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Teaching Artist Tuesday

Theatre and Restorative Justice, Part III

Posted on: December 27th, 2016 by Leah Reddy

 

Leah Reddy is a Master Teaching Artist at Roundabout and has served as Partnership Coordinator for Roundabout’s partnership with Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre (BSMT) for the past 5 years. At BSMT, Roundabout Teaching Artists partner with educators to co-plan and co-facilitate 8-visit classroom residencies that explore classroom content through theatre. This fall, Leah partnered with Kayla Dinces in her creative writing class. Together, Leah and Kayla worked with the school’s Restorative Justice Coordinator, Yuko Uchikawa, to explore creative writing using theatre and restorative justice practices. The students attended Roundabout’s production of KINGDOM COME as a part of the residency. In a series of 3 blogs, Leah will share her experience as a Teaching Artist in this residency. The following is blog 3 of 3.

We live in a world where young people, particularly young people of color, are disrespected and devalued. I don’t want the environments I create in the classroom—even if I’m just there for 45 minutes—to reinforce or replicate that power structure, and I started this project because I had a hunch that Restorative Justice could help with that. One of the cornerstones of Restorative Justice practice is the restorative circle, in which a community sits in a circle and passes a talking piece around, with each community member having the opportunity to speak on the topic at hand. Yuko told me that “since restorative circles value equity in the space one takes up (use of talking piece allows everyone the opportunity to speak) and also the circle keeper is also a part of the community, not above or below the participants… it creates a place of expression and respect and not replicate the hierarchical power structure.”

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We had circles in each of our workshops, often at the very end, when we responded to a reflection question. As a teaching artist I liked the practice not only because it made a comfortable space for every voice (something difficult to do when you have outspoken students in a class) but also because it highlighted that we are all on an artistic journey together.

We spent this week working with students to develop their collaboratively-written, original short play, Acceptance? Kayla and I began the process by offering a scenario for students to build on that connected back to Kingdom Come: two cousins and a grandmother in conflict over something the grandmother discovers online. We left the conflict, and it's resolution, open.

Tyreese, Kahmeeca, and Olivia improvised several ideas, eventually circling in on the grandmother discovering that the male cousin was gay, and the fallout as her beliefs clash with her grandchildren's experiences. From there, Donta, Chelsea, and Akima worked as playwrights to develop the script, while other students took on design and technical roles. The process was student-driven and the engagement and energy in the room changed. It felt successful: students were actively making theatre, inspired by a Roundabout production.

BSMT teacher Kayla Dinces, and Restorative Justice Coordinator Yuko Uchikawa collaborating on lessons for the residency

BSMT teacher Kayla Dinces, and Restorative Justice Coordinator Yuko Uchikawa collaborating on lessons for the residency

The process ground to a halt when the playwrights wrote in language and plot twists the actors didn't feel was true to their characters or story. Would our ensemble be able to be able to analyze and resolve their conflict? What effect would our practice of restorative circles and the time spent exploring dignity have? How much should we, as authority figures, guide the conversation?

The initial conversation was a mixed bag: the students were thoughtful and articulate, but not always able to give each other the benefit of the doubt, or acknowledge the work each group had put into the project. Afterwards, Yuko, Kayla, and I brainstormed additional ways we could have shaped the conversation so that students maintained ownership but were more mindful of their classmates’ perspectives.

Our residency is ongoing: like theatre-making, Restorative Justice is a collaborative process that takes time. I hope the students walk away with a better ability to analyze how conflict develops, and the awareness needed to resolve conflict in their own lives.


Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Teaching Artist Tuesday


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Theatre and Restorative Justice, Part II

Posted on: December 20th, 2016 by Leah Reddy

 

Leah Reddy is a Master Teaching Artist at Roundabout and has served as Partnership Coordinator for Roundabout’s partnership with Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre (BSMT) for the past 5 years. At BSMT, Roundabout Teaching Artists partner with educators to co-plan and co-facilitate 8-visit classroom residencies that explore classroom content through theatre. This fall, Leah partnered with Kayla Dinces in her creative writing class. Together, Leah and Kayla worked with the school’s Restorative Justice Coordinator, Yuko Uchikawa, to explore creative writing using theatre and restorative justice practices. The students attended Roundabout’s production of KINGDOM COME as a part of the residency. In a series of 3 blogs, Leah will share her experience as a Teaching Artist in this residency. The following is blog 2 of 3.

We began our residency with several workshops that would give us insight into what our students’ strengths and interests were. We used the story of Axton Betz-Hamilton, a woman whose mother stole her identity when she was a child, as a basis for quickly writing and performing scenes. The themes of Betz-Hamilton’s story parallel those of Kingdom Come: dignity, identity, technology, and betrayal.

One of the things we do in the education department at Roundabout is to mirror the professional theatre process and artist’s process. I plant those seeds in reading and writing activities by asking students to think like directors and choose words and phrases that call up images for them or are “juicy” or compelling. Those selections became the seeds of the scenes they wrote, then performed.

From there we jumped into an exploration of The Essential Elements of Dignity as outlined by Dr. Donna Hicks, which was Yuko’s idea. The elements make a potentially hard-to-define concept really concrete, and they made a great lens through which to read and see Kingdom Come.

We read key scenes as a class, then found moments where characters upheld or violated each other’s dignity. Digging into why, for example, Suz doesn’t offer Layne understanding or acknowledgement or safety in their first scene together gave students a new way to consider some basic acting ideas: where a character is coming from, and what her objective is. It also raised our own awareness of why we act the way do in our real lives.

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The class loved the student matinee, and the opportunity to talk to Alex Hernandez and Socorro Santiago after the show. The actors were curious if the students’ expectations for the play were what they saw onstage. A student mentioned that the character of Samantha wasn’t what she expected after reading a scene from the play in class.This prompted the actors to ask the students whether they could see other characters played by actors of different races or backgrounds, to which they answered a resounding yes. It’s crucial that students see themselves reflected in the theatre, and this play was especially engaging because of the subject matter and the casting.

After the show we focused on the ending. What are all the ways a conflict can resolve? Does resolution demand a restoration of dignity? We took those ideas into creating our own scene about dignity and conflict.


Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Kingdom Come, Roundabout Underground, Teaching Artist Tuesday


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Theatre and Restorative Justice

Posted on: December 13th, 2016 by Leah Reddy

 

Leah Reddy is a Master Teaching Artist at Roundabout and has served as Partnership Coordinator for Roundabout’s partnership with Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre (BSMT) for the past 5 years. At BSMT, Roundabout Teaching Artists partner with educators to co-plan and co-facilitate 8-visit classroom residencies that explore classroom content through theatre. This fall, Leah partnered with Kayla Dinces in her creative writing class. Together, Leah and Kayla worked with the school’s Restorative Justice Coordinator, Yuko Uchikawa, to explore creative writing using theatre and restorative justice practices. The students attended Roundabout’s production of KINGDOM COME as a part of the residency. In a series of 3 blogs, Leah will share her experience as a Teaching Artist in this residency. The following is blog 1 of 3.

Why combine theatre and Restorative Justice practices?

At the beginning of the school year I met Yuko Uchikawa, the Restorative Justice coordinator at Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre (BSMT), a high school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Roundabout helped found BSMT over a decade ago, and I’m the partnership coordinator there. BSMT began working with the Restorative Justice model last year.

Yuko told me that the goal of Restorative Justice was to bring the community together to create resilience to conflict. On a basic level, the model looks like a circle:

In a school, Restorative Justice might take the form of training students to lead peer mediation, a change in approach to discipline, activities to build teachers’ awareness of the behavior they’re modeling, and reflection circles to build relationships.

As Yuko and I talked, we realized that there was a lot of overlap in what we were trying to do. Like Restorative Justice, theatre builds listening skills and empathy, encourages understanding multiple points of view, and challenges us to really listen to and connect with each other.

Yuko wondered about how to make concepts like respect and dignity active and physical, something theatre is great at doing. And I had been thinking a lot about how to make sure the way I taught was inclusive and provided space for honest, meaningful reflection.

So we decided to combine our approaches in a residency. We’re working with teacher Kayla Dinces and her creative writing class for seniors. We’ve decided to explore the question: How does an ensemble explore themes of respect and dignity in performance? We hope the residency, which includes 8 classroom visits and a trip to see Kingdom Come at Roundabout, will result in a short performance with a student-lead reflection discussion afterwards. I’ll be sharing the progress of our work here on this blog each Tuesday in December.


Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Teaching Artist Tuesday


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