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Roundabout

EDUCATION REPORT

2004-2005


OUR MISSION

Through its educational initiatives, Roundabout Theatre Company strives to use theatre to enhance teacher practice and deepen student learning. We are dedicated to using our resources as a professional theatre to accomplish the following educational objectives: TRANSFORM the classrooms of New York City schools by creating learning opportunities across all disciplines through the exploration of theatre and by collaborating with teachers and teaching artists to infuse theatrical teaching strategies into their curriculum ENGAGE students in theatre experiences that explore the universal themes of the human condition and develop their ability to think critically about the plays they attend BUILD a community of confident, expressive, young people who, in producing classic and original plays, are committed to and responsible for their own learning FOSTER a new generation of artists and arts administrators by providing career development opportunities to high school and college students through internships in Roundabout’s administrative and production departments EXPAND the impact of Roundabout’s productions by providing historical, literary, and social contexts in the classroom and at the theatre


IT’S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS

“The kids feed you.” That’s what Portia, one of the actresses in McReele, says about performing for and working with New York City high school students. “There’s nothing like the embrace of a child – no acting award in the world could ever top that for me.” For all of us at Roundabout, it is those very personal encounters that remind us of just why we dedicate so many resources each year to refine and sustain our education programs. In this report on our 2004-2005 activities, you’ll read about a Roundabout teaching artist who works in schools even when performing eight shows a week on Broadway. You’ll meet principals of Roundabout’s partner high schools who buy pizza for hungry students, let parents call them at all hours on their cell phones, and work obscenely long hours. And you’ll come to understand that this dedication is mirrored by that of our education staff. They shepherd Shakespearean-sized ensembles of actors, designers, directors, and public school teachers through teaching artist residencies and professional development workshops, affecting dozens of classrooms around the city. We’re particularly pleased to have Roundabout Board member David Massengill now chair our Education Committee. A partner with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, David worked tirelessly on behalf of the public schools litigating the Campaign for Fiscal Equity schools funding case. He is now applying that expertise to ensure that our programs continue to move forward and address the real needs of the public education system. Roundabout is dedicated to our educational mission because we know that theatre works wonders. The results are evident in our student performers’ triumphant smiles at each curtain call as well as in the promising test scores our students are achieving in the classroom. In return, students offer us their own invaluable resources: imagination, courage, honesty, energy, and inspiration. And that is why we want to say thank you to all of our education funders, whose support has helped to make all of our programs possible. Portia is right. The students do feed us — and we know our lives depend on it.

Todd Haimes, Artistic Director

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IMPACT ON TEACHING & LEARNING

Students from Bronx Theatre High School lead a workshop for their families.

Students at the Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre paint scenery for their production based on classic myths.

PROGRAM

Students from Tito Puente Performing Arts Academy perform an original scene during a Producing Partners residency.

STUDENTS

A teacher from Region 7 participates as a costumer in a postcard production workshop.

TEACHERS

SCHOOLS

CLASSROOMS

1,914

81

8

64

1,199

25

16

36

8,784

293

143

504

30

11,927

903

167

100

Producing Partners Producing Partners is an in-depth program that connects the process of theatre production to project-based learning objectives and curriculum standards. The yearlong program is tailored to meet the needs of individual schools and takes place in several classes or grade levels in each school.

Page to Stage Page to Stage is a residency program that uses theatre to teach literacy and includes ten classroom visits by teaching artists, student attendance at two Roundabout productions followed by discussions with the cast, and study guides sharing the perspectives of directors and designers — all of which leads to the development of students’ own dramatic works.

Theatre Access Theatre Access provides discount matinee tickets to Roundabout productions for student groups from throughout the tri-state area. Teachers are invited to participate in professional development workshops and can receive lesson plans to prepare students for a trip to Roundabout. Pre-show workshops are also available for students.

Professional Development Roundabout offers a variety of workshops to enhance each educator’s ability to use theatre as an effective teaching tool. Workshops provide opportunities for teachers to stimulate their creative impulses and ideas while practicing theatre activities in the context of educational learning standards. The workshops, customized to meet different learning objectives, are offered throughout the year to teachers, schools, and districts.

Career Development Roundabout’s career development program offers a wide range of hands-on learning opportunities for young people interested in theatre administration or production careers. Interns share in the daily organizational and artistic operations, attend regular seminars with members of Roundabout’s senior staff, and receive a weekly stipend.

2004-2005 TOTALS 2


HOW DOES THEATRE HELP STUDENTS LEARN AND DEVELOP?

Bronx Theatre High School student Dawn Littlejohn in O Brave New World.

I Bronx Theatre High School teacher Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz leads a talk back with students after a performance of O Brave New World.

t’s a warm June night and far underneath 46th Street, in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre’s black box theatre, sophomore students from Bronx Theatre High School, one of Roundabout's three New Century High School Initiative partners, desperately try to restage some crowd scenes before audiences arrive for their original adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s classic 1931 novel, Brave New World. They produced it in their school’s theatre on the 7th floor of John F. Kennedy High School a week earlier. Now, thanks to Roundabout, they are readying a two-performance off-Broadway debut. As the half-dozen 10th grade actors start to lose focus in their struggle to re-block the scene, the director, English teacher Elizabeth

O Brave New World As the lights dim, Ray Charles’ soulful rendition of “America, the Beautiful” confirms a sense that this is not just any school play, even though it was created, written and performed by public school sophomores from the Bronx. Few school shows include a theatre lobby filled with sophisticated student research, artwork, and analyses. The theatre playbill, filled with advertisements, scene breakdowns, and a summary, is not the work of a marketing or publicity professional, but a product of the school’s theatre business class. Stage right, there’s a stunning set piece: an American flag formed from red and white Coke and blue Pepsi cans, one part of a collage-like set composed of realistic and impressionistic elements.

As the lights rise, the conversation with two of the student actors before the show reverberates. “We’re most proud that we had no fear about dealing with controversial issues,” said Jeffrey Kitt. “We wanted to show that students actually think about something else other than video games and music,” said James Coles. Dunn-Ruiz, yells from the light booth. “Guys! Figure it out by yourselves.” That would not have been possible last year. “Last year we didn’t know what ‘blocking’ meant,” admits student Janelle Walker, a cast member. “Now we understand what being in an ensemble means. We trust each other.”

As the lights rise, the conversation with two of the student actors before the show reverberates. “We’re most proud that we had no fear about dealing with controversial issues,” said Jeffrey Kitt. “We wanted to show that students actually think about

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Bronx Theatre High School students participate in a talk back after a performance of their original production, O Brave New World.

Students at Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre rehearse a song from their original production.

something else other than video games and music,” said James Coles. In the student’s script, Coles plays Junior, a frustrated writer visited by the ghost of Aldous Huxley, played by Kitt. Huxley begins explaining to Junior what he was trying to say in his futuristic novel about a totalitarian dystopia. Soon the cast of 24 begins enacting scenes from Huxley’s story where all humans are factory clones predestined to specific social strata. These scenes are interwoven with related ones from contemporary life in urban New York. A scene explaining how Huxley’s world stamps out all individualism is mirrored by a student-written scene about peer pressure. Where Huxley had his characters soothed and placated by soma (his version of a mood enhancer), the Bronx kids write about their community’s use of drugs to escape reality.

Growth Over Time

Jeffrey Kitt and James Cole in O Brave New World.

Some of the cast members almost didn’t escape 9th grade. One of the most charming actors assaulted a teacher’s aide his freshman year. “This year he’s deeply committed, respectful, and completely turned around,” says Jim Jack, the Roundabout teaching artist who coordinates all the Bronx productions. “He showed tremendous change; it’s a testament to his parents, himself, and Principal Debi Effinger for sticking with him because lots of people wanted him out.”

over their first two years of high school. They are also impressed by the way students have matured in their ability to work together and think critically about their choices while respecting each group member’s contributions.

Critical Development Dunn-Ruiz, who worked hard to create this ensemble production, sees clear evidence of the kids’ burgeoning ability to think critically. “The biggest difference from 9th grade is that the sophomores not only wrote the script, they rewrote it. This is the 12th draft onstage. That means they made a lot of artistic choices.” After the curtain comes down on O Brave New World to a rousing standing ovation, the students sit onstage and take questions from the audience. Jack sees this as more evidence of their growth: “I know theatre has promoted their ability to speak and think critically — the talk backs prove it.” The year before, such discussions were often misused to act out or gain attention — if a student risked speaking at all. “The 10th graders really know that talk

Roundabout’s education staff, along with Effinger and the school’s teachers, are overwhelmed by the level of artistry and growth that the students have demonstrated Teaching Artist David Sinkus demonstrates lighting design for a student at Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre.

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A scene from Bronx Theatre High School’s production, O Brave New World.


backs are about having a dialogue with an audience about their choices and the show’s themes. It’s clear that their ability to listen to others and their curiosity has deepened.”

the audience, beaming, seeing how her daughter had changed and grown.” The myth they were adapting? The myth of Phoenix, who rises triumphantly from the ashes.

Across the Boroughs

Understanding Through Theatre

Jack’s Roundabout counterpart at the Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre, David Sinkus, concurs. “The kids become much more thoughtful about their comments and won’t just blurt things out. Best of all, it’s a snowball effect with the 9th graders, who catch on quicker and learn by example.”

Collaboration, commitment, and responsibility are big words for 9th graders entering Roundabout’s three partner high schools. By the end of 10th grade, most students understand that neither good theatre, which they learn both from Roundabout’s teaching artists and by seeing the company’s shows, nor a good school environment can exist without an intimate understanding of such vocabulary. Ultimately, the students come to understand that they have to take responsibility for their own academic success as well. “Some kids came to me and admitted they messed up some classes this year,” says Effinger. “They promised they would do better in 11th grade.” For the New York City education system, such motivated and responsible students are the best indication that Roundabout’s helping to create a brave new world indeed.

Sinkus found evidence of growth in the sophomores during a production of four modern adaptations of ancient myths. He recalls one girl whose updated mythological character happened to be a celebrity based on Queen Latifah. The “character” is opening a beauty shop and giving a speech thanking all those who helped her overcome her drug and crime-ridden neighborhood. “This student started crying, she was so invested in the role,” says Sinkus, “and then started to ad lib and thank her own mother who was right there in

Students from Brooklyn School of Music and Theatre prepare for their original production.

“The biggest difference from 9th grade is that the sophomores not only wrote the script, they rewrote it. This is the 12th draft onstage. That means they made a lot of artistic choices.” — BTHS teacher Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz

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WHAT MAKES A PAGE TO STAGE PARTNERSHIP SUCCEED?

Teacher Mia Dandicat and teaching artist Dennis Green at Tito Puente Performing Arts Academy.

L Teacher Christina Martini and teaching artist Tony Freeman made close collaboration a priority for their Page to Stage residency at Washington Irving High School.

ike a snowflake, a fingerprint, or a bravura theatre performance, every Page to Stage residency is unique. That’s not to say that Roundabout’s flagship program, founded in 1992, isn’t carefully structured. When a school signs up, they receive a Roundabout-trained theatre artist for ten visits during which time the students, with the help of their teacher, are prepped to see two company productions. In between, anything can happen, depending on the wit and wisdom, the skills and talents, and the curriculum and creativity of the teacher and teaching artist. As Megan Kirkpatrick, Roundabout’s Education Director, says, “The collaboration of each pair of professionals is the cornerstone of Page to Stage.”

Collaboration in Teaching On a superficial level, actor Tony Freeman and first year educator Christina Martini would seem to have little in common. Freeman grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and after attending an acting conservatory, came to New York where

while using theatre to make their lessons come alive. He doesn’t stop even if he’s performing. Why would a working actor continue to teach, even on a day off? Freeman feels, like Roundabout, a keen sense of commitment to the students, especially at Washington Irving High School, one of the toughest in the city: “Students need people from the community to come in and show they care about them. Kids have to know that.” Christina Martini grew up on Staten Island and went to Notre Dame University. She discovered a passion for teaching as a camp counselor. Upon graduation, she joined the New York City Teaching Fellows program and began teaching English at Washington Irving. Needless to say, it was a challenge. “I think Christina felt overwhelmed at first,” says Freeman. “She was 22 years old, right out of college, and trying to manage 30 city students in a school reputed to be one of the

“It’s important for students to know we’re on the same team and that it’s still an English class,” says teaching artist Tony Freeman. “We’re just learning the same things in a different way.” he has appeared off and on Broadway, most notably in The Lion King. Over the last eight years as a Roundabout teaching artist, he’s gone into dozens of classrooms, introducing hundreds of students to the joys of acting

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most dangerous in the system.” The good news was that Martini was open and eager to working with an actor. “The week before I found out that the program was coming to my class I had called Roundabout and been put on a list for


Teaching artist David Sinkus conducts a Page to Stage residency at Edward R. Murrow High School.

tickets to Twelve Angry Men,” she recalls. “When I found out that was the first show my class was going to see, I had to laugh.” Both Martini and Freeman agree that their Page to Stage residency was successful because they followed Roundabout’s residency model and made close collaboration a priority. They insisted on finding time to discuss curriculum and goals for each of the ten visits and the residency as a whole. “I usually try to meet with each teacher right before or after class to discuss what we’re doing,” says Freeman. “It’s important for students to know we’re on the same team and that it’s still an English class. We’re just learning the same things in a different way.” In addition, a Roundabout teaching artist needs to get a sense of the students. “You need to know who you can cajole to act something out and who are really serious about not acting in front of classmates,” says Freeman.

Theatre as a Teacher The idea of the Page to Stage program, however, is not to offer acting lessons. Instead, the class uses the teaching artist’s theatre talent — in Freeman’s case, acting — to reinforce the skills and concepts Martini wants her English Language Arts students to learn. To understand A Streetcar Named Desire and empathize with Blanche and Stanley’s central power struggle, for instance, Freeman and Martini decided to focus on how cultures and social classes collide. Students wrote and performed scenes about such conflicts in their own lives. In one, a Muslim student dates a girl whose parents don’t want her to be with him

Teaching artist Gail Winar works with students during a Page to Stage residency at IS 220.

because of his religion. In another, two Hispanic girls who grew up in America wrote about the difficulties of going back to their native country and encountering negative attitudes from relatives. Together the seasoned acting pro and the new educator turned their students’ year around, thanks to Page to Stage. “This program actually got the kids excited about English and theatre,” says Martini. “Eventually, all the students performed in front of the class so it was definitely a confidence builder. Certain students were bombarded with positive feedback and it set the tone of success for them for the rest of the year.”

Benefiting Educators Martini, as a new teacher, acknowledges that she learned some vital lessons from watching Freeman. “It’s important to let loose in front of the kids and show them that it’s okay to take chances. When professional actors are willing to look silly, it sets a great precedent and allows kids to overcome their fears,” she says. “I also learned that if the kids are excited about a lesson and are truly having fun they will learn. This sounds obvious but it was great to watch skilled teaching artists, with wellorganized lessons, create clear educational goals and use fun roadmaps to reach them.”

Teacher Emily Conbere and teaching artist Eric Wallach accompany their students from Franklin K. Lane High School to a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire.

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Roundabout had an unprecedented number of students attend productions this season: 11,927 students from 167 schools from 9 different states. 3,113 were participants in Page to Stage or Producing Partners.

BRONX

1 Bronx School of Law and Finance

26 John W. Kimball School (PS 107) TA

2 Bronx Theatre High School

PP

3 Cardinal Spellman High School

TA

4 Christopher Columbus High School

PTS

5 Evander Childs High School

TA

6 Felisa Rincon De Gautier Institute

TA

for Law and Public Policy TA

8 Gateway School of Environmental

TA

Research and Technology TA

10 Health Opportunities High School

TA

11 High School Program for

TA

Interior Design

PP TA

Technical Education High School TA

Architecture and Design MANHATTAN

34 Art and Design High School

PTS, TA

TA TA

PTS TA

TA

Complex

Education High School

38 Coalition School for Social Change

TA

39 Collegiate School

TA

40 Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School

TA

of Music & Art and Performing Arts TA

41 High School for Fashion Industries

17 Acorn Community High School

TA

42 High School for Health

18 Bedford-Stuyvesant Preparatory

TA PP

PTS TA

Careers and Sciences

43 High School for Health Professions

Music and Theatre

8

32 William E. Grady Career and

16 A. Fantis Parochial School

19 Brooklyn School for

TA = Theatre Access

31 Telecommunication Art and

37 Chelsea Career and Technical

High School

PP = Producing Partners

TA

School (JHS 14)

36 Birch Wathen Lenox School

BROOKLYN

PTS = Page to Stage

30 Shell Bank Intermediate

TA

and Citizenship for Young Men

PROGRAM KEY

TA

35 Bayard Rustin Educational

A College Board School

15 Urban Assembly Academy for History

PTS, TA

29 Pacific High School

PTS

Academy (MS/HS 141)

14 South Bronx Preparatory:

28 New Utrecht High School

33 Williamsburg High School for

9 Global Enterprises High School

13 SAR Academy

PTS, TA

for the Sciences

Technology High School

7 Fordham Prep School

12 Riverdale/Kingsbridge

27 Leon M. Goldstein High School

TA

TA

and Human Services

44 High School of Graphic

TA

Communication Arts

20 Bushwick Community High School

TA

21 Edward R. Murrow High School

TA

45 Hunter College High School

TA

22 Fontbonne Hall Academy

TA

46 LaSalle Academy

TA

47 Manhattan Theatre Lab

PP

48 Martin Luther King High School

TA

23 Franklin K. Lane High School

PTS

24 George Wingate High School

TA

25 High School for Public Service:

TA

Heroes of Tomorrow

of Arts and Technology

49 Murray Bergtraum High School for Business Careers

PTS, TA


EDUCATIONAL PARTNERS

50 Park West High School

TA

51 Professional Performing

TA

13

Arts School

52 Regis High School 53 Repertory Company High

Bronx TA

55 Tito Puente Performing

PP

57 Washington Irving High School 58 York Prep School

7 11 6

42

TA

39 58 50 38 44 40 51 48 53 34

PTS TA 35

QUEENS TA

60 Benjamin N. Cardozo

TA

14

Manhattan

TA

59 Bayside High School

8

10

47

PP

41

37 56

57

46

55 52 45 54 36

Queens 59

72 60 61

67

63

43

70

64 66

49

33

20

68

Long Island

71

18

High School

61 Daniel Carter Beard

9

15

Arts Academy

56 Unity High School

4

2 1

School for Theatre Arts

54 Rudolf Steiner School

5 3

12

29 16

PP, PTS

17

School (JHS 189)

24

25

69

23 26

62 Far Rockaway High School

TA

63 Flushing High School

TA

19

Brooklyn

31

64 Forest Hills High School 65 Lawrence Woodmere Academy

TA TA 22

66 Parsons School (JHS 168) 67 Rachel L. Carlson

65

21

PTS

28

62

PP, PTS

30

School (IS 237)

68 Robert F. Kennedy High School 69 Springfield Gardens High School

32

27

PTS, TA PTS

70 Summit School

TA

71 The Kew Forest School

TA

72 William Cullen Bryant High School

TA

75 74

Staten Island 73

Other Areas Involved in Roundabout’s Education Programs: AREA (# of participating schools) Long Island Upstate NY Colorado Connecticut

(21) (9) (1) (7)

Louisiana Maryland New Jersey Pennsylvania

(1) (1) (17) (6)

Rhode Island (1) Virginia (4) Vermont (1)

STATEN ISLAND

73 Elias Bernstein School (IS 7)

TA

74 Notre Dame High School

TA

75 Ralph McKee High School

PTS

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HOW DOES A TEACHING ARTIST PREPARE FOR THE CLASSROOM?

H

Karla Hendrick leads a professional development workshop for teachers that explores how theatre sets convey meaning.

i. I’m a stage manager. I’m here to talk about production meetings.” So begins one audition to become a Roundabout teaching artist. Every year, Roundabout’s Education Department trains a cadre of theatre professionals to help students produce and design theatre through the Producing Partners program while others introduce kids to live theatre through the Page to Stage program.

Reneé Flemings and teaching artists participate in a master class led by playwright Stephen Belber.

These professional actors, designers, directors, playwrights, and stage managers have been given 10 minutes to “perform” a lesson about theatre. Roundabout looks for key ingredients in each audition, according to Reneé Flemings, Director of Instruction & Curriculum Development. “How does the teaching artist actively engage the students and the teacher,” she asks. “How active is the lesson? What is the line of inquiry being pursued? Is it focused? Does the lesson demonstrate collaboration?” Actress Karla Hendrick, a Roundabout teaching artist since 2002, nailed her audition, which she remembers vividly. The Brooklyn College graduate, with a double master’s degree in acting and theatre education wrote each letter of the word COLLABORATION on a separate piece of

paper. “I then threw the pages on the floor and told my class — made up of other potential teaching artists — to jump up and scramble to see what letter they could get,” she says. “Then I told them to form groups so they could make as many words as possible from each other’s letters. The lesson was: just as we can’t make a word with our letter alone, in the theatre we have to collaborate too. You can’t do it alone.” Some arts organizations would have immediately sent someone with Hendrick’s advanced degrees and creative approach into a school. In fact, Brooklyn College placed her in Tilden High School after graduation. “That was pretty rough,” she says. Instead, Roundabout’s successful auditioners must complete 50 hours of training, both at the Theatrical Teaching Institute, an intensive week-long summer workshop for teachers and teaching artists, and at its “boot camp” held before the start of each semester for teaching artists only. By the spring of 2005, Hendrick had completed her third residency. Every residency begins with a meeting with the classroom teacher. That’s where the emphasis on collaboration is squarely placed.

“They wrote extraordinary character monologues,” she says. “Subsequently, students would write a line of dialogue and pass it to their partners who would respond. That would create a scene and they’d be instructed to create a conflict and include a beginning, middle, and end.”

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Teaching artist Sheri Graubert leads a professional development workshop for teachers from Region 7.

“You have to win over the teacher as well as the kids,” notes Hendrick. “Part of our Roundabout training focuses on how to work with teachers so they become a huge part of the experience.” During that initial meeting with a teacher, the theatre artist’s job is to listen and discover everything — from teachers’ curricular goals to their education philosophy. Hendrick’s first residency was a 10-week stint in a Queens middle school English class in which her collaborating teacher wanted the students to explore literary devices through writing. “I am an actor, not a writer, but since I’m into improvisation, we started with improvs or physical actions to get them writing,” says Hendrick. For one class, she brought in a bag of objects. Kids picked one without looking and then wrote a piece from an imaginary character’s point-of-view for whom that object was the most important thing in his or her life. “They wrote extraordinary character monologues,” she says. “Subsequently, students would write a line of dialogue and pass it to their partners who would respond. That would create a scene and they’d be instructed to create a conflict and include a beginning, middle, and end.” Hendrick uses her improvisation skills as an actress often. For another class at the same school, they prepared kids to see Twelve Angry Men by creating a mock trial of an imaginary drunk driver who had killed a student — a tragic situation that mirrored an incident that the school community had suffered. In her last residency in the Bronx, Hendrick collaborated with a teacher who was so excited about the program that he just jumped into the improvisation exercises, taking risks, letting the kids laugh at him.

Roundabout’s work begins before the teaching artist reaches the classroom door. Each artist must devise a residency plan, in conjunction with their collaborating teacher, laying out the vision for the ten visits. They also spend at least an hour per class-visit on preparation, writing detailed lesson plans and talking on the phone about each class with the teacher. The first, fourth, and seventh plans must be turned into the Roundabout education office. As an actor, Hendrick is not used to all the paper work. “But the great thing about Roundabout — and it’s not true about everywhere else — is that they pay you for the preparation work because they know it’s so important.”

Karla Hendrick participates in a master class led by Roundabout Artistic Associate Bill Irwin.

Reneé Flemings frequently travels to sit in on classes, make suggestions to Roundabout teaching artists, and conduct post-residency interviews. “It provides an opportunity for the teaching artists to reflect and identify areas in which they want support for their practice,” she says. “And it’s an opportunity for Roundabout to see if what we’re preaching works in practice.” Roundabout never forgets that its teaching artists are theatre professionals. They also provide showcase nights and studio time to give teaching artists a chance to congregate and share their work with each other. Throughout, Roundabout’s education staff remains on call. “They always tell us,” says Hendrick, “to remember that we’re not alone.”

Reneé Flemings and Bill Irwin prepare for a master class.

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HOW DO STUDENT AUDIENCES RESPOND TO LIVE THEATRE?

I

will play for this audience any day,” gushed actor John C. Reilly during a A Streetcar Named Desire scene change. The seats of Roundabout’s Studio 54 were filled with hundreds of middle and high school students from around the metropolitan area and they were audibly ooohing and gasping at each tragic turn in Tennessee Williams’ classic. “It was as if we were performing Streetcar fifty years ago when it was first written,” Reilly said later during the post-show talk back with the enthusiastic students. “Older audiences have seen the play or the movie and already know what’s going to happen.” Every year Roundabout sets aside at least one Wednesday matinee performance to each of its Broadway and off-Broadway shows for students, and they arrive by subway, bus, and foot from all over the city. For many, it will be their first experience attending live theatre. It’s all part of Roundabout’s Theatre Access program and the 2004-2005 season was a breakout year. More than 11,000 students from 167 schools, many participating in Page to Stage or Producing Partners, attended Roundabout shows, cheering as each Juror changed his vote to “not guilty” during Twelve Angry Men or hissing when Stanley slaps Stella in Streetcar. The students’ visceral reactions are often audible, a result of a level of excitement and energy that a 14-year-old has difficulty containing. One 9th

grader from Manhattan Theatre Lab High School reported sheepishly at a talk back for McReele that she actually shouted out, “You go girl,” to one of the characters during the performance. “And I never talk during a show,” she said, “but the play was just soooo good.” “Students are smart,” says actress Portia, who was the object of that student’s affection. “They understood things about my character in McReele that the critics never got.” This was especially true for her character, Opal, a poor urban black woman. With adult audience members, Portia found she had to explain why Opal was so angry in her first scene where she’s at the home of two upper middle-class journalists. “The kids understood exactly what was going on,” she says, referring to the awkward onstage clash of class and social sensibilities. Peter Friedman, who played Juror #7 in Twelve Angry Men, remembers, “We always worried that the play would get kidnapped by the kids or get out of our control. That’s because at other theatres some student matinees had been unpleasant. But Roundabout’s students were enthralled. There’s that wonderful moment in the show when a count is taken and seven people vote “not guilty” and the kids are going “wooo, wooo” thinking they’ve seen the big surprise. Then the Foreman raises his hand to switch, and they’re delighted to see something they didn’t expect.”

Actor John C. Reilly and the cast of A Streetcar Named Desire participate in a talk back with students.

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Friedman’s fellow ensemble member James Rebhorn concurs. “I loved the student matinees. And I particularly loved it when the students were integrated with the older theatergoers, who are always courteous but can be a bit staid sometimes. The students are more genuine but not always appropriate, so they learn from each other.” One reason for Roundabout’s success with students is that the Theatre Access program begins before the students arrive in the lobby. Roundabout offers teachers and teaching artists lesson plans, preview performances, and preshow workshops. Every student can receive a copy of

improvisations based on the themes of the show or have kids perform scene excerpts from the script. Both students and actors particularly enjoy the post-show talk backs. Portia, for one, so loved meeting the kids that she agreed to provide an entire afternoon acting workshop for one school. “The students loved it,” she reports. “They dove into it like a big fat pizza.” Portia was overwhelmed by how much she loved it. “There’s nothing like the embrace of a child,” she says. “No acting award in the world could ever top that for me.”

More than 11,000 students from 167 schools, many participating in Page to Stage or Producing Partners, attended Roundabout shows, cheering as each Juror changed his vote to “not guilty” during Twelve Angry Men or hissing when Stanley slaps Stella in Streetcar. Upstage, a magazine produced by Roundabout’s education department, that includes artist interviews, background material, and suggested activities for each show. In addition, teaching artists help prep the students for the experience. One group might take a scene or theme from the play and create a "Postcard Production", a miniproduction conceived, designed, built, staged and performed in three hours. Others might create

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HOW DOES ROUNDABOUT SUPPORT

I

n the winter of 2004, Roundabout board member David Massengill led a team of educators, theatre artists, parents and students into a New York City Department of Education office building in Chelsea. The group’s mission was to convince a DOE committee to fund a third Roundaboutpartnered New Century Initiative high school. Six months later, Manhattan Theatre Lab High School opened its doors.

Students at Manhattan Theatre Lab prepare for their production, Romeo and Juliet Meets West Side Story.

For the presentation, Massengill, a distinguished, silver-maned New York attorney who helped litigate the Campaign for Fiscal Equity schools funding case, presented the problem. “Over 64,000 students will enter the 9th grade this year in New York City public

and Chancellor Joel Klein under the New Century Initiative. In addition to size limitations, these schools must also have a private organization as a partner. More than 75 small schools have opened so far. The involvement of the outside partners, which include such organizations as Barnard College, the YMCA of Greater New York, and the Lincoln Center Institute, varies. Roundabout’s commitment is intensive, hands-on, and dayto-day.

From the Ashes of the Past Of course, just because the school is relatively tiny, it doesn’t mean that the problems are small. In fact, because these schools are

Roundabout’s commitment is intensive, hands-on, and day-to-day. high schools. History tells us that barely 51 percent will graduate in four years. What happens to the other 49 percent? Are these 30,000 students destined to fail?” Not if Roundabout can help it. Although sometimes the odds of success seem insurmountable, Roundabout’s education department created its Producing Partners program in 1997 to address school need and witnessed remarkable turnaround in students who were given the chance to be inspired and motivated by theatre and teaching artists. That convinced Roundabout to commit its resources and open a trio of New Century Initiative schools — Bronx Theatre High School (BTHS), Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre (BSMT), and Manhattan Theatre Lab High School (MTL). All three are part of the “small schools” movement championed by Mayor Bloomberg

14

relatively new everything has to be created from scratch, from an understanding of a common school culture to an efficient bathroom pass policy. The beauty of each school’s size, however, is that if one policy doesn’t work, it’s fairly easy to change. That might be more difficult in a Titanic-sized 4,000-student school. “I love the small school model,” says BSMT Principal Kieran McGuire. “We’re really creating something out of the ashes of these huge failing schools.” High school principals are part CEO and part impresario. This is especially true in Roundabout’s partner schools that are being created one grade of around 100 students per year. That means Manhattan Theatre Lab will double in size when it starts its second year in the fall of 2005. In year three, the schools will once again grow by a full class size, which is the task at hand for the schools in the Bronx


ITS PRODUCING PARTNER HIGH SCHOOLS? and Brooklyn. Eventually, each of these schools will cater to more than 400 students. Margie Salvante, Roundabout’s former Education Director, just finished her debut year as a principal at MTL. She uses an apt metaphor to describe her new job. “It’s like an ongoing performance of a six-hour play with very little backstage time.” Debi Effinger, her counterpart at BTHS, says, “It’s like you’re running a huge corporation. I have a budget to manage, classes to schedule within all sorts of restrictions, and I have to be there emotionally for the kids and teachers — never mind the parents calling on my cell phone.” All three principals agree that the most important challenge — more than limited physical space or a class with 80 percent of its students reading below grade level — is getting the kids to buy into the school culture, which uses the model of a theatre company to create an understanding that collaboration, responsibility to each ensemble member, and commitment to a common vision benefits everyone. Roundabout is the proof and model.

socialization. Each school’s central founding tenet, honed under the guidance of Roundabout’s education department, is that students are motivated to complete class work when that work is meaningful to them personally and will be of practical use to them as artists. Conversely, by having to research Renaissance costumes for a production of Romeo and Juliet, say, or using algebra to measure the angles required to light the stage, or making critical literary analyses to understand the allegorical characters in a medieval morality play, students’ learning is rehearsed and reinforced.

Overcoming Obstacles Manhattan Theatre Lab had only about 105 students in its first year. Like BSMT, it had been given a green light by the Department of Education very late in the spring before it opened, and most 8th graders in New York already had picked high schools. However, the system had also left a large population of kids in limbo. These kids enrolled in Roundabout’s partner schools because they had nowhere else

Growth Through Trust The reality is that most students have rarely experienced commitment from adults or trusted their peers enough to risk looking foolish in front of them. No wonder so many drop out. Most have never been part of a creative ensemble, performed in a play — or even seen one. It shouldn’t be surprising — in retrospect — that incoming 9th graders don’t understand the effect of their absenteeism on a theatre production or their behavior on teachers and students. “I came to the realization that a large percentage of kids, I’d say 60 percent, needed significant behavior intervention,” says Salvante. “They come from junior high environments where they learn to protect themselves by creating tough, antisocial, don’t-mess-with-me-or-I’ll-mess-you-up reputations.” Salvante’s first challenge was to convince kids to solve problems in constructive ways instead of using their fists or mouths. She appointed peer mediators

“It’s like you’re running a huge corporation. I have a budget to manage, classes to schedule within all sorts of restrictions, and I have to be there emotionally for the kids and teachers — never mind the parents calling on my cell phone.” For the last two years, Roundabout has sent dozens of teaching artists, truckloads of theatre equipment, and hundreds of hours of administrative support into each of these schools. The fledgling schools are based on the belief that theatre promotes learning and

to go, not necessarily because they liked theatre. At MTL, there were a couple of arrests, two institutionalizations in psychiatric facilities, and several incidents of students having sex or doing drugs — in the building. In one teacher’s homeroom, 3 kids out of 14 became homeless during the fall due to fire or other catastrophes.

and created workshops devoted to anger management. Ultimately, Salvante found that theatre best made her point. Roundabout teaching artist LaTonya Borsay, for instance, did workshops inspired by the Global Studies curriculum on the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome, exploring what an “ideal” man and woman might act like, then and now. “The question

Teaching Artist Jim Jack and a student at Bronx Theatre High School.

15


Manhattan Theatre Lab principal Margaret Salvante-McCann and students.

became: What masks are we all wearing?” says Salvante. “The kids were able to do some examination of who they really are, who they want to be, and who they’re perceived to be. We used the characters in the plays they were doing as a model. And we got so much mileage out of Twelve Angry Men. Having students see professional theatre at Roundabout was so helpful in developing their ability to do character analysis.”

Adapting to the Program From a teacher’s point of view, in addition to the behavior management problems, the biggest hurdle was teaching students from a huge range of learning styles and levels. In one English class at MTL, a teacher had a 9th grader with Downs Syndrome who struggled to read one-syllable words and a student who wanted to discuss The DaVinci Code — and every possible level in between. That’s why a project-based curriculum imbued with a theatrical approach to teaching is so valuable. Jim Jack, a Roundabout teaching artist at BTHS, was particularly impressed by one social studies teacher who embraced Roundabout’s emphasis on using theatre techniques in class. “He’d take ideas like A student at Manhattan Theatre Lab works on a costume design project.

capitalism and communism and ask students to define the terms and come up with a three-person tableau to express them,” says Jack. “He’d give historical scenarios — Stalin talking to workers, for example — and then have students write and perform plays about them.” They even shot a short film based on the students’ experiences at a Japanese tea ceremony in which kids wrote haikus and short monologues about ways they achieved a similar tranquility and peace in their lives. They performed them on camera and sent the film to a Japanese school, thanks to a Roundabout intern from Japan. Roundabout helped its schools with another particular obstacle: producing theatre requires space and technical equipment. At BTHS in the Bronx and at MTL in Harlem, the ninth graders produced four shows, including original adaptations of such classics as Antigone, Everyman, the medieval morality play, and Romeo and Juliet. MTL shared a building — and an antiquated auditorium — with three other schools. The auditorium was on the first floor; the school was on the fifth. Set pieces, props, and costumes were built upstairs and then had to be carried up and down stairs because there is no elevator. At BTHS, students had to build scenic elements in the same room that they rehearsed.

Answering the Call for Support At BSMT, McGuire turned to Roundabout often. “They supported us in every way: they brought us teaching artists; they provided rigging and stage equipment; they helped with budgeting and planning. They helped write a proposal to the DOE Region office to get new structural improvements to the theatre space. They even supported the creation of outside partnerships like the one we enjoy with Virgin Records.”

16

Perhaps the greatest gift Roundabout offered was its brand new Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre black box theatre for student performances. The BTHS 10th graders performed an inspired adaptation of Brave New World, followed by MTL’s spirited Romeo and Juliet Meets West Side Story. The chance to perform in front of family and friends at a professional off-Broadway theatre in Times Square crystallized all the students’ efforts from the past year.

Successful Results The results so far have been impressive. More than 92 percent of the students in BTHS’s 10th grade honors class passed the English Regents exam — a year earlier than most students even dare to take it. At BSMT, almost 85 percent of the 10th grade passed the Biology and Math A Regents exams. At MTL, the 9th graders, for all their troubles, passed their courses at a rate of 86 percent, higher than their DOE zone target of 80 percent. For Effinger, who has worked in the public schools for more than two decades, the biggest reward is “the growth of the kids — that’s the most amazing thing. Kids come back from my early days at John F. Kennedy High School, and it’s wonderful to hear about their great memories doing plays together.” Effinger expects the same from her current cast of students, who she says love just hanging around the school. She sighs before getting back to more paperwork, “I’m looking forward to the day one of these kids comes back to teach.”


THE

Roundabout is grateful to its funders for their support

FINANCIAL

of the Theatre’s educational programs. Thanks to the strong

PICTURE

commitment from individuals, corporations, foundations and government agencies, which during the 2004-2005 season totaled $1,107,580, we were able to provide quality arts-ineducation programs to underserved constituents throughout New York City. Education Expenses

5% 6% 10%

Producing Partners ($608,301) Page to Stage ($234,690)

37%

Theatre Access ($469,105) Professional Development ($157,655)

28%

Career Development ($105,949)

14%

Theatre Plus ($89,342) Total $1,665,042

Education Income Contributions ($1,107,580)

6%

Income from Schools ($461,815) Roundabout Operations ($95,647)

28% 66%

Total $1,665,042

EDUCATION PROGRAM FUNDERS The Aeroflex Foundation

HSBC Bank USA, N.A.

One World Fund

American Airlines

JPMorgan Chase

The Picower Foundation

American Theatre Wing

City Council Member Oliver Koppel

The Rudin Foundation

Axe-Houghton Foundation

The McGraw-Hill Companies

Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation

Rose M. Badgeley Residuary Charitable Trust

Mellam Family Foundation

Adolph and Ruth Schnurmacher Foundation

The Center for Arts Education

Merrill Lynch & Co. Foundation

State of New York Department of State

Citigroup Foundation

Paul L. Newman

The Starr Foundation

Con Edison

New Visions for Public Schools

The Michael Tuch Foundation, Inc.

The Council of the City of New York

New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

Verizon Communications

The Samuel and Rae Eckman Charitable Foundation

New York State Council on the Arts

The Walt Disney Company

The Educational Foundation of America

The New York Times Company Foundation

Anonymous

The Ettinger Foundation

Henry Nias Foundation

The Heckscher Foundation for Children

The George A. Ohl. Jr. Trust


BOARD OF DIRECTORS

EDUCATION COMMITTEE

TEACHING ARTISTS

Steven F. Goldstone Chairman

David Massengill Chairman

Thomas E. Tuft Vice Chairman

Tia Barancik Beth Chapin Scott Ellis Carole S. Krumland Jeffory Lawson Julia C. Levy Carol Mitchell Charles Randolph-Wright Donna Slade Pat Stockhausen Yolanda Turocy Patricia Wolpert Steven F. Goldstone Ex-officio

Philip Alexander, Zakiyyah Alexander, Julio Arroyo, Cynthia Babak, Victor Barbella, Brigitte Barnett-Loftis, Caitlin Barton, Joe Basile, LaTonya Borsay, Bonnie Brady, Lori Brown-Niang, Michael Carnahan, Joe Clancy, Melissa Denton, Stephen DiMenna, M. Joseph Doran, Tony Freeman, Aaron Gass, Sheri Graubert, Dennis Green, Enders Groff, Susan Hamburger, Karla Hendrick, Jim Jack, Lisa Renee Jordan, Alvin Keith, Rebecca Lord, Erin McCready, Andrew Ondrejcak, Laura Poe, Nicole Press, Chris Romain, Christopher Rummel, Drew Sachs, Anna Saggese, David Sinkus, Derek Straat, Vickie Tanner, Olivia Tsang, Jennifer Varbalow, Leese Walker, Eric Wallach, Diana Whitten, Gail Winar, Kirche Zeile

Christian C. Yegen Vice Chairman Todd Haimes President Barbara Schaps Thomas Treasurer Kevin A. McCabe Secretary Leslie E. Bains Maureen Bluedorn Ronald B. Bruder Linda Carter, Ph.D. Samuel R. Chapin Mary Cirillo-Goldberg Mike de Graffenried Bob Donnalley Douglas Durst Perry B. Granoff Soledad DeLeon Hurst Lawrence Kaplen Gene R. Korf Carole S. Krumland Mark J. Manoff David E. Massengill Jeffrey S. Maurer John P. McGarry, Jr. Carol Mitchell Cynthia Nixon Laura Pels Christopher Plummer Charles Randolph-Wright Steven A. Sanders Steven Schroko Chip Seelig Donna J. Slade Mary C. Solomon

EDUCATION STAFF Megan Kirkpatrick Education Director

CREDITS

ReneĂŠ Flemings Director of Instruction and Curriculum Development

Project Manager: Kristen Bolibruch

Lindsay Erb Education Program Associate

Photos: Lorenzo Ciniglio, Jennifer Weisbord

Editor: John Istel / ICAP

Design: CSDesignworks

Stacey L. Morris Education Program Associate Cassidy L. Jones Education Coordinator Ted Sod Education Dramaturg

Todd Haimes Artistic Director Harold Wolpert Managing Director Julia C. Levy Executive Director Scott Ellis Associate Artistic Director

ROUNDABOUTTHEATRECOMPANY 231 West 39th Street, Suite 1200 New York, NY 10018 Telephone: 212-719-9393 Fax: 212-642-9636 www.roundabouttheatre.org Roundabout Theater Company is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization.


Roundabout_Education Report  

EDUCATION REPORT 2004-2005 EXPAND the impact of Roundabout’s productions by providing historical, literary, and social contexts in the class...

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