CUNY SPS Applied Theatre Alumni Publish Article in Academic Journal

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Three alumni from the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) MA in Applied Theatre program have co-published an article in the online theatre and performance art journal Etudes. Their essay “Lessons in Homemaking: Devising Theatre with Women and Men in Transitional Housing” explores the way applied theatre and performance might be used in transitional housing settings to foster a sense of home.

The three former students, Chelsea Hanawalt, Nicole Kontolefa, and Esther Triggs-Camacho, all graduated in 2019 from the Masters of Arts in Applied Theatre program (MAAT). They began collaborating while attending the program and share a passion for the ways that theatre can be used to engage people, spur community activism, and inspire conversation and change.

Adeola Adegbola White, assistant director of the MAAT Program, said “We are excited to see yet more of our alumni apply the skills, training, and scholarship they learned in the MAAT program—not to mention their own hard work, talent, and passion—to their post-graduate work. We can’t wait to see what Triggs-Camacho, Kontolefa, and Hanawalt will do next!”

The article “Lessons in Homemaking” grew out of the students’ shared thesis, in which they collaborated on an applied theatre project at a faith-based organization that provides transitional housing and support for men and women experiencing homelessness in New York City. Working with the residents, the three students staged two original theatre pieces over the course of five weeks using a participant-based performative theatrical experience known as ‘playbuilding’, with the goal of sharing the participants’ stories and celebrating their journey.

In the paper, the authors described their experience developing the theatrical works with the residents in the transitional housing space. Together, Hanawalt, Kontolefa, and Triggs-Camacho discussed what it means to feel at home and how power and agency affect one's experience of their living situation, and concluded the article by individually reflecting on their own ideas of home and how that affected this project.

Etudes is a peer-reviewed online theatre and performance studies journal that is dedicated to the unique voice of the individual emerging scholar. Founded in 2015 and published annually, the online journal features articles that include a wide variety of dramatic concepts and theatrical texts, ranging from an analysis of classics like The Iliad to contemporary works like The Book of Mormon.  

Hanawalt, Kontolefa, and Triggs-Camacho’s work in the MAAT program has also led them to found the Journey Theatre Project, an organization whose mission is to create a world of change through theatrical innovation and mindfulness. JTP works within non-profits, corporate entities, and in educational, religious, and community settings to facilitate equity and diversity workshops as well as learning and wellness events. In 2020, JTP plans to work with the Bowery Mission and to continue to make theatre that celebrates and reflects the lives of people they work with. 

The MA in Applied Theatre degree program at CUNY SPS explores the ways theatre and drama may be used to help educate, build community, and inspire social change, and offers coursework, projects, and mentoring to help students become leaders in the field. After graduation, many students go on to bring theatre and drama to professions like education, criminal justice, health care, and community organizing.

With this article, the alumni join a number of former MAAT students who have published their scholarship in a variety of academic publications, including Researching Performative Language Learning with Refugees and their Teachers: The Sorgente Project, London Performance and Ireland-Academic Journal, and RiDE (Research in Drama Education): The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance.

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

Home to the first fully online degree programs at the City University of New York, the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) provides online and on campus programs that meet the needs of adults who are looking to finish a bachelor’s degree, earn a master’s degree or certificate in a specialized field, advance in the workplace, or change careers.

The School’s growth has been remarkable. Launching twenty-three degrees since 2006, enrollment has risen by more than 30% in the last four years to over 3,700 students in the credit-bearing programs. We serve thousands more who are enrolled in our non-degree and grant funded workforce development programs. In addition, the School has an active Alumni network and established the CUNY SPS Foundation, which offers multiple scholarship opportunities to our current students.

Affirming our role as a leader in online education, CUNY SPS was ranked in the top 5% of U.S. News & World Report’s list of the 2020 Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs, making CUNY SPS the highest nationally listed program in New York State and New York City.

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