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GC Event: Theatre Education: Reaching Beyond the Stage
Five arts in education specialists discuss the ways in which theatre artists are applying their craft in educational settings—formal and informal and at all age levels. The conversation includes women with experience as instructors in public schools and universities, as well as in creating programs directly with disenfranchised and marginalized communities whose stories are untold or under-told. Produced by Gwynn MacDonald, Moderated by Coco Killingsworth.
Panelists: Iman Aoun (GCITA 2020 Finalist – Palestine), Grace Gachocha Nakaka (GCITA 2020 Nominee – Tanzania), Stephanie Berry (OBIE Winning Theatre Artist and Educator – U.S.), Ilire Vinca (GCITA 2017 and 2020 Nominee – Kosovo)
Gwynn MacDonald has directed or produced theater, TV, film and radio receiving cable Ace and Emmy nominations, and Radio’s Gracie Award. She is a member of Juilliard alumni-founded Juggernaut Theatre, League of Professional Theatre Women, Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Lab, Society of Directors and Choreographers and the Shakespeare Society. Recent projects: Siachen a new play by Aditya Rawal supported by Baruch Performing Arts Center, and Makena Metz’s DEATH BITES in honor of #ADA30 for Lincoln Center at Home. Gwynn studied theatre and film at Princeton, is a Drama League Fellow, and a grad of Columbia University’s Arts Leadership Institute. She is on the Drama League’s Diversity Committee and the advisory board of the Immigrants’ Theatre Project. Gwynn served a three-year term as an Artist Panelist for the New York State Council of the Arts Theatre Program, and is part of the 2019 cohort of Disability Arts NYC which seeks to advocate for and create policy to promote Disability Arts, and obstacle-free inclusion and accessibility.
Coco Killingsworth joined the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s executive team in January 2017, as the organization’s Vice President, Education and Community Engagement. In this post, Killingsworth guides BAM’s community and education programming in alignment with the institution’s overall mission. From 2010 to 2016, Killingsworth served as the Deputy Director/Director of Programs for Global Kids, Inc., where she managed school-based and after-school global education programs and special projects in 35 New York City public schools. Previously, she was associate director of programs for the High School for Global Citizenship & Global Kids. In that capacity, she created interactive curricula on global issues and leadership development, and coordinated after-school programs in arts and leadership. Killingsworth previously designed seminars and served on the board of directors for the Sadie Nash Leadership Project for young women, and was a Charles H. Revson Fellow at Columbia University in 2010-11. Killingsworth holds a BA in History and African Studies from UCLA, and a Master’s in Education from Harvard University.
Iman Aoun is an award-winning actress, writer, educator, and co-founder and Artistic Director of ASHTAR Theatre. ASHTAR Theatre uses “Forum Theatre,” which engages the audience to interact on stage with essential social and political issues, to promote creativity and change through specific training and acting programs and services, as well as professional theatre performances. It equips young Palestinians with essential skills that go beyond acting such as increasing self-awareness and confidence while teaching leadership, communication, and teamwork. ASHTAR Theatre also aims to draw the world’s attention to the continuous deprivation and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip caused by the war and its rigid closure, and to advocate for the rights and needs of children who are the innocent victims of this ongoing conflict. In 2013, Aoun helped to create “The Gaza Monologues” which has been performed around the world to shed light on the situation of youth in Palestine. Inspired by the success of this international sensation, in 2015 Iman created “The Syrian Monologues” in collaboration with Syrian refugee youth. Aoun has also established Land Out Loud, a “multi-disciplinary multi-genre” project that excavates creative expressions using land as a metaphor, theme and catalyst.
Stephanie Berry is a veteran of stage, screen and television. She won an OBIE Award for her one-woman show, The Shaneequa Chronicles: The Making of a Black Woman and most recently appeared to critical acclaim last year in the title role of Frankenstein at CSC. She is a recipient of the TCG/Fox Foundation “Distinguished Artist,” Fellowship which acknowledged her lifelong diverse and groundbreaking work in the arts as an actress, producing artistic director and teaching artist for over 40 years. Berry is a founder of Harlem-based Blackberry Productions and has dedicated her life’s work to Civil and Human Rights, successfully using the arts to champion both. Her pioneering approaches to employing the arts as a vehicle for improving student performance led to the creation of a permanent arts-in-education program at the Young Adult Learning Academy with unparalleled success for 13 years. Berry’s work in this area resulted in Blackberry Productions’ unique ethnographic approach to the creation of original theater pieces by extracting authentic voices from diverse communities, generating a repertoire of over a dozen original productions and a diverse array of arts education curricula authored by Berry. She has taught her ground-breaking methodologies at Sarah Lawrence College, Rutgers’s University and City College New York and worked with dozens of high schools and non-profit organizations, largely in Harlem.
Grace Gachocha Nakaka is a director and teaching artist who founded and is the current Artistic Director of Talanta 5 (Five Talents). This creative social enterprise serves Tanzania youth by providing them access to the creative arts as an empowerment tool to further their education outcomes and a platform for advocating for social justice in their communities. Her interest in helping people find their voices through theater led to a collaboration in 2010 with Salasala Kids Club Dar-es-salaam in the form of mentoring girls. At Canossa High School, the location of the first volunteer afterschool “Page2Stage” project, they reached over 350 adolescent girls. Her main goals for the next three years include expanding Talenta 5’s reach to improve literacy, communication skills and foster creativity among learners across Tanzania through creative arts education. Gachocha Nakaka also seeks to provide a platform for more youth to address poverty, violence, inequality and discrimination in their communities. In order to sustain interventions and have a lasting impact, she is working to institutionalize creative arts programs in Tanzania primary and secondary education systems through collaboration with the Government and other key stakeholders in developing a curriculum and capacity building for teachers. In the summer 2010, the International Theater and Literacy Project (ITLP) invited Gachocha Nakaka to be the Director of the entire Tanzanian ITLP program.
Ilire Vinca is an actor, director, and educator who has advocated for female empowerment on and off the stage for over 30 years. Living through the Kosovo war, she discovered the importance of art, especially for emotional support and healing. Through her company ODA, founded in 1993, she has overcome the material and societal challenges faced by female artists in the region, and has consistently used theatre as a tool for telling the truth. Over the years, the company has developed a movement based, devised theatre approach and collaborates with other groups both locally and internationally, winning awards and acclaim for both their process and their productions. Vinca has performed in over 30 stage productions, including Andre Serban’s acclaimed Trojan Women in NYC at La Mama. Her film appearances have been viewed across the globe, receiving award nominations from multiple festivals. As a female theatre leader, she has empowered her own daughters and six undergraduate generations. Vinca is one of the heads of the Theatre Department at the University of Prishtina, the largest university in Kosovo, where she is leading the transformation of theatre training and redefining the culture of theatre and pedagogy in her country. She is also a board member of the National Theatre of Kosovo and Chair of the Board of the Cinematografic Center.