ROUNDABOUT BLOG

Teaching Artist Tuesday

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!


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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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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 MomsinFilm.org, 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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