MAAT Class of 2020 Virtual Yearbook

Applied Theatre
Graduating Class of 2020

Susanna Brock CUNY SPS MAAT
Susanna Brock
Jessica Cortez CUNY SPS MAAT
Jessica Cortez
Yusi Gao CUNY SPS MAAT
Yusi Gao
Elise Goldin CUNY SPS MAAT
Elise Goldin
Karmin Harbin CUNY SPS MAAT
Karmin Harbin
Amelia Hefferon CUNY SPS MAAT
Amelia Hefferon
Kevin Higgins CUNY SPS MAAT
Kevin Higgins
Lauren LaRocca CUNY SPS MAAT
Lauren LaRocca
Jess Leahey CUNY SPS MAAT
Jessica Leahey
Sarah Meister CUNY SPS MAAT
Sarah Meister
Stephen Morrash CUNY SPS MAAT
Stephen Morrash
Helio Sepulveda-Zornosa CUNY SPS MAAT
Helio Sepulveda-Zornosa
Shanté​ Skyers CUNY SPS MAAT
Shanté​ Skyers
Karina Sindicich CUNY SPS MAAT
Karina Sindicich
Joseph Webb CUNY SPS MAAT
Joseph Webb

We rise to celebrate you!

In the risk and moment of our distorted day
You are centerstage in a strange new play

Living history.

Amidst the upheavals of the COVID-19 crisis and the nationwide outrage at the ongoing vicious killings and blatant racist aggression, you have persevered. Living in these terrible circumstances, aware of the contradictions, and no doubt struggling with many conflicting impulses, you have nonetheless completed your journey through our demanding program of study. This is a remarkable achievement to be marked, noted, and celebrated. The more so because the varied work you all do—and will do—is so connected to the demands of the times in which we live. We need activism and art; we need creativity and community; we need education; we need vision, hope, and love. We need you.

You are the eyes that can see a brighter future
The imaginations that can build a richer world
The hands that can shape a greener earth
The hearts that can show a deeper love
And the tongues that will speak truth to power.

Thank you for coming to us, for trusting us, for staying. Thank you for rising to the challenges, and for contributing so much to our applied theatre community. You will always be a part of it.

We wish you courage, joy, and success on your continuing journey.

Heartfelt congratulations from us all!

The staff, faculty, and fellow students of the CUNY School of Professional Studies, M.A. in Applied Theatre.

 

Susanna Brock CUNY SPS MAAT

Susanna Brock

Living in New York City. Family in Sweden and France.

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program?

A desire to learn more about the intersection of theatre, community, and social justice.

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program?

The process dramas!!! "Strike! Strike! Strike! Strike!" The cohort chanting as we walked out the "factory doors" in Bread and Roses, pulling in Yusi and Jessica who didn't really want to strike with us. Chris who told us that this was the first time in 11 years that every one of the students chose to strike.

What did you explore in your thesis?

How theatre can be used to explore self-advocacy with adult ESOL students at a social justice organization in Brooklyn. It was a really beautiful project and I learned a lot about community and collaboration.

What's next for you?

Being on unemployment...? Everything is so uncertain now it's difficult to dream. But hopefully doing interesting and useful applied theatre projects around the world. :)


Jessica Cortez CUNY SPS MAAT

Jessica Cortez

Brooklyn, NY 

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program?

My professor Evelyn Diaz Cruz suggested I look into Applied Theatre for my master's degree. I had never heard of Applied Theatre but after doing a quick google search I came across the CUNY SPS MAAT program. I fell in love immediately because it combined a lot of what I cared about coming from Ethnic Studies and Theatre Arts. I knew I had to apply. 

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program? 

There were so many memorable moments in this program! I truly love and adore my cohort. I will never forget the process dramas in IDC. Chris coming in as a soldier in the Last Town and as a newsie in Bread and Roses. Our class was so rebellious during all of the in-role activities. It always kept me engaged. IDC opened up a new way for me to explore the possibilities of using theatre and education.

What did you explore in your thesis? 

Our thesis group explored how Theatre of the Oppressed can be utilized to support organizing for domestic workers’ rights. We partnered with two NY organizations that bring together domestic workers and domestic employers to advocate for improving the industry. With a group of domestic workers, we facilitated a forum theatre devising process. The group created a forum theatre piece that reflected their own personal stories as domestic workers.

What’s next for you? 

I plan to stay in New York for at least another year and continue working as an Actor-Teacher with the Creative Arts Team. Eventually, I plan to head back to California to be closer to my family. Creatively, I want to focus on puppetry, stilt walking, and dance.


Yusi Gao CUNY SPS MAAT

Yusi Gao

Brooklyn, NY

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program? 

A Facebook ad. 

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program? 

Mr. Chris Vine doing his "party piece."

What did you explore in your thesis?

Using applied theatre to support English learning and self-advocacy for immigrants.

What's next for you? 

Keep on learning!


Elise Goldin CUNY SPS MAAT

Elise Goldin

Brooklyn, NY

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program? 

My love of play and joy in organizing and a desire to learn and grow personally. 

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program? 

How to choose? There were so many moments, particularly in Playbuilding, where I would be laughing hysterically with a group, or being so silly and have an out-of-body experience thinking, “wow, this is my grad school experience.” Zooming around a room pretending to be flies, performing Backstreet Boys with a choreographed dance, or playing countless games where I felt like a child, in a good way.   

What did you explore in your thesis? 

With my thesis partners, Lauren and Jessica, I worked with a group of domestic workers to build a forum play exploring dynamics between workers, employers, and the children they take care of. We also worked a bit with employers of domestic workers to explore their role in the domestic worker industry and movement. In line with my initial intentions for coming into the program, I analyzed the way that Applied Theatre supported community building and political education. 

What's next for you? 

I’m not sure! For the moment, I’m continuing to organize tenants in North Brooklyn for housing justice. But our world is turned upside-down. I’d love to continue doing theatre with organizing groups as a leadership development tool. And also do more theatre and play with small people! I guess in the immediate future I have to learn how to facilitate on Zoom. 


Karmin Harbin CUNY SPS MAAT

Kamrin Harbin

I'm currently living in the Bronx, but I'm originally from Las Vegas, Nevada.

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program? 

A deep desire to create with communities, create, and play with a purpose. 

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program? 

We had a video call, a check-in with the cohort, and with COVID-19 and folks being in different places it was just really beautiful. It was a moment where I realized that though we're apart we have created something lovely and as artists we will create something lovely as well. 

What did you explore in your thesis? 

How can Applied Theatre be used to facilitate intra-communal conversations among Black folk about identity, love, and community? It was eye-opening, really beautiful, and affirming of the power and importance of this work. 

What's next for you?

A change of pace, I'm looking to move back to Vegas and be closer to family. NY has been amazing but I think internally I move at a slower speed. I'm looking to add to the theatre scene there and create with the Black community and young people, and dive deeper into a liberatory practice. 


Amelia Hefferon Cuny Sps MAAT

Amelia Hefferon

Detroit, MI

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program? 

After a few years of working as a teaching artist, I became aware of some theoretical and practical gaps in my knowledge. I wanted a space to ask the "big questions" about this work in community with other facilitators and artists. I also wanted the chance to try out and practice new techniques, tools, and forms in a generative, curious environment. 

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program? 

I'll never forget when our cohort played "Rounds", a long-form improv game, in Playbuilding. Helen let us go for what felt like hours and things got WEIRD. We still reference and joke about some of the stuff that came out of that. It was so much fun!

What did you explore in your thesis? 

I explored how Applied Theatre techniques can provide an interactive process to explore inclusion, access, and representation in museum spaces. My group worked with students in an acting for non-majors class at a community college.

What's next for you? 

I'm back in my home state Michigan! Doing my best to make connections, create opportunities, and stay optimistic during these strange times.


Kevin Higgins CUNY SPS MAAT

Kevin Higgins

Flushing, NY

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program? 

I was looking for a Drama Therapy program when my Mom found out about Applied Theatre. Because it was a similar practice, I decided to look into it and register for the program.

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program? 

When my participants in my thesis project decided to do a scene based on sexual harassment.

What did you explore in your thesis? 

How to use Applied Theatre to get a neuro-atypical population to practice self-advocacy and independence while being given enough freedom and structure to do so.

What's next for you? 

I'm possibly going to be starting a program with Goodwill.


Lauren LaRocca Cuny Sps MAAT

Lauren LaRocca

Holding it down in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program? 

A quarter-life crisis (only kind of joking) in which I realized I wanted to use my theatre skills to more directly serve people and society on a practical level. A few conversations with smart people already doing the work, a desire to stay in the city, and a quick google search. 

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program? 

It's a tie between a beautiful montage of celebrating everyone's birthday during classes through the year(s), and Chris Vine's "Party Piece." 

What did you explore in your thesis? 

I worked with Elise and Jessica to explore the ways Applied Theatre, specifically Theatre of the Oppressed, could deepen solidarity and organizing in the domestic workers' rights movement. My research question focused on the ways A.T. and T.O. could support storytelling as a tool in the movement. 

What's next for you? 

Over the summer I hope we will continue to deepen connections with our thesis partner organizations, supporting domestic workers through this moment and beyond. In the Fall, I'll be back to my job as a K-8 performing arts teacher in a K-12 school. The plan is to further develop cross-grade and cross-curriculum connections that center on social justice and activism, through the performing arts, and to have fun! 


Jessica Leahey CUNY SPS MAAT

Jessica Leahey

Jersey City, NJ

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program?  

I came to the Applied Theatre Program as a teaching artist, researching ways to deepen my knowledge as an artist and educator.

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program?

I'll never forget the people I've come to know within my cohort. They are such resilient, kind, funny, and all-around wonderful humans. I love them all.

What did you explore in your thesis?  

My thesis partner, Kaz, and I worked with a harm reduction community to explore Applied Theatre through storytelling, forum theatre, and clowning.

What's next for you?  

I am currently working with a learning and development organization that uses drama techniques to challenge those across various business sectors to think differently. I hope to continue my work collaboratively designing and producing their virtual programs while inventing new ways to bring applied theatre to the virtual world.


Sarah Meister CUNY SPS MAAT

Sarah Meister

New York, NY

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program? 

I was exploring a number of threads in my life: theatre, education, social justice, politics, and government. I started to see connections between them, and I wondered if there were other people out there who did too...

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program? 

Too many to count. Jess Cortez prompting a spontaneous tap dance during the TIE festival, "squash the oppression," Chris ordering just one more dirty martini before the JYT show, Elise and Amelia's "Helper Bug" song that will be stuck in my head forever...

What did you explore in your thesis? 

My thesis partners (Joseph Webb, Amelia Hefferon, and Stephen Morrash) and I did a project with students at a local community college that explored the relationship between identity and museums. We devised original theatre in response to the contents of two museums on the college's campus, and did a process drama about the role of museums in communities, among other things! My thesis paper looked at how Applied Theatre can be a catalyst for dialogue between museums and their public. 

What's next for you? 

Continuing the work of The Defrost Project that Amanda Fredrickson, Meghan Grover, Amelia Hefferon, and I started as an independent study last summer. We just got a grant to return to Milan, Minnesota, to use theatre as a tool to celebrate local identity, brainstorm solutions to local challenges, and explore the so-called "urban-rural divide". 


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Stephen Morrash

New York, NY 

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program? 

I wanted a program that would help me gain skills which would allow me to incorporate theatre into other aspects of my life (math teaching, community building, teacher professional development, etc.)

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program? 

I don't think I have a specific moment I will never forget. I'm thankful for the experience but not feeling super nostalgic at this time. 

What did you explore in your thesis? 

We explored museums with a community college acting class. I analyzed their exploration of owning space, accessibility, and inclusion. 

What's next for you? 

I am continuing in my position as a 6 and 11 grade math teacher. Although the fall holds many mysteries for us, I hope to continue the creation of a yearlong TIE/math project.


Helio Sepulveda-Zornosa CUNY SPS MAAT

Helio Sepulveda-Zornosa

Queens, NY

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program? 

Studied Musical Theatre. Changed careers and became an English teacher for speakers of other languages. I needed to come back to Theatre and explore its potential for language learning. 

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program? 

The last day of thesis implementation when it all materialized.  

What did you explore in your thesis? 

The theory of translanguaging working together with Applied Theatre to promote language learning and critical thinking. 

What's next for you? 

Continue the work in my beautiful high school and explore further applications of the pedagogy at the Doctoral level.


Shanté​ Skyers CUNY SPS MAAT

Shanté​ Skyers

Bronx, NY

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program? 

For multiple reasons:

1. I wasn't sure what exactly to do with my life and myself during the time of submitting my application and grad school seemed like something to do, and the program seemed interesting. I honestly had no idea what Applied Theatre was. 

2. I also wanted to work using the arts for cultural exchange, dialogue, and empowerment for Black women and girls across the African Diaspora. And from the little that I was able to piece together about Applied Theatre, it seemed to be a good fit for what I wanted to do.

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program? 

Honestly, it's a mixture of positive and negative things because the program is not only about learning how to facilitate with other communities, it's also about being in community with your cohort and the other students and with multiple identities and backgrounds, various levels of self-awareness-- not every moment is going to be peachy. However, my joyful moments include: dressing up for Halloween and going to the parade, presenting our process dramas and my first time taking part in a process drama. I (or really my character) got really upset and yelled at Jess. I shocked myself. Haha! Oh, and also just general growth and confidence as a person in many areas. Through the program, I've gained more language to identify and verbalize my own experience, and the impact of other identities in juxtaposition to mine, and to speak more about it. 

What did you explore in your thesis? 

I used my thesis to explore Blackness and self-perception. It also naturally looked at Blackness and gender. There are other things that appeared as well, and that would be interesting to explore such as the Black identity and immigration. 

What's next for you?  

There's more of an immediate concern about my current job (Development Manager), but I also am thinking about how I want to use this degree. I'd like to work more with further developing my thesis into a bigger project. But I don't have any confirmed ideas or plans as of yet.


Karina Sindicich CUNY SPS MAAT

Karina Sindicich

I am based in Brooklyn, NY, however have been in Denver, Colorado, for the last three months due to COVID.

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program?

I was looking to learn more about theatre outreach, community building, and becoming a better facilitator. I had been an Actor for so long but it had become shallow and miserable for me. I wanted something more and to be able to create theatre that was meaningful. I knew that required much more education and skill than I had.

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program? 

My cohort creating a baby shower for me. This program is built on creating communities with love and respect. I have never felt more love and respect and part of a beautiful community then in that moment. It truly showed me that we were not just learning this in the program, but we were living it. It meant more than I can express.

What did you explore in your thesis? 

I explored how clowning might be used as an applied theatre tactic in a harm reduction community. What a blast!

What's next for you? 

I will be heading to Australia in August to have my second child and bring all the work that I have learnt to my home community. Living with family and a change of pace is definitely something I am needing right now. I will treasure New York, but I haven't lived in Australia for 13 years, and something that this program has taught me is to acknowledge where you have come from and first and foremost work in your own community. I truly can't wait!


Joseph Webb CUNY SPS MAAT

Joseph Webb

New York, NY

What brought you to the Applied Theatre Program?  

I was curious and seeking a different experience in theatre, as an educator and performance artist. I appreciate AT’s attention to process, affinity for participatory engagement, and attention to social concerns. 

What is a moment that you’ll never forget while you were in the program? 

The TIE Festival and the many insightful conversations I’ve had with members of the cohort. 

What did you explore in your thesis? 

In my thesis I explored museum and gallery spaces with a diverse college cohort. Through Applied Theatre we experimented and reimagined what these spaces could be and look like.

What's next for you?

I’m working on a social sculpture project in Miami. It’s a two year initiative with 4 other multi-discipline artists.


Master of Arts in Applied Theatre

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