Project Rwanda: Drama and Theatre Education for Reconciliation and Development

Project Rwanda: Drama and Theatre Education for Reconciliation and Development was conceived as a multi-year program whereby faculty and students from the MA in Applied Theatre at the CUNY School of Professional Studies travel to Rwanda to assist Rwandan students and teachers in acquiring interactive, applied theatre skills. The twin goals of the Project are: (a) to develop the use of theatre and drama strategies as educational tools to help promote unity and reconciliation among Rwandans, and (b) to create job opportunities by building applied theatre troops; first in schools and colleges, and later in the professional, cultural milieu.

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Year One 2010

Phase One of the project was conceived as a pilot phase and implemented in July and August 2010. It was an unqualified success. Students and faculty from both Institutions were enthusiastic about the potential for on-going collaboration.

Year Two 2011

In Phase Two, students from the CUNY MA program took responsibility for shaping and implementing an introduction to applied theatre for the KIE freshmen. They facilitated 8 sessions that illuminated many aspects of applied theatre work and generated a great deal of interest and excitement. The faculty team worked intensively with second-level students to develop skills and deepen understanding of the range and potential of applied theatre practices. The culminating event was a lecture demonstration, led by Professors White and Vine, that incorporated an interactive applied theatre performance based upon the traditional tale "The Drummer", which tells a story similar to "The Pied Piper of Hamlin". This group creation saw a combined cast of 49 KIE and CUNY students working together in a cross-cultural, bi-lingual performance that took the college by storm. The final highlight was the first ever applied theatre professional development workshop for in-service high school teachers. The workshop was particularly notable for the mentoring role that a group of the KIE students stepped forward to fill.

The Kigali Institute of Education made an official proposal to form a partnership with CUNY/SPS to deliver ongoing student education in applied theatre through a series of annual visits from SPS faculty and students. It is hoped these will lead to opportunities for Rwandan student education and KIE faculty development in New York City.

Year Three 2012

Phase Three will build upon the objectives, content, and structure of Phase One and Two. The objectives of Project Rwanda: Phase Three are to:

  • Implement introductory training in applied theatre theory and practice to the new KIE freshman class
  • Implement a second level training for the 24 KIE students worked with last year
  • Implement a third level training for the 24 KIE students now going into their final year
  • Create and present applied theatre performances, in which KIE and CUNY students perform publically together
  • Provide lecture demonstrations to explain methodology, foster understanding, and garner support
  • Offer a training workshop for in-service teachers drawn from regions across the country
  • Work directly with young people, giving opportunities for KIE students to reapply strategies with guidance and support, and
  • Make appropriate cultural and educational visits to develop the understanding of the Rwandan historical, cultural and social context among the CUNY/SPS students and faculty.

Project Team

The project team is composed of faculty and students from the CUNY School of Professional Studies. Professors Helen White and Chris Vine will lead students from the M.A. in Applied Theatre program. Coordination of the project in Rwanda is assumed by Jean de Dieu Musayidizi from the Rwanda Bureau of Information and Broadcasting (ORINFOR) and Léon Mugabe (Faculty of Education) working in consort with Dr. Nsanzibiga, Dean of Arts and Languages at the Kigali Institute of Education (KIE).