Session Block 7

Sunday, July 25th, 1-2:15pm (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: Playwriting 

Devising Drama Together: A Youth Action Participatory Research (YAPR) Model

Session Chair: Amy Ressler 

This session will examine a cyclical process of inquiry and action in devising large-group, improvised drama with youth practiced at a summer creativity and role-play camp. The rationale for this study was to examine a unique, devised-drama summer camp for program development and expansion. The purpose of the study was to understand the relationship of the devised drama to the participant's social-emotional learning, creativity, and character development. Using the Youth Action Participatory Research (YAPR) model as a framework, week-long, devised dramas involving 80+ youth (ages 8-18) have been produced each summer for 15 years. This session will describe how the camp program moved from a top-down, director-defined drama model to a youth action model, mentoring participants to define the scope and topic of the drama, through research and inquiry, to the insights gained and the resulting devised drama. YAPR is a model that values Youth-Adult partnerships and centers the locus of inquiry on the youth experience. Providing agentic roles for the youth devisers, and opportunities to practice critical consciousness, mentees devise a drama creating a story arc spread over five days. They create opportunities for participants to engage in role-playing characters and creating micro-narratives converging in a community macro-narrative. Salient themes that emerged from the data included involvement in the drama linked to reports of self-efficacy, with enhanced confidence carried through to the student's lives outside of camp. Most notably, experiences of dramatic fear, or what is described at the camp as delicious fear, where campers enacted scenes of great peril in the drama, were reported by participants as promoting greater anxiety management outside of camp. Participants suggested that when they are in situations (outside of camp) that caused them personal anxiety, they could recall the emotions of successfully devising the dramas and see themselves as empowered.

Network: Playwriting 

Exploring Internal Landscape: Centering Student Choice through Playwriting

Session Chair: Brittany Brewer and Mindy A. Early 

Educators in both classroom and community settings will encounter participants who have been impacted by trauma. Playwriting can provide accessible entrance into personal exploration, and trauma-informed pedagogies can scaffold opportunities to process experiences in healthy, productive ways. In this session, attendees will participate in a playwriting workshop that models how consistently offering students choice and agency as they brainstorm, create, and share their work can, in turn, empower them to meet the material where they are and craft the story that they want to tell. The three guiding questions we will use to frame this exploration are: How can check-in rituals safely introduce the possibility of creating a play that connects to one's own thoughts, passions, and experiences? How can brainstorming and writing activities be structured to allow students to decide their own entry point into the work at all points of the process? How can sharing be structured to ensure that students feel safe and in control when sharing their voice with their peers? At the end of the workshop, we will return to our three guiding questions and also invite participants to bring new questions and ideas to the room. Participants will be given a link to access our lesson plan so they can replicate it with their students.

Network: Playwriting 

Devising in the Pandemic: A dramatic redesign of  a healing TYA

Session Chair: Gustave Weltsek PhD. 

Other Presenter(s): Maiya Young, Elaine Clarke

Through this panel, two students and one drama ed. professor share the creative, technical process and critical performative pedagogical positioning (Weltsek, 2019) to create a student-produced new play, parallel workshop, and study guide. The new play dealt with healing in the face of suicidal thoughts and trauma. In March 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the University instituted obligatory Online instruction. Students redesigned their stage play into a virtual experience using Zoom and integrated their emotional struggles due to pandemic isolation. We share how the play-building process became a space of healing for the group as well as the audience. Drama education and TYA for many focuses attention on the intersections amongst emergent youth socio-cultural and emotional identity (Weltsek& Koontz, 2019; Perry, & Medina, 2011). Skills and theatre production, when introduced, are seen as a means for youth to further explore their sense of self within and through community. The drama and theatre strategies such as improvisation and roleplay engaged a diverse student community in critical reflection of complex social issues and within the experimentation of possible ways to take action in and on the world (Perry, 2011). We share the steps of initial play and community building, socio-cultural issue identification, research into the identified issues, and the improvisation that lead to the new play creation.  Throughout the piece students' personal challenges, triumphs, needs, and engagement in drama strategies are shown to reinforce critical self-reflection. The discussion moves to how working with high school students influenced the play.  We conclude and share how the isolation and despair that resulted from the pandemic added an artistic authenticity to their work. The piece concludes with a discussion of how the entire process became a space of healing for those involved. 

Network: Youth Theatre

Modeling the Creation of an Educational Performance Guide During Dual Pandemics

Session Chair: Kailea Saplan 

The world has changed so much since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Theatres and theatre education in particular face incredible challenges during a time when we must avoid social gatherings for our own health and safety. But COVID-19 is not the only pandemic gripping the United States. With the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, and of countless others before and after him, our country is reckoning with its racist roots. Although Black, brown, Indigenous, and other people of color (BBIPOC) have been naming their experiences of injustice long before now, it seems more people than ever are taking notice and demanding change. And theatre arts education should be no different. In this workshop, the session chair presents a study guide she created for educators to accompany a performance of The Water Gun Song, written by Idris Goodwin and produced by Children's Theatre of Madison. The play comes from a collection of five short plays by Goodwin under the title, Free Play: Open Source Scripts Toward Antiracist Tomorrow. As Goodwin says in an interview with American Theatre, these plays are meant to help parents everywhere who are struggling to explain anti-Black police violence and the worldwide protest movement aimed at ending it to their kids. The purpose of the performance study guide, then, is to support Goodwin's goal, by identifying key themes in the play, providing discussion questions, and sharing drama-based learning activities for students in K-12. Attendees of the workshop will collectively analyze and critique the study guide. They will discuss and practice creating drama-based educational materials that center anti-racism and support remote learning. The session chair hopes to offer a workshop that is mutually productive, one in which she provides and receives insight that will continue to propel this work forward.

Network: Early Childhood 

Can Theatre for the Very Young Dare to Talk About Prejudice and Inclusion?

Session Chair: Gillian McNally  

Other Presenter(s): Dr. Amanda Rutter, Rhiannon Parent, and  Jasmine Middleton

As the field of Theatre for the Very Young (TVY) expands, artists are challenged with new ways to speak to the intelligence of the young audience and balance developmentally appropriate material. While many TVY plays are age appropriate, creative, and entertaining, there are few that delve into serious social issues. In the past 30 years, TYA in the US has dedicated itself to the development of more complex characters, plots, and themes. Given the current racial reckoning in the US, can TVY explore complex topics like prejudice and racism?

Network: Early Childhood

The Neighbors- Los Vecinos- Las Vecinas- A Multilingual TYA Monument/Moment of Joy Amidst a Changing World 

Session Chair: Madeline Calandrillo 

Other Presenter(s): Sindy Castro, May Adra, Susanna Brock, Brielle Silvestri, Coriselle Martinez 

The Neighbors: Los Vecinos/Las Vecinas was devised and created by Brielle Silvestri, Madeline Calandrillo, May Adra, Sindy I Castro, Susanna Brock during the summer of 2020. The Neighbors - Los Vecinos - Las Vecinas experience was created in response to the pandemic. When COVID-19 hit the U.S., one of our actors had to prematurely leave the United States back to Lebanon permanently. Another actor in our company suffered the loss of a family member. We began to collaborate internationally over Zoom. We kept coming back to the questions: “What does it mean to be a part of a community?” “What does it mean to be a good neighbor?” How had the answers to these questions shifted since the pandemic hit? How can we create a space for joy in a time of crisis?

We held an open Zoom rehearsal with young people in July 2020 to gather their ideas. Their voices and our lived experiences morphed into creating a Zoom building with a variety of quirky vecinos who spoke Spanish, Arabic, and English with actors zooming in from across NYC, Puerto Rico, and Lebanon. Audiences and their families ranged from across the USA including Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Sweden, Lebanon, India, and the Philippines. Together, we explored what it meant to be a neighbor and what it means to welcome someone new to your community.

As Jugando N Play, we are committed to providing multilingual theatrical experiences for young audiences that invite audience members to speak in their home languages and engage with new languages/cultures.

Network: Playwriting

A Zoom of One's Own

Session Chair: Maria Patrice Amon 

Other Presenter(s): Dr. Sonia Desai, Loyola Marymount, Susan Diaz, Ishika Muchhal, and Mellany Morales

Dr. Maria Patrice Amon and Dr. Sonia Desai will share their collaborative process in the creation of "A Zoom of One's Own", the session will feature performances of sections of the show. In "A Zoom of One's Own", join Malinche (legendary Nahua interpreter), Charlotte Cushman (19th-century cross-dressing US actress), CJ Walker (first female millionaire in the US), Selena (Mexican-American pop singer), and Jahsi Ki Rani (India's warrior queen) as they explore their various art practices, business ideas, and activism through social media. Sing along with Selena as she shares a new YouTube video about Dreamers; join CJ Walker on Instagram for a free hair care tutorial; smarten up with Charlotte Cushman as she works on a new Buzzfeed article, get your rage on with Malinche on her Twitter tirade, and sharpen your defense skills with Jhansi Ki Rani as she demonstrates with best self-defense moves of 2020 through Facebook live.

Network: Professional Theatre

Fearless Futures: A workshop for Allies, Activists, and Artists of all ages

Session Chair: Maya Lawrence 

At the Alliance Theatre, we are in the practice of building a community of allies using the tools of theater. Using play as a tool for learning, this workshop utilizes our voice, body, and imagination to dig deeper into the difficult conversation of race and injustice in a way that is accessible to youth, their caregivers, and the young at heart! In our time together, we will use theater-based games to frame the concepts of diversity, fairness, and advocacy to equip participants with the tools to have conversations that raise awareness to our biases while we rehearse action that contributes to an intersectional and antiracist lifestyle.

Network: Applied Theatre

Moving Forward, Looking Back: Learning from Accessible Theatre in the Virtual Classroom

Session Chair: Rives Collins 

Other Presenter(s): Marjorie Hillocks, Susie McCollum, and Michael-Ellen (Mikey) Walden

Join Seesaw Theatre and Ms. Marjorie Hillocks for an interactive, virtual workshop of sensory drama! Seesaw Theatre creates original, multi-sensory theatre for autistic and otherwise disabled audiences, with yearly programming of workshops and shows, and Ms. Hillocks is a long-time drama teacher and friend of Seesaw working in Evanston’s Public School District 65.  In this session, attendees will participate in a modified Seesaw workshop for classrooms. Our adventure will take us across the open sea (inspired by our remote winter show, All Aboard!) and beyond. Complete with at-home props and collaborative sensory experiences, we will address one of the most pressing questions of our present age: how does sensory friendly drama work remotely? Following the workshop, participants will engage in a facilitated discussion regarding the successes and challenges of virtual sensory friendly theatre, as well as how a virtual platform might actually increase accessibility for both neurodiverse and neurotypical students. In preparation for this creative drama journey, we ask participants to bring an item that they are excited to work with, either a prop of their own creation [videos available on for ideas] or a sensorially exciting object from home (ie: fuzzy blanket, tinted lights, etc)

Network: Playwriting

Playwriting for Social Change: Theater of Testimony

Session Chair: Steve Borowka 

Theater of Testimony has been used to create powerful plays such as "The Laramie Project" and "Fires in the Mirror."  These plays use transcripts from interviews to present an honest look at a topic or event which helps bring about an understanding, an empathy, and in essence, a change to the audience. This session will highlight the main principles of 'theater of testimony' or 'verbatim theater' through hands-on activities and discussions. You will walk away with lesson plans and assignments that you can integrate into your classroom at any grade level. We will focus on becoming playwrights through the use of interviews in an attempt to highlight voices and perspectives that are often silenced or marginalized. We will learn how to celebrate every voice in the classroom as we help our students to become playwrights and encourage plays that deal with our student's truth, identities, and real-life experiences.  We will also discuss how theater of testimony can be a springboard for a variety of playwriting assignments and look at lesson plans that incorporate activities for a range of playwriting needs. All are welcome.