Thursday, April 10, 2008

NYC Public School Theatre Education

I attended a panel yesterday that included Paul King, Director of Theatre Programs for the NYC Department of Education's Office of Arts and Special Projects, and four NYC public school theatre teachers. Two from elementary schools and two from screened high schools (meaning an audition is required).

There was a little bit of discussion surrounding the direction in which theatre and arts programs are headed in the District, the Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts, the new comprehensive high school arts exam, the impact of high parental involvement in the elementary schools (which were located in Park Slope and Cobble Hill, Brooklyn), and the Annual Arts in Schools Report. These are worth unpacking at another time.

Most of the discussion centered around classroom management techniques, curriculum, etc.

What are the rewards of teaching theatre in the public schools?

One teacher said, "It's getting your students to stand in a circle at the beginning of class." (I can completely understand this.) Another recalled a time when one her fourth graders sang "I Sing the Body Electric" for an audition and she found herself in tears.

Jim Moody, of LaGuardia Arts High School, an accomplished film and TV actor (he appeared in the move Fame and on "Law and Order" several times), put it best: "The rewards are beyond 'thank you.' It's when they live it."

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