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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