Teaching Artist Tuesday

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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Interview with Teaching Artist Mathilde Dratwa

Posted on: February 7th, 2017 by Roundabout


Master Teaching Artist Mathilde Dratwa joined Roundabout’s Teaching Artist roster in 2012. She leads a variety of workshops and residencies for students all over New York City. She currently serves as Partnership Coordinator for High School of Art and Design, where she works with the administrators and educators to ensure that the partnership with Roundabout best serves the school’s goals. Mathilde is also a member of the Teaching Artist Advisory Group, where she works with other teaching artists to better Roundabout’s TA training.

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

Sarah Kutnowsky: Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistry.
Mathilde Dratwa: I'm from Belgium, but I've always liked to travel. As an actor, I've appeared on stage in London (Shakespeare's Globe, Cochrane Theater), Moscow (Vakhtangov Institute), Brussels (La Monnaie, the Belgian National Opera House) and New York (HERE, 3LD, Mark Morris, Target Margin...). As a writer, I've worked in Toulouse (Theatre de la Digue), Colombo (various news & media outlets) and New York (various downtown theatres). Recently, I've also started working as a filmmaker and producer. More details on those projects can be found on my website.

SK: What is your favorite part about working as a teaching artist?

MD: I love being an artist in the classroom. I often come into the room in-role for my first visit, and the students have no idea who I am, or why I'm acting so goofy. It's fun.
I also love that we bring spectacle into the classroom. I try to make a different use of their space, to switch things up. Sometimes that means dividing the room in two so there's a performance area, or stage, and an audience area. Sometimes it just means sitting or standing in a circle. Often it means getting out from behind desks. It's a break from their routine, and it sets up a nice dynamic.

The great thing about working at Roundabout is that the students get to come see a play. For many, it's their first time going to the theatre. That's a wonderful thing to witness.

SK: What is the most challenging part of working as a teaching artist?
MD: It's hard to see what the teachers and students are up against on a daily basis in many schools. Budget cuts, lack of supplies, cramped spaces, overworked teachers, too much emphasis on testing, student attendance issues... Because so many buildings are now shared by several schools, the auditoriums or theatres are often not available... It's challenging to deal with all these issues and logistics. Luckily, we have systems in place to help us manage these problems as best we can, and a strong support network in schools and in the Education department at Roundabout.

SK: Could you share a memorable lesson or moment from your time as a teaching artist at Roundabout?
MD: I taught a residency last year that went very well. Because I don't work at the school, I didn't know the students' reputation before I started: who was a troublemaker, who was struggling with their grades, who was the class clown. I gave the students a chance to impress me. Some of the students who don't perform well academically got a chance to shine, and that proved to be really important: the teacher had no idea that a particular student (whose written work was very poor) could excel in this context. It was great to give her an opportunity to see that student in a new light. I also remember her surprise when some of the shy students got up and performed in front of the class. She said, "I never knew they had it in them!"

SK: Are you working on any exciting projects?
MD: I recently founded, an organization that provides mothers in the film industry with community, funding and advocacy. The film industry isn't currently structured to support freelance parents, so we're working on finding ways to address those challenges and even the playing field.

Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Teaching Artist Tuesday

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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.”


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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