Interview with Teaching Artist Amy E. Witting

Posted on: October 10th, 2017 by Sarah Kutnowsky


Amy E. Witting

Amy working with educators at Roundabout’s Theatrical Teaching Institute.

Amy E. Witting has been a part of Roundabout’s Teaching Artist Roster for the past two years. In her time at Roundabout, Amy has facilitated workshops at our Partner Schools and Teaching Artist Trainings. This Fall, Amy will work with eighth grade students at IS237Q in Queens.

Education Coordinator Sarah Kutnowsky spoke with Amy about her career and work with Roundabout.

Sarah Kutnowsky: Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistry.
Amy E. Witting: I was always writing but afraid to share my work because I have never been able to spell.  I began to bring in monologues I wrote to an acting class I was taking about ten years ago lying about where I got the material.  When I finally came clean the teacher encouraged me to write and self-produce.  My friends from that class and I formed a theatre company and kept putting up plays.  My intention was to act in them but I found that too hard at the time so produced and directed instead.  It wasn't until 2014 when I decided I could actually make a go at this and enrolled in Hunter College's MFA program under the amazing Tina Howe.  These last three years have been a really wonderful wild ride.  It is my hope as a writer to explore the pain we all carry inside and learn how to transform that to love.

SK: What is your favorite part about working as a teaching artist?
AW: My favorite part is how much I learn from the students I'm working with and how powerful the language of theatre is.  This summer I was working in Ecuador with different schools teaching and creating plays.  While we had translators to help with the language barrier, I was nervous about how I would be able to truly connect with the students.  What I learned this past summer is that you have to move out of your head and into your heart.  We can all speak the same language through art if we are connecting on a deeper level, and meeting each other where we are at.  Theatre has a powerful way of creating connections and opening up a dialogue in profound ways if you remain open to receiving it.  Teaching allows me to remain open to learning.

SK: What is the most challenging part about working as a teaching artist?
AW: Having to quickly asses a new classrooms dynamic in a short amount of time can be a real challenge that also thrills me at the same time.

SK: Could you share a memorable lesson or moment from your time as a teaching artist at Roundabout?
AW: I love being a Theatre Guide during student matinees because it really reminds me about the truly alive quality of a theatrical performance.  There is always something magical that happens in the space that is a true exchange between the audience and performers that is rare to witness and wonderful to be a part of.

SK: Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
AW: I just finished my first screenplay which is thrilling and terrifying at the same time.  This fall my new play I Wasn't Expecting You will be having a reading at The Abingdon Theatre and my play The House On The Hill will be having its first professional production in July which I'm excited about.  I'm looking forward to jumping into another year with Roundabout!

Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Teaching Artist Tuesday

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Dunne’s Theory of Time

Posted on: September 27th, 2017 by Nick Mecikalski


Time and the Conways playwright J. B. Priestley was famous for his fascination with theories of time and consciousness. Conways came to be known as one of Priestley’s six “Time Plays,” which also included Johnson Over Jordan, Dangerous Corner, and the international hit An Inspector Calls. In each “Time Play,” Priestley explored a different philosophy of time, most notable among them John William Dunne’s theory of Serialism, threads of which make an appearance in Time and the Conways itself. Serialism postulates that each person’s consciousness exists in multiple dimensions of time simultaneously and, often during sleep, one can access the future and past, thereby unwittingly predicting events to come.


John William Dunne

John William Dunne (1875–1949) was a British aeronautical engineer, philosopher, and soldier. His explorations of Serialism began one night in 1898, when he had a dream that his watch had stopped at half past four in the morning. Dunne awoke from this dream in the middle of the night to find that the time was, in fact, just minutes after 4:30 A.M., and that his watch, which was sitting on a dresser on the opposite side of the room, had quite literally stopped minutes earlier while he was asleep, at exactly half past four. In the months and years following, Dunne experienced further moments of “clairvoyance” in his dreams. One night in 1902, for example, Dunne dreamt that he was trying to save an island of people from a volcanic disaster; later that week, Dunne learned of the eruption of Martinique’s Mount Pele, which buried the city of Saint Pierre. Dunne’s dreams went on to seemingly foretell a factory fire in Paris, a train derailment in Scotland, and even an incident in which he and his brother, while on a fishing trip, had to outrun an erratic horse that had escaped its enclosure.

After years of observing these kinds of occurrences in himself and, anecdotally, in friends, Dunne decided to run tests to determine whether others shared this kind of foresight and whether “clairvoyance” was a property of only some dreams or of all dreams. In efforts to maximize the number of dreams that any given experimenter would remember, Dunne developed a precise method for recording dream activity in the moments immediately after waking. The process worked. With his dreams written down in notebooks, Dunne started matching daytime experiences not only to clairvoyant dreams that he remembered having, but also to dreams that he had forgotten but had made note of in the first seconds of his day. As the other subjects in his experiment encountered many similar “psychic” incidents, Dunne became convinced that precognition during sleep was actually a normal human experience that was often just forgotten or dismissed as wild coincidence. It appeared that most, if not all, dreams provided windows to the future. Dunne then set out to determine what about our relationship to time made this kind of precognition possible.

The theory of time that Dunne developed out of these experiments rests on an understanding of the dimensions of space. Dimension zero, of course, is just a point; it has no length, width, or height. Each subsequent dimension “extends” at a right angle from all lower dimensions. The first dimension is a line with only length; the second dimension extends at a right angle from the first to form a plane. The third dimension, most familiar to us, extends at a right angle from the second to form a space with length, width, and height. The fourth dimension, then, in Dunne’s hypothesis, extends at a right angle from the third. A fourth dimension is not something that we can exactly visualize, but Dunne, alongside many other theorists of the time, proposed that the fourth dimension is, in fact, time. In the same way that a 1-D line is a cross-section of a 2-D square and a 2-D square is a cross-section of a 3-D cube, a cube at any given instant in time, Dunne suggested, is only a cross-section of that cube’s entire existence, from beginning to end, in time. A four-dimensional representation of a person, therefore, would be an entity that would encompass that person’s entire life all at once (see figure 1). A cross-section of that object would be a three-dimensional person at any instant in time, living as we do -- instant to instant, with only a memory of the past and guesses about the future.

Figure 1. Depiction of a theoretical four-dimensional person -- every moment of their lives contained in one entity.


But this raises some questions: why does it seem that we move through time in only one direction? What is pushing us through time? And how fast are we moving? As a solution to these questions, Dunne theorized that there must be a fifth dimension, extending at a right angle from the fourth. A cross-section of this dimension would be a fourth-dimensional object -- which, as Dunne already defined, represents the entire existence of that object in time. Just as a three-dimensional person can take a mental picture and observe a two-dimensional slice of their world, so can a four-dimensional person observe a three-dimensional cross-section of their world--i.e., one three-dimensional instant. Therefore, a fifth-dimensional person can observe their fourth-dimensional self (that is, their entire existence in time) as a single snapshot. (See Figure 2 for an analogy.) Dunne went on to suggest that this “series” of time dimensions extends infinitely, and each person’s consciousness exists in this infinite series of dimensions at once -- hence the term “Serialism.”

Figure 2. The third, fourth, and fifth dimensions can be thought of as the different components of a smartphone video, like the one below that tracks across a computer keyboard. A third-dimensional observer is analogous to a still image captured at any instant that the video is paused. The fourth-dimensional observer is like the scroll bar at the bottom of the screen, which contains every moment of the video in one entity. The fifth-dimensional observer is akin to the smartphone user, who can jump between moments on the scroll bar and watch the video forwards or backwards. The fifth-dimensional observer’s point of attention is symbolized by the blue line on the scroll bar, which tells the smartphone user where in the “life” of the video they are watching.


Even though, as Dunne postulated, each person has access to all of these dimensions at any time, he determined that a person’s consciousness habitually follows their third-dimensional perspective instant-to-instant through time while the third-dimensional self is awake. When the third-dimensional self is asleep, though, attention wanders, and the person’s consciousness in the fifth dimension (or higher) focuses on different moments in the fourth dimension -- in other words, different moments in the entirety of a person’s lifetime. Dreams, then, according to Dunne, are our consciousnesses observing our lives from higher dimensions and exploring our past and future experiences. With this, Dunne had devised an explanation for his and his subjects’ nighttime “clairvoyance.”

Dunne’s theory was not ultimately embraced by the larger scientific community. In the time since Dunne proposed Serialism, Einstein’s theory of relativity has shown to be a much more accurate descriptor of the nature and behavior of spacetime. But Dunne’s theories surely sparked the imaginations of his contemporaries and served as an important step in the path toward a deeper understanding of our universe.


Time and the Conways begins performances at the American Airlines Theatre on September 14, 2017. For tickets and information, please visit our website.

Related Categories:
2017-2018 Season, Time and the Conways

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The Leaders of the Freedom Rides

Posted on: September 22nd, 2017 by Jason Jacobs


See James L. Farmer and other key figures discuss the impact of the Freedom Rides and nonviolent protest in the Civil Rights movement.


James L. Farmer Jr.

JAMES L. FARMER, JR. (1920-1999)

Son of the first African-American to earn a doctorate in Texas, Farmer earned his divinity degree from Howard  University, where he studied of Gandhi’s teachings on nonviolent protest. Farmer co-founded The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in the early 1940s.

In 1961 he became CORE’s National Director, making him a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement.Although segregation on interstate buses was declared illegal in 1946, the practice was widely enforced in the deep south.

Farmer conceived of a way to bring national attention to this ongoing infringement. The initial plan was a single  trip on 2 buses with 13 riders—male and female, black and white—beginning in Washington, D.C. and ending in New Orleans. Over the next six months, the Freedom Ride movement would grow to 60 rides by 450 people, with over 300 arrests. As events were televised nationwide, support for the movement grew. Farmer looked upon the Freedom Rides as his proudest achievement, noting that "Bobby Kennedy had the Interstate Commerce Commission issue an order, with teeth in it, that he could enforce.”

Farmer later resigned from CORE leadership and distanced himself as the group became more militant. Under President Nixon, he accepted a position in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, but resigned in frustration. Farmer received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton in 1998.


DIANE NASH (b. 1938)

Diane Nash

Raised in Chicago by a middle-class Catholic family, Nash transferred from Howard to Fisk University in 1959. The segregation she faced in Tennessee led her to co-found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in April 1960. Nash protested in Nashville’s lunch counter sit-ins before becoming a leader of the Freedom Rides. After the CORE Freedom Ride was stopped in Alabama, Nash believed it was crucial that the rides continue, so she coordinated the Nashville Student Movement Ride with the goal of finishing the original CORE itinerary, from Birmingham to New Orleans. Nash recruited and trained the riders, ensuring that all the riders had made a will before getting onto the busses. She also coordinated with national figures and the press. Nash did not actually ride on the bus, but met the group in Montgomery. Here, she helped to bring Martin Luther King, Jr. to speak to the riders. After the Freedom Rides, Nash continued to work for desegregation and voting rights in Alabama. She returned to Chicago, where she works in education and fair housing advocacy.


John Lewis

JOHN LEWIS (b.1940)

The son of tenant farmers from Pike County, AL, Lewis attended American Baptist Theological Seminary in

Nashville. At 19, Lewis was arrested in protests with the Nashville Student Movement. Lewis joined the original CORE buses, and in Rock Hill South Carolina, he was the first of the riders to be assaulted for entering a whites-only waiting room. Lewis then left the ride several days before crossing into Alabama to interview for a fellowship. Back in Nashville, he learned that the bus he had been on was firebombed in Anniston. He joined the Nashville riders and convinced friends and mentors to join. Lewis stayed with the Nashville group until Jackson, Mississippi, where he was arrested and imprisoned at Parchman Farm.

After the Freedom Rides, Lewis became the chairman of SNCC and became a key leaders of the Civil Rights movement, organizing the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery March. In 1986, John Lewis was elected to represent Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he continues to serve today.



A woman in the back of a paddy wagon.

The Freedom Riders sent to Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman Farm) would likely been known of the difficult conditions ahead. Historian David Oshinsky states, “throughout the American South, Parchman farm is synonymous with punishment and brutality.” Established in 1901, Parchman occupied 28 square miles of delta valley land. Approximately 300 Freedom Riders were imprisoned in Parchman in 1961. Because the government and the media were watching the situation, they were spared the worst abuses of other prisoners; nevertheless, they were confined in isolation from each other, forbidden exercise, served inedible food, and harassed by the officials. When they sang freedom songs from their cells, the guards seized their mattresses in retaliation. Despite attempts by authorities to break the spirits of the Freedom Riders, it had a reverse effect of building their resolve and solidarity. The Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman currently operates with a maximum capacity of 3,543, including  minimum, medium, close custody, and death row inmates.


Too Heavy For Your Pocket begins performances at The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre- The Black Box Theatre on September 15, 2017. For tickets and information, please visit our website.

Related Categories:
2017-2018 Season, Roundabout Underground, Too Heavy for Your Pocket

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