ROUNDABOUT BLOG

Teaching Artist Tuesday

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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Interview with Teaching Artist Henry Decker

Posted on: May 16th, 2017 by Sarah Kutnowsky

 

Teaching Artist Henry Decker has worked with Roundabout for the past two years. During the school year, Henry leads classroom and after-school residencies at Roundabout Partner Schools, develops curriculum for Roundabout’s Theatrical Workforce Development Program (TWDP), and facilitates workshops on carpentry skills for the TWDP fellows. Over the summer, Henry serves as a carpentry mentor for the Student Production Workshop’s summer ensemble.

Education Coordinator Sarah Kutnowsky spoke with Henry about his path to teaching artistry and his work with Roundabout.

Henry working with fellow Teaching Artists and educators at Roundabout’s Theatrical Teaching Institute

Sarah Kutnowsky: Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistry.
Henry Decker: I am a retired firefighter, having served for twenty years with the FDNY. Prior to that, I was employed by the Rouse Company - a shopping mall management firm. With Rouse, I assisted the marketing director and also was responsible for mall displays such as Santaland and the Easter Bunny Village. I did this at several shopping centers in the tri-state area. This was my entry into set construction. I'm also a magician, performing at local restaurants and private parties.

SK: How did you come to be a teaching artist? Could you share your first arts education experience?
HD: I first became interested in the role of teaching artist after meeting Roundabout Teaching Artists Carrie Heitman and Chad Yarborough at Curtis High School on Staten Island. As a parent, I helped out each year with the sets at Curtis and at IS61 before that. Through helping out as a volunteer, I taught many students over the last ten years the art of stagecraft.

SK: What is your favorite part about working as a teaching artist?
HD: I really enjoy meeting teachers and students throughout the City and watching them learn through theatre.

SK: Could you share a memorable lesson or moment from your time as a teaching artist at Roundabout?
HD: Last year, I worked with a class of students who didn’t really seem too interested in the work. But at one visit, I started the lesson with a crazy inciting incident, and was shocked that the students actually stood up and participated! Also, working with the Theatrical Workforce Development Program has been extremely rewarding. I’ve really enjoyed teaching the fellows carpentry, load-in, and strike skills through hands-on workshops and site visits.

SK: Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
HD: I look forward to continuing my work with TWDP. I'm really excited for the second cohort of TWDP fellows to begin!


Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Teaching Artist Tuesday


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Interview with Teaching Artist Gail Winar

Posted on: April 18th, 2017 by Sarah Kutnowsky

 

Master Teaching Artist Gail Winar has been on Roundabout’s Teaching Artist roster for the past twenty years. During the day, Gail can be found in classrooms all over New York leading residencies and workshops. In the evening, you may see Gail at one of Roundabout’s theatres engaging audiences in a pre-show discussion.

For the past three years, Gail has served as the director for Roundabout’s Student Theatre Arts Festival, which will take place on May 1 this year.

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

Teaching Artist Gail Winar and students welcoming actor Zachary Levi at the 2016 Student Theatre Arts Festival.

Sarah Kutnowsky: Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistry.
Gail Winar: I attended NYU for my undergraduate degree; studied with Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg; worked with Viola Spolin; spent two summers at the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain; was a member of the Laughingstock Improv Company; and went to graduate school at the Shakespeare Theatre Company/George Washington University later in life. I am passionate about theater's power to transform.

SK: How did you come to be a teaching artist? Could you share your first arts education experience?
GW: I became a "teaching artist" before the title existed! I was an apprentice for a full season at the Pennsylvania Stage Company in Allentown, which is no longer in business. With my fellow Apprentice, I drove all around the state in a dilapidated van performing "Scenes from Stage Classics" in middle and high schools. Somewhere along the way, we began conducting workshops. We learned through experience, and I began to see how the arts could open up young people's appreciation for artistic process and self-expression.

SK: What is your favorite part about working as a teaching artist?
GW: Students surprising me with their insights, creativity and imagination! Also, the power of theater. This past summer I worked in The Gambia, West Africa with 20+ young female students from the Starfish Academy. Using techniques of Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, we created devised theater pieces about domestic violence, and presented them to the village. This is an issue that's not discussed, especially in public, and after our presentation, the whole audience was talking and sharing. It was exhilarating, inspiring and uplifting.

SK: Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
GW: On May 1st, I'll share the stage at the American Airlines Theatre with 150 students from 11 middle and high schools, representing every borough in NYC for Roundabout's annual Student Theatre Arts Festival. I'm directing the festival's showcase, which will feature excerpts from plays, musicals and devised theater works from Roundabout’s partner schools. The showcase is the culminating event of a day-long festival featuring master classes, workshops and gallery displays that celebrate our students’ artistic voices. This is my third year participating in the festival, which is also celebrating Education at Roundabout's 20th anniversary, and I can't wait. It's an amazing experience!


Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Teaching Artist Tuesday


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