Monday, June 17, 2019

Advice to Prospective Grad Students: Kanasas State’s Drama Therapy MA Program

I was destined to pursue my MFA in Theatre for Young Audiences. If there was any sort of checklist for the qualities of a future TYA student I can almost guarantee that I had all of the items completed. I was a member of all of the TYA organizations, I spent my summers working at various Theatres for young audiences, and I spent my disposable income on Winifred Ward books and Suzan Zeder plays. Everything in my life pointed directly to an MFA in TYA. Then I met Sally. Sally Bailey is the Director of the Drama Therapy program at Kansas State University. I met Sally when she came and led a workshop on working with students with cognitive disabilities at the Omaha Theatre Company for Young People. It was at this workshop that I realized the special opportunities that were available to me with an MA in Drama Therapy.

I received my BSEd in Theatre Education from Columbus State University. My advisor and mentor at CSU, Brenda May Ito, helped to found and encourage my passion for TYA. It was because of her mentoring and teaching that I learned as much as I did about creative drama while in my Undergrad. It was also her assistance that encouraged me to do internships at the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, CLIMB Theatre, and the Omaha Theatre Company for Young People. With the things that I learned in her classes combined with the experience that I already had in TYA I decided that I could shift my focus for Graduate school a slight bit. I wasn’t abandoning the field completely by choosing to pursue my MA in Drama Therapy. Instead, I was focusing my interest in creative drama even further by focusing on work involving students with cognitive disabilities

When I was researching Kansas State University I went to Brenda and Brian Guehring, the Education Director in Omaha, and talked to them about what my plan was. I will always be appreciative of Brenda and Brian’s support as I thought outside of the TYA box for Grad school. They both encouraged me to do what was going to be best for me. I wanted to make sure that I was challenged enough in Graduate school and pursuing my MA in Drama Therapy would allow that. What I learned about Graduate school during this research process is that it had to be personal. I was the one that was going to attend the school. I was the one who was going to take the classes. I was the one that had to be happy.

The first thing that I did to investigate K-State was to visit. I set up a visit with Sally so that I could see the city, sit in on classes, and meet current students. Before I went to visit I made a mental list of the things that I needed in a city. What were the things that I would need to locate in order to survive in my new city? For example, it is a necessity that I find a cute and comfy coffee shop that I can go to in order to study. I also need to know where to find the best Mexican food in town. The current K-State Drama Therapy students were very helpful in showing me around and taking me to cute coffee shops and tasty Mexican food. This also allowed me to get to know the current students. Even if I were never going to be in school with these students, I knew that the program would tend to attract and bring in similar students. If I got along with the current students chances are I would feel similar about students that were in the program in the next few years.

Theater building at Kansas State

What ended up sealing the deal on my decision was the ease of Distance Education through K-State. I am currently living and working in Omaha, Nebraska. I realized that with the professional opportunities that were presenting themselves in Omaha I didn’t feel like it was the right time to leave. At the same time, I didn’t want to become stagnant in my continued work as a Teaching Artist. I decided to stay in Omaha and continue the work that I was doing while also beginning my degree online. With the MA in Drama Therapy program I can take various courses online. Likewise, there are many courses that I can attend in an intensive setting. For example, in January I will pack up my things and head to K-State for a week in order to take in intensive course in Playback Theatre on campus. These diverse learning opportunities sealed the deal for me that K-State was where I needed and wanted to be.

One of the neatest experiences for me happened this summer. While attending AATE Sally from Kansas State University met Brenda from Columbus State University. It was a really special moment to have my former advisor meeting my future advisor. In a way it reminded me that the work that I am going to do in Graduate school is so connected to the work that I have been doing in the past. I could not be more excited to be in Graduate school at Kansas State University. I enter this next chapter of my life with optimism and hope made strong by the education and experience I have gained in the field of Theatre for Young Audiences.

Barrett in action as a Teaching Artist


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