ROUNDABOUT BLOG

Teaching Artist Tuesday

Interview with Teaching Artist Jason Jacobs

Posted on: January 15th, 2016 by Abby Case

 

Jason facilitating a talkback after a Student Matinee of UGLY LIES THE BONE

Jason facilitating a talkback after a Student Matinee of UGLY LIES THE BONE

Roundabout Master Teaching Artist (TA) Jason Jacobs has served students and patrons through Education at Roundabout for the past eight years. During the school day, Jason can be found in classrooms leading residencies and workshops. In the afternoon, Jason mentors and facilitates workshops for students in Roundabout’s after-school theatre company, Student Production Workshop (SPW). In the evening, you may find Jason at one of Roundabout’s theatres engaging audiences in a pre-show discussion. Jason also is a contributing writer for Roundabout’s UPSTAGE Guides, where he writes articles as well as teacher resources and activities.

In addition to his direct work with students and patrons, Jason serves in leadership positions. As a member of the Teaching Artist Advisory Group, Jason works with other teaching artists to better Roundabout’s TA training. He also serves as Partnership Coordinator for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School where he works with school leadership and educators to ensure that the school’s partnership with Roundabout best serves their goals.

Education Coordinator Abby Case spoke with Jason about his career and work at Roundabout.

 

Abby Case: Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistry.

Jason Jacobs: I think I came out of the womb directing theatre. Certainly, as soon as I could walk and talk, I was bossing people around, telling them where to move and how to act. A few years later I saved my allowance and bought a used typewriter, and I started writing plays. My first production was my adaptation of Snow White performed by my third grade class. I kept thinking I would outgrow it and get "a real job." Fortunately I never outgrew it. I love directing and writing, so I consider myself a theatre-maker. I also am a nerd who loves theatre history and dissecting how dramatic structure works, so I have this dramaturgy sideline going as well.

 

AC: How did you come to be a teaching artist? Could you share your first arts education experience?

JJ: Through some friends in Long Island I was invited to create a project at Bay Shore High School, as part of the school's Ethnic Pen Conference. I worked with a diverse, small group of students to adapt essays they had written in an English class. We created an ensemble-piece that explored these students' relationships to their own cultural backgrounds. All was good until one scary day when an administrator became alarmed about students telling their own stories on stage, and our project was almost shut down! It was my first introduction (as an adult) to the power dynamics of a school. But freedom of expression prevailed, and the students' show was a hit of the festival!

 

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

JJ: I love bringing the theatrical activities and techniques that I use to create and direct theatre, and applying these tools to engage students. I feel like I expand my impact as an artist by working with students and teachers, and hopefully by bringing my own passion to create and learn into their world. When we talk about "turning classrooms into theaters and theaters into classrooms," I get very excited about all the possible ways we can do that. There's also a creative feedback-loop, because I find the experiences I have in the schools inspire the stories I am telling in my own work.

 

AC: What is the most challenging part about working as a teaching artist?

JJ: The NYC school environment is so different from my high school experience, which was at a public school in a much smaller district. The work has exposed me to the big issues our city (and nation) are struggling with regarding public education. I've seen the negative impact of the politics and power struggles on the teachers and administrators we work with. I've seen many great teachers leave the profession or move out of the city. Because of this, staying positive and creative in an indifferent or sometimes obstructive environment can be challenging. But, what makes it possible is the support I always feel from our amazing Education Staff and the peer-support from the other inspiring TAs on our roster.

 

AC: Could you share a memorable lesson or moment from your time as a teaching artist at Roundabout?

JJ: Some of my best moments have been collaborating with two inspiring social studies teachers (Alison Ritz and Debbie White) at Bronx Theatre High School. A few years ago, we were doing a curriculum connections residency with 12th grade government students, aligned with Roundabout’s production of The Winslow Boy. We had students reading and analyzing the official NYC Department of Education Rights and Responsibilities document to understand the rights students had. I remember one student being so engaged with the information and saying she wanted to take it home and read the whole thing. That kind of empowerment and engagement makes the whole experience so worthwhile!


Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Teaching Artist Tuesday


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Interview with Teaching Artist Jamie Kalama Wood

Posted on: January 11th, 2016 by Abby Case

 

Jamie Kalama Wood is a Master Teaching Artist at Roundabout Theatre Company. She serves as the Partnership Coordinator for FDR High School where she works with school leadership and educators to ensure that the school’s partnership with Roundabout best serves their goals. She coordinates and often leads classroom and after-school residencies. In addition to her work at FDR, Jamie facilitates multiple residencies and workshops throughout the city and at Roundabout’s theatres.

Education Coordinator Abby Case spoke with Jamie about her career and work at Roundabout.

Abby Case: Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistry.

Jamie Kalama Wood: I grew up in Southern California and have a deep dislike for the 405 freeway. I have 2 kids (plus one due in April), and I have a habit of singing and dancing up until I go into labor. Educationally, I have undergraduate degrees in Vocal Performance and Music Dance Theatre. My MFA is in Musical Theatre. I taught for about 14 years before moving here. Right before I moved to NYC, I taught at San Diego State University. I have performed throughout the US and toured with musical productions and as a classical vocalist around the world. Since taking some time away from performing, I've spent most of my time professionally as a director and choreographer.

Jamie leading a workshop at partner school IS 237 in Queens.

Jamie leading a workshop at partner school IS 237 in Queens.

AC: How did you come to be a teaching artist? Could you share your first arts education experience?

JKW: My first experiences with arts education came while on tour in North America. I had the privilege to lead a few small performance workshops. I loved it. In addition, I discovered in college that I had a special connection to serving those in difficult circumstances. When I found out that teaching artist (TA) work was a real thing in New York, I knew it was the job for me. I began my TA career at Roundabout in 2007. Since then, I've worked with multiple organizations as a TA.


AC: What is your favorite part of working as a teaching artist, and what is the most challenging?

JKW: My favorite part of working as a teaching artist is working with a wide variety of people while doing what I love to do. The most challenging experiences are occasionally collaborating with resistant teachers or students, but that’s when I really make theatre magic.

For example, one of my favorite residencies was with an 11th grade English Language Arts class that the teacher labeled low-functioning. The teacher was having a difficult time connecting with the students, and few of them expected to graduate. They were so used to being wrong in their classes that even when I asked for their opinions they'd tell me they didn't know. Our residency explored The Great Gatsby; we wrote and staged a rap version of the story! By the end of the residency, the students loved the teacher and she loved them. The art form gave the students a new way into the content, and the students’ engagement in the project promoted connection with the teacher. Many of the students told me they finally felt like they could accomplish something and would work hard to graduate. The memory of this class gives me hope and fuel on especially tough days.


Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Teaching Artist Tuesday


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