Sunday, April 21, 2019

Advice for Prospective Graduate Students: TYA mentorship at New York University

It is summer of 2002, and I am sitting in a class called “Theatre for Young Audiences”. Having majored in theatre, part of me is wondering why I am taking a class geared toward young audiences. I didn’t even realize there was a difference? Did there have to be a difference, theatre is theatre. I had no idea why there was a special class called Theatre for Young Audience. All of a sudden Laurie Brooks enters the room and starts our course. I had no idea I was across the table with an incredible TYA playwright. I had no clue who she was or how she was about to change my life, but she did. She opened my eyes to a whole new world in theatre, and made me understand why TYA matters.

After taking Laurie’s course I took a class with Lowell Swortzell and boy, did this man know his theatre history. I was in awe of everything he had to share. From all the plays he wrote to the incredible legacy he started with his wife. I could not believe I was sitting in class with such an amazing expert. I wanted to meet his wife, Nancy, but she was finishing her semester in London and passing the baton to Philip Taylor.

Mentorship is what I found at NYU.

Years later, I decided to return to NYU for my doctorate degree, and again, I found myself sitting in a classroom with Augusto Boal, getting advice from with Cecile O’Neil on my dissertation proposal and observing Jose Cruz Gonzalez and Sandra Fenchel Asher create their next TYA masterpieces at the New Plays for Young Audiences Series. I have had the opportunity to travel to ASSITEJ, teach my own TYA course and represent NYU as the first Swortzell Scholar; to know that Nancy Swortzell selected me to represent her and Lowell’s legacy was not just a huge honor, but also incredibly meaningful.

Mentorship is what I have found at NYU but the baton has now passed.

This year, I get to work side by side with Tony Graham and run a conference on TYA with him. I represent my university as a board member for TYA/USA but most important, I now mentor and collaborate with others. I see new talent develop and create new works in TYA. I meet incredible students who open my mind to new ideas and are delighted to learn more. And as I sat at Nancy Swortzell’s memorial a couple months ago, I remembered in that instant what it was like to be a part of such a huge legacy; it felt special. As I heard academics, artists, teachers, scholars share special stories about her, and I saw a beautiful collection of photographs from her life, I could not help but be proud. I looked around the room, and I was surrounded by not just mentors but also colleagues.

My dissertation chair, Nancy Smither, who was also taught by Lowell and Nancy sat close by and together, I knew she understood what I felt.

Now, to write this blog, I asked my NYU community to tell me what they’ve been working on. I wanted to be inspired by my colleagues, and the first person to respond was Laurie Brooks. She told me about her latest work, All of Us, a commission from Dramatic Publishing Company. The play premiered in July at The Kansas City Fringe Festival, produced by The Coterie Theatre, Kansas City, MO. The play addresses the current epidemic of prejudice and bullying of gay high school students. The stories within the play, reveal the inner lives of GLBT teenagers and ask “all of us” to stand up for their rights. Then a former student from the program, Tessa Bry also responded and shared what she has been working on. She taught a Shakespeare’s Language class for children, as well as a Creative Play course in Cape Cod, MA. She also presented a one-hour adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale for children. The promotion of classic “un-dumbed” down theatre to children of the region was widely appreciated by many audience members, as well as their parents. These are just two of the stories shared, so many more are right now taking place.

Mentorship is what I have found at NYU, and the baton keeps getting passed along.

Daphnie Sicre, PhD. candidate
The Program in Educational Theatre
Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions
NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

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