Applied Theatre Program Hosts Interactive Learning Festival

Students Performing at 2022 TIE Festival

The CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) MA in Applied Theatre program (MAAT) hosted its 2022 Theatre in Education (TIE) Festival on May 21 and May 22. In a return to live and in-person programming, the festival showcased six different student projects with an educational objective.

“This year’s TIE Festival was the culmination of a semester of deep and diligent student work, and we were so thrilled to be able to gather in person to share and celebrate that work with folks,” said Sarah Meister, interim assistant director of the CUNY SPS MAAT program. “While we usually open the event to the public, COVID safety restrictions limited our capacity this year. Students were joined by a handful of their MAAT cohort-mates from other classes, friends, and family (including some delightful young people and little ones!). It was a joy to be together and immersed in live, interactive theater after two years of presenting student TIE pieces virtually.”

The annual TIE festival is staged by students known as ‘actor-teachers’ from the MAAT course Teaching Through Theatre: The Theory and Practice of TIE. The students from this year’s course formed six working companies that developed productions to educate their audiences through interactive, entertaining, and fun performances. The groups created original pieces, each targeting a specific audience: early childhood, middle school, high school, or college/adult.

The six creative workshops featured in this year’s TIE festival are listed below.

Devised and presented by Elyse Orecchio and Allison Reed, Let's Get Nuts! is an interactive storytelling adventure that encouraged preschoolers (ages 4-5) to explore the silly and satisfying world of squirrels. Along their way, they had the opportunity to examine, question, and reimagine the 'rules' of sharing, friendship, and consent. Participants scampered away with new skills, new ideas, and maybe even some new dance moves.

Lunchtown / La Ciudad de los Almuerzos is a participatory project geared to pre-schoolers that focused on emotional literacy, being a good friend, and supporting community. In this program, created and presented by Marcela Artunduaga, Ariel Mombrea, and Leslie Thompson, students took on the roles of food trucks ready to feed a hungry town. The food trucks had to work as a community to include new members of the group, create emotional safety for their friends, and solve the mystery of the missing ingredients.

Nicole Hogsett, Caitlyn McCain, and Ciara Ward wrote and produced The Difference Detectives, an interactive project designed for preschoolers through kids in first grade. This piece invited students to notice, ask questions, learn about, and celebrate what makes us different, with a focus on racial, disability, language, and culture differences. In this storyline, a gray fog rolls over the City of Different, and everything becomes the same. It's up to the Difference Detectives to discover how to stop the gray fog before it spreads everywhere.

Mission E, created and produced by Ellie Bell and Christian Paxton, was designed as a collaborative piece for middle school students aimed at exploring and developing emotional literacy around difficult feelings, particularly around feelings of loss. In this production, students had the opportunity to meet and engage with two alien beings from a distant planet where emotions had been eradicated. New to planet earth, the aliens hope to assimilate with humanity by learning about the nature of feelings and how to express them—all with guidance from the students.

Yasemin Eti, Ish Gupta, and Sarah Lazar’s Another Brick utilizes immersive theatre to ask high school students what kind of education they want—and what they might risk to get it. The story takes place in the not-too-distant future at a fictional school named Curtis Carter High. A teacher’s livelihood is threatened amidst claims of teaching material that goes increasingly against the school and state mandates. The education system is increasingly becoming a battleground—and legislation looms. What should education look like? What is it for? What is appropriate or inappropriate? And who should decide?

Let’s Talk About Sex: An Exploration of Non-Hetero-Narratives, a piece by Megan Raab and Brynn Asha Walker, was created for adults to investigate the taboo areas of sex education for adults. In this vignette, Jamie and Jordan are a queer couple navigating trans-itions in their relationship as hormones disrupt their identities and feelings about intimacy and sexuality. After their issues come to a head, participants are invited to try and help Jamie and Jordan relearn how to communicate with one another to salvage their crumbling relationship.

About the Master of Arts in Applied Theatre

The MA in Applied Theatre degree program, the first program of its kind in the United States, uses theatre as a medium for education, community development, and the pursuit of social justice. The goal of the program is to educate scholar practitioners to become future leaders in the field of applied theatre. Applied Theatre involves the use of theatre and drama in a wide variety of nontraditional contexts and venues, such as in teaching, the justice system, health care, the political arena, community development, museums, and social service agencies.

About the CUNY School of Professional Studies

As New York’s leader in online education since 2006, the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) offers the most online bachelor’s and master’s degree options at the City University of New York, and serves as the University’s only undergraduate all-transfer college. With 25 degrees and numerous other non-degree and grant-funded workplace learning programs, CUNY SPS meets the needs of adults who wish to finish a bachelor’s degree, progress from an associate’s degree, earn a master’s degree or certificate in a specialized field, and advance in the workplace or change careers. Consistently ranked highly by U.S. News & World Report for its online offerings, and noted for its soaring growth and enrollment, CUNY SPS has emerged as a nationwide leader in online education. The School’s renowned and affordable online programs—which offer in-state tuition to all students regardless of where they live—ensure that busy working adults may fulfill their educational goals on their own time and schedule.

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