of 21st Century teenagers facing environments of online bullying, racism, gender identity etc. that threaten their sense of self-worth from within their communities. We will also gather ideas on current scripts that employ the Virginia’s Promise and discuss our vision for possible stories that could be adapted for teenage audiences and performers.

Network: Applied Theatre 

The Defrost Project: Practices for Place-Based Applied Theatre Work  

Session Chair: Meghan Grover 

Other Presenter(s): Sarah Meister, Amelia Hefferon, and Amanda Fredrickson

What is place-based work, and how can it support our theatre and education practices? How do our geographic spaces and identities impact our work as theatre-makers and educators? How do we explore and create a place in virtual spaces? This interactive session will explore the place-based work of The Defrost Project, a collective of artists that uses theatre to cultivate connection, explore local issues, and celebrate the unique strengths of geographic communities. Drawing on its work across rural Minnesota from 2018 to the present, The Defrost Project’s co-founders will guide participants through a series of tools and exercises for facilitating place-based applied theatre projects. This session will provide participants with concrete strategies and tools for undertaking place-based applied theatre projects (both in-person and virtually). Together, participants will use theatre tools and games to interrogate our own multifaceted relationships to place. We’ll collaborate to make short pieces of original theatre inspired by those discoveries and imagine possible uses for this kind of work in our artistic and educational practices. Participants will also gain an understanding of The Defrost Project’s ongoing projects in rural Minnesota, including the successes and challenges of both in-person and remote work with participants of widely varying ages, backgrounds, and life experiences. The Defrost Project was originally conceived as an independent study as part of the CUNY SPS MA in Applied Theatre program, advised by faculty member Jan Cohen-Cruz. Their current work in Milan, Minnesota is funded in part with a grant from the Southwestern Minnesota Arts Council made possible by the voters of Minnesota, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Network: K-8

Drama for the Inclusive Classroom: How to Improve Executive Functions 

Session Chair: Sally Bailey 

Inclusive classrooms tend to be composed of students with a wide variety of social, emotional, and intellectual skills. Short, discrete, drama interventions can highlight the strengths of students and address deficits they need to work on whether they are neurotypical or neurodiverse. Specifically, many drama games and improvisation exercises build executive functioning skills, such as attenuation, attention switching, sequencing, initiation, inhibition, task planning, task organization, self-reflection, and even working memory. Dramatic experiences can scaffold more advanced educational skills and sequentially pilot students from simpler levels of executive functions and social-emotional learning skills to more complex ones. Drama teachers who know how to improve executive functioning of the students they teach whether they are teaching artists coming into regular classrooms or hired to teach ongoing drama classes are able to become partners with regular education teachers and gain their trust and respect. Learn what executive functions are and which drama games enhance which ones, leading to better abilities to think, focus, and process information in school and in life.

Network: Youth Theatre

Watering the Roots: Collaborating Through Theatre With Black Girls 

Session Chair: Toya Lillard 

Other Presenter(s):  Michelan Marie LeMonier, and Monique Orisha Love Letamendi 

Attendees will learn strategies to identify and actively challenge their implicit biases for collaborative artmaking with Black girls/ young women that are systems-involved, may have experienced school push-out, and who may be embedded within the school-to-prison pipeline. Led by the Black women who comprise the artistic staff of viBe Theater Experience, attendees will be given context for the need for uncensored, Black-led spaces for girls/young women/gender-expansive youth to express themselves fully. We will address the significant differences between watering the flowers and watering the roots, and guide participants through hands-on activities and provocative discussions about why and how we need to invest deeply in creative and collaborative work with Black girls. Attendees will be better equipped to recognize the importance of youth-led spaces and create space for youth-centered collaborations in their daily lives. Attendees will examine and utilize the tools and techniques for tending to the ecosystems of our communities and hear from Black girls who have used theater to become leaders in their own communities through a live Q&A. 

Network: Various 

Get to Know the National Endowment for the Arts

Presenter(s): Ouida Maedel, Greg Reiner, and Ian-Julian Williams 

Established in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is an independent federal agency, and the only arts funder in the United States that supports the arts in all 50 states, U.S. territories, and all 435 Congressional districts. Join Theater and Musical Theater Director Greg Reiner and Theater and Musical Theater Specialists Ouida Maedel and Ian-Julian Williams for an introduction to the Arts Endowment, and basic information on the grant programs they offer.  The presentation will feature remarks by Chief of Staff Ra Joy on how the agency is addressing the challenges facing the arts and culture sectors.  There will be time for questions, answers, and discussion.