Notes on CAT’s 43rd Anniversary

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Hello Friends,

It is Friday, October 27th, and I am sitting at my desk poised to write a newsletter in celebration of the Creative Arts Team’s 43rd anniversary on October 31st.

My challenge is how to relate, in an e-newsletter, the vibrancy of CAT’s programs and the passion of CAT’s innovative staff, educators, partners, and most of all, the reason we do this work – our amazing participants throughout the city.

In lieu of live streaming, I’ll take you on a walk around the office hallways and share with you what I see…

SCENE: CAT’s office windows at 31st and 6th look out on a beautiful autumn day in Herald Square. While most offices in the city are winding down for the week, the CAT offices are bustling with energy. It is an energizing time at CAT as we now are full swing into the school year.

Friday is our liveliest day in the office. It is a planning day for CAT staff and teaching artists who deliver programs in all five boroughs throughout the week.

Rehearsals of dramatic scenes and discussions of pedagogical strategies are taking place in corners, by the coffee pot, in offices, training rooms and hallways. I hear – and feel drawn to participate in – impassioned dialogue on strategies for social issue engagement. Along with the serious discussions there is laughter, song and sometimes puppetry.

On this particular Friday morning, the Cultural After School Adventure (CASA) team is working on their after-school storytelling programs for middle school students. We are now in our 10th year of delivering CASA programs, funded by NYC Council Members.

Next to the CASA office is the Early Learning Program (where the puppets live), the team is working at this moment with colleagues from CUNY’s Office of Research, Evaluation and Program Support (REPS). Together, they are in the third year of evaluating a teacher-mentoring project supported by the New York Community Trust.

In the meeting room next to my office, CAT’s Literacy Through Drama (LTD) team is in training for upcoming middle and high school sessions on topics such as gender equity, justice and friendship. Today, they are working on strategies for dual language classrooms. The LTD program, with support from the NYC Dept. of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), uses drama to examine the world and build skills in social and academic literacy.

The CAT Youth Theatre team is also in the office using Friday as a training and preparation day. BTW! Save the dates for this year’s Youth Theater performances on February 23-25 and March 2-4, with a special Youth Groups performance on Tuesday, February 27 at 5pm (contact Maureen to reserve group tickets)! The Junior Youth Theatre will share on December 6 at 6pm. There will be an Ensemble improv performance on Saturday, December 9 at 8pm (featuring Youth Theatre Alumni). Now in its 22 year, CAT Youth Theatre helps young people thrive– on stage and in life. Members create socially relevant, artistically sophisticated original plays.

This Friday morning, the College and Adult Program (CAP) team is off-site, leading a “Campus Sexual Assault” symposium at Brooklyn College, organized by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, to address root causes and challenge social norms. CAP uses interactive drama and skill–building strategies to capture a panoramic view of our society and zoom in on specific issues and behaviors that create challenges in our lives. The CAP team works with numerous organizations and initiatives, including (but definitely not limited to): CUNY Black Male Initiative (BMI); the Department of Corrections at Rikers Island; Homes for Homeless (H4H); middle and high schools throughout NYC; and created and runs the Theatre Arts Program (TAP) at CTEA High School in Queens.

Next to the training room is our marketing and communications office, which, as part of Arts and Culture month, has been sharing staff responses to the prompts, #BecauseofArtsEd and “Why CAT?” Responses include: “helping students express themselves and have agency;” “I Have a village and I have a purpose;” “I can do work I love and help people;” “Students are empowered”; and “Heal the World with Art!”

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It is auspiciously dramatic that 43 years ago on Halloween night in 1974, original company members sat around a kitchen table and conceptualized the founding of CAT. Lynda Zimmerman and the founding members envisioned a company dedicated to creating innovative and exciting theatre and education programs that engaged students and the public in learning through drama by addressing timely social and curricular issues. As we gear up for the next 43 years at CAT, we all look forward to seeing you at CAT events, sharing opportunities to participate and updating you on the work ahead.

Until next time,
Jeanne
Executive Director


UPCOMING IN NOVEMBER
  • November 3rd is the Early Bird registration Deadline for CAT’s NYC Student Shakespeare Festival (NYCSSF), a program for 2nd-12th grade students that provides a structured process of CTLE-credited teacher training, in-school residencies and a culminating festival at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. NYCSSF is supported in part by DCLA and NYSCA.
  • CAT’s Young Adult Literacy Technical Assistance program (YALTA) is organizing a cross-site trip to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for Young Adult Literacy Program (YALP) staff and their students in mid-November. YALTA delivers professional development to YALP, a program of the Mayor’s Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) and DYCD, for youth, ages 16-24, building skills to enroll in a Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC™) Preparation Program and eventually earn their HSE (High School Equivalency).
  • The MA in Applied Theatre Program is conducting a Racial Justice Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, November 4th & 5th, from 10:00am-6:00pm.
  • An MA in Applied Theatre Introductory Workshop will be held Saturday, November 14, 2:00-5:00pm. MA in Applied Theatre/CAT Studios, 101 West 31st Street, 6th Floor. For more information on MA events click: here
The Creative Arts Team (CAT) is one of the K-16 Initiatives under the Office of the Senior University Dean for Academic Affairs, at The City University of New York (CUNY).
Support for CAT FY18 Programs Provided By:
Anbinder Family Foundation • Birch Family Services • Broadway Artists Connection • Chinese-American Planning Council • The City University of New York • Community Service Society of New York • HistoryMiami Museum • Homes for the Homeless • Jewish Communal Fund • Jujamcyn Theatres • The Lucille Lortel Foundation • Morgan Stanley • New York City Council: Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and 51 Council Members; Additional allocations from Councilmembers Barron, Constantinides, Cornegy, Eugene, Gibson, King, Koslowitz, Lancman, Levine, Miller, Perkins, Rosenthal, Torres, Vallone, Van Bramer, Williams, Wills • NYS Assemblymembers Dendekker • NYC Department of Correction •  NYC Department of Cultural Affairs • NYC Department of Education • NYC Department of Youth & Community Development • NY Public Library • NYS Council on the Arts • New York Community Trust-Brooke Astor Fund for NYC Education • Penguin USA • RBC Wealth Management • Seoul National University of Education •
Participating Schools, and many generous individuals
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Celebrating 2015

To help us count down to the New Year, we asked our Team for highlights from 2015 – some of their answers are below…

We also ask that you keep us in mind for your tax-deductible year-end giving, help keep these amazing memories coming for years to come.


After-School FunGH

Suddenly, and quite by surprise, I was surrounded by a group of girls! I was sitting during an observation of one of our Serious Fun after-school workshops, observing a group of second grade girls put finishing touches on their paper puppets and puppet stage. I must admit I have a love of puppets – all kinds from paper bag puppets, sock puppets to the bigger than life Bread and Puppet Theatre ones. So, I asked the group if they could show me how to make my own puppet! They all rushed over to me with paper, crayons, scissors and glue and helped me make ‘Wendy’ my puppet!

Gwendolen Hardwick
Artistic & Education Director


The Power of Drama with our Youngest StudentsDorcas

“The teacher in my ICT (inclusion) class said he had never seen this one student so focused, because he has serious processing/speech delays, he never participates. But that was news to me – because every time I’m in the classroom, doing a storytelling, asking questions and including him, he’s one of the first kids with his hand up.”

Dorcas Davis
Actor-Teacher, Early Learning Program


The Power of Drama with ProfessionalsKJ

“I didn’t feel like I did my best during my session in the CUNY Black Male Initiative Conference, but I was swamped as I left the stage. It’s the power of this work, it was very evident that people were hungry to critically think, to broaden their perspective, and to understand what we do. It was pretty awesome to entertain young people who had so many questions and professors who really wanted to get more information about the work we do. I’m still boggled by it.”

Keith Johnston
Director, College/Adult Program


Working with ParentsParents

“The first of 27 Parent Workshops for year 2 of our Astor program (NYCT Brooke Astor Fund for NYC Education) took place at PS 212 in Jackson Heights, Queens, which is just the epitome of Queens. We had parents who spoke Urdu, Tibetan, Chinese, Spanish… every language we could think of. As the workshop exploring play and literacy concluded, two of the parents from Tibet came up to me and said: ‘Can I take a picture with you please? Can I can I please?’ The principal came up to me afterward and said, ‘They NEVER talk. They never say a word.’”

Helen Wheelock
Director, Early Learning Program


Shakespearean MagicSSF

The NYC Student Shakespeare Festival is a highlight for me every year. 2015 was our largest Festival yet, with well over 800 students and 30 teachers participating. The mix of public and private schools was profound for the students – with many from our struggling schools showing such pride in performing on the Lortel stage and that they did so well without fancy costumes. A private school 5th grader noticed as well, writing: “I’ve learned that not all schools have as many opportunities as mine has. This showed me to use my opportunities wisely.” Two of the themes that stood out this year were pulled right out of current cultural shifts – two high school groups explored gay marriage and two elementary school classes focused on the Black Lives Matter movement, all through Shakespeare. Amazing.

Krista Fogle
Communications & Marketing Manager
NYCSSF Administrator


Retention After-Schoolretention

“One of the highlights for our Adolescent Literacy Program, a middle school program using drama to strengthen literacy – the contract has been around for a few years, so we’ve been at it for a while – this year, we have the highest number of students in each of our after-school programs, the highest retention rate that we’ve had in the past 8 years or so. I think that speaks to the quality of work that we’re doing.”

Brisa Areli Muñoz
Associate Program Director, Literacy Through Drama


Best PracticesSVP

A recent highlight for me was observing my School Violence Prevention team transform their classroom – a huge classroom, with more than 30 kids – while implementing their day 3 session which had been kind of a challenge in many different ways. They were just impeccable. It was wonderful to see the students reaching out, totally and completely engaged in the narrative. It was just great.

Outside of the classroom, our workshop during the NYSED School Violence Prevention Conference in Albany went extremely well. There were no breakout groups, icebreakers or other interactive opportunities, so it was up to us to create that kind of community feeling. Afterward, everyone was interested in our work, everyone wanted to collaborate. They all wanted to know how they could “get the drama involved.”

Carmen Kelly
Program Director, Special Projects


Seasons of CHANGEPC

“This is a big year for Project CHANGE, our Healthy & Wellness/HIV Prevention Program. After 5 years of amazing peer education & intervention, this contract is coming to a close. During the summer, current and past CHANGE Agents and CAT staff came together for a reunion to celebrate all we’ve achieved and to plan the closing year. We held our World AIDS Day event on December 4th at Medgar Evers College and, over a few hours, had more than 100 participants, 25 of whom got tested! As our last big event, it was a ton of fun.”

Lynnette Freeman
Actor-Teacher, Project CHANGE


Momentous MilestonesLZ

This summer marked the 20th anniversary of our Youth Theatre program and, this fall, the conclusion of our 40th year. Lynda Zimmerman, our Founder and Executive Director, on what has made the Creative Arts Team thrive: “There has been this wonderful confluence of those three C’s: Creativity, Commitment, and Collaboration. The Creativity has been from folks like yourselves whether they were artists, arts administrators and educators, who continue to take ideas and run with them. The Commitment was finding folks like yourselves, with the mind of an educator, the strength of an administrator and the heart of an artist. And the Collaboration is being able to find those partners, be they programmatic or financial, who are willing to back your vision. I think those three things have been what’s propelled CAT, with the understanding that we always have that clarity in our vision of using that power of drama to help young people learn about themselves and the world around them.”

YTThe Youth Theatre held its first ever performance in the summer of 1995 at a ragged little black box theater, down along the east side of Washington Square Park. A wildly diverse group of fifty or so city kids, from throughout the five boroughs, came together to create a piece of theater they themselves would devise. Most had little to no experience in acting or performance. Even fewer knew each other beforehand. None would guess the impact those few weeks would have on their lives. I should know – I was one of them, barely sixteen at the time. That was twenty years ago.

The importance of what the Youth Theatre does, and what it can mean to a young person, is impossible to overestimate. You come to it at an age where figuring things out can consume your whole being: who you are, who you want to be, where you want to go. You come in on a Tuesday afternoon, and for a few hours you maybe untangle some of that mess, and you work on weaving it into something else. Probably you don’t have much of an idea what it is you’re making. What you do know is you’re making it yourself, with power and ability you maybe didn’t realize you even had, and that counts for more than you can ever know at the time.

None of that has changed in the two decades since those first performances. Now, as it was then, I don’t doubt for a second those city kids look forward to Tuesdays from four to six thirty all week long, just as I did. I’m sure in twenty years’ time they’ll look back on their days in the Youth Theatre, and, like me, know just how lucky they were to find it when they did.”

Adam Rivera
CAT Youth Theatre Alum


We wish you a happy and healthy New Year!

Thank you for reading.

 

CAT, CATT, KAT, ALP, ELP, ELA & “B”-yond

Acronym is the name of this game.

CAT = Creative Arts Team
CAT was the first acronym I was introduced to as I was plunged into the world of ‘Educational Theatre’ in October 2013. I am a CUNY Service Corps member, who was placed at CAT to learn from Actor Teachers and their commitment to public service. The CUNY Service Corps is an organization dedicated to giving undergraduates an opportunity to work at sites in NYC that are positively impacting the community.

A day at CAT: Rolling like dice into a room with grown adults acting like twelve-year-olds, never knowing what to expect or what would happen next. It was a perplexing experience. Suddenly, I felt like the adult in the room, which is ironic since I am the youngest. Being the newbie, I was convinced that I was being hoodwinked. After 45 minutes of making random sounds, creating tableaux and playing name games, I finally realized I was plopped into the middle of an Actor Teacher rehearsal session.

CAT is unlike any other NYC office environment. In the midst of a bitter NYC winter, the CAT office is filled with the warmest atmosphere. Everyone is friendly, energetic, and sarcastic; most importantly everyone loves their job and is passionate about their contribution to the community.

CATT = Community Action Theatre Troupe
KAT = Katherine, Actor Teacher
CATT’s pride leader Kat, alias Katherine Chua, welcomed me into the pride lands of educational theatre at the after-school program in Brooklyn. A cat learning how to swim is analogous to my first days at CATT.  Now, you call me a “catfish” because I finally understand how tongue twisters, name games, and playing detective is related to learning and education. Tongue twisters help students with their pronunciation and enunciation skills, name games help enhance their memory and improvisation helps them think on-the-fly, which is useful when taking a multiple choice exam.

Melissa-ALPMelissa (center) with ALP students

ALP = Adolescent Literacy Program
ELP = Early Learning Program
ELA = English Language Arts
ELL = English Language Learner
“B”KY = Brooklyn YMCAIS 347/IS 349
“B”ECA = Bronx Early College Academy
Like a tidal wave the acronyms started crashing in around me; it’s a good thing cats have nine lives. Gasping for air I began to see beyond the pride lands of BKY and its twin at BECA. ALP and ELP are the larger programs at CAT focused on engaging students throughout NYC in interactive drama strategies that help ELLs enhance their ELA skills.

Most importantly, beyond the acronyms, are all of the students who are breaking out of their shells and expressing themselves through theatre techniques, and the tireless Actor Teachers, who take on the CATT challenge with alacrity.

Melissa-Rambavan

Melissa Rambaran
CAT Adolescent Literacy Program Assistant
CUNY Service Corps Member
Queens College ’14