Higher Learning: STNYC’s Hunter College Talk and Tour

CUNY Service Corp student Michelle Tibois and Sound Thinking NYC Project Director Ah-Keisha McCants sat down via phone-chat to speak with ‘sound thinker’ Sharon A. about her thoughts on the Hunter College talk and tour experience. The special event took place on Monday, October 15th and was hosted by Hunter College’s Deputy Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment, Joseph Fantozzi Jr.

A number of our Sound Thinking cohort-members and CAT Youth Theatre members toured Hunter’s campus and experienced a curated information session on the nuts and bolts of applying to the prestigious yet affordable undergraduate program. The students learned about Hunter’s music and arts programs and more. Student Ambassadors and current college juniors, Becky and Brooke, shared the ins and outs of applying for scholarships, internships, and lunch plans. They shared advice on making friends on campus (hint, it’s really easy), the amazing music courses available (they’re super hands-on and include special music concerts) as well as the perks of Hunter’s state-of-the-art library (students not only can borrow books, but iPads and laptops!). All in all, it was a great night of higher learning!

Michelle, who is a current senior at John Jay College kicked off the conversation. Read the interview below:

Michelle: Hi Sharon. It’s nice to meet you over the phone. My name is Michelle Tibois, […] I am working alongside Ah-Keisha and Paola for Sound Thinking. I’m a CUNY Service Corps member. I just kind of want to interview you in regards to the Hunter College experience that you had, would you mind answering some questions for me, if you have time?

Sharon: Yeah, I have time.

M: Awesome! I wanna know about you Sharon. Tell me about you. Your grade, what you do?

S: Well, I’m Sharon. I’m 17, I’m a junior. I play instruments. I like soccer. There isn’t much to that after that.

M: What do you play? What instruments?

S: Guitar, piano, ukulele.

M: Oh my goodness, that’s amazing.

Ah-Keisha McCants: She plays all these instruments, wait say them again, Sharon!

S: Guitar, piano, ukulele and a little bit of the banjo.

M: Awesome, thank you. That’s great. What did you learn about Hunter College while you were there?

S: I learned that they were a liberal arts college and I didn’t know that it was a public college and that it was part of CUNY. I learned that they had programs for music and that the tuition was under 7 thousand dollars.

M: Where on the campus did you visit?

S: We visited all of the buildings, the north, west and east buildings. We were able to see the big auditorium that I think, seats about 2,000 people.

M: What did you think about the campus? what was your impression when you got there?

S: It’s big, I mean, it’s just 3 buildings but it’s big and each building has it’s own environment. I know that there’s like different types of people in each building and everyone’s there for something different.

M: Anything that you picked up on or saw on the campus, like the life of the students or even anything that was visually appealing or the setting around you?

S: All the buildings are connected by bridges so you can just go to one building by like crossing the bridges instead of going outside in the street and crossing the street to get to the other side.

M: I like that about their school, so what are your thoughts on their music program? Especially for someone as talented as you are! What do you think?

S: I think they have music education and they have classes for history of music, like rock n roll and things like that…

M: Did you learn anything about the college admissions process that surprised you?

S: Not really.

M: So you kind of knew what the process was like?

S: Yes, in my school we talk about it so much. We’ve been talking about it since middle school.

M: What are your thoughts about going to school in NY?

S: Well, I want to.

M: What is it about NYC? Is it the environment? Are the schools good, to you?

S: Yes and I love the city and I want to study in the city. But I feel like if I was able to get an opportunity to study outside of NY, I think I would take it.

M: What did you think about the student Ambassadors, Becky and Brooke?

S: I think they were nice, I can relate to them. They talked about things I think would be important to teenagers, like me. Maybe if the ambassadors were older they wouldn’t understand what I would be asking. Like when it comes to like a food plan or jibs or internships nearby.

M: What other programs did you learn about?

S: I know they have programs for Pre-Med and Pre-Law as well.

M: What do you think you want to major in while in college?

S: I know it’s gonna be in Music Technology, most likely sound engineering or audio engineering. But it would definitely be music related. Just not music education.

M: Why were you interested in visiting Hunter?

S: I’ve been to one other college in the city, visiting, but I wanted to see my options. I knew that if I looked online I would be able to find information but I wanted to actually see the school and see how the student life is.

M: Are there any other colleges or universities you’d like to visit? Has there been any on your mind?

S: NYU. I have to do more research.

AM- I have one … question, what advice would you give to other young people who are considering whether they should go to college or not?

S: I think college is always a good option, it’s not for everybody but you should always have some kind of education in college because it can always back you up no matter what you do. At least in any job that you choose it may be easier for you to find something than just having a high-school diploma. College education is important and it will actually take you places.

AM: Any other schools in NY you’d like to visit?

S: Maybe Julliard, but I don’t know about that one.

AM: Michelle, did you ever have a situation where you had to realize, let me just take a chance?

M: Oh yeah. 100 percent. When I first I got into to John Jay I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay for school because even though I had my parent’s financial support, they weren’t able to support me fully, with all my tuition. I remember senior year of high school, a company had offered this opportunity for us to create a creative portfolio and also a creative writing piece. I remember having all these creative people around me and I was feeling very discouraged but when I applied I got support from my teachers. They reminded me of the worst that could happen, but at least I would put my best foot forward and I got both scholarships. I got through two years of college without having to need support from my parents. Then the next two years, it worked out and because I took that chance and I didn’t let that discouragement be my reality, it actually propelled me forward. It’s all about putting your foot in the door and taking that step because you never know what’s behind it..

AM: That’s what Sound Thinking is all about, promoting positive risk-taking. Well, thank you so much Sharon.

M: Thank you!

S: Thank you for calling.

Thank you to Joseph Fantozzi and Hunter College student ambassadors, Becky and Brooke, for making our visit to Hunter a memorable one! We cannot wait for our next tour and talk!

 

STNYC Tours: Hunter College

by Uma R.

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It was very surreal to walk into the doors of Hunter College. Growing up in the city, I always thought that I would be leaving home to go to college, saying goodbye to the concrete jungle. However, taking the tour gave me a weird perspective on what college life in New York City would be like. In the West building, where we started our tour of the over a century year old institution, there was not one corner of the floors that was not occupied by students either studying, working, or hanging out with friends. It was strange to think that this student body population of 23,000 leaks out into the city that I live in. College life to me has never been acquainted with New York or Manhattan, because I’ve never imagined one of the biggest cities in the world being used as a college town; seeing how huge the student body population is made me realize how many opportunities there are for college students in New York City.

Our tour guides took us through different parts of the West building. We got to walk through multiple floors of the huge library that the college houses, similar to the libraries that I’ve seen in other colleges outside of the city, but what was different about Hunter to me, were the huge bridges that connected its different buildings together. Via the bridges, you could see amazing views of the city as the sun set. As we crossed the bridge that went from the West building into the library, we could see the different buildings where Hunter classes were held. Even though the campus is extremely spread out, the college still felt like a community because the student life is literally connected by bridges.

Speaking more about the community, it genuinely felt like home because there were kids from all over the country studying in the halls. It was like a small version of New York City. The diversity was comforting, especially when we walked into the music department and saw that nothing about the variety of the student body changed. Walking through an older building to get to the practice rooms of the music department was really cool, because you could see kids walking in and out of the doors carrying their instruments, while in the actual practice rooms, we could see students collaborating and playing music together. It was inspiring and uplifting to see what it looks like first hand to study and create music in higher education.

All in all, I was very grateful to have been able to tour Hunter College, because it showed me an opportunity for college that I was reluctant to take at first. Staying in the city to study for some reason seems daunting, but seeing Hunter helped me to recognize the potential that studying in a city rich with the arts could hold in my college career.

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Luke Goes Full Circle

“OMG I’m the lead of a Shakespeare play!”

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Luke, center, with his class from PS/IS 127 Aerospace Science Magnet School at the 2012 Festival

Hi, my name is Luke Domond and I am 20 years old. When I was 14 years old, in middle school, I starred in my very first play. Once my teacher, Ms. Nicolson, told us that we would be in a play at the end of the year for the Shakespeare Festival hosted by the Creative Art Team, I couldn’t control my excitement, so that day I ran home to let my family know about the good news. I always wanted to be a part of play and this was my opportunity to be in one. Not only was I able to finally be in one, I was the lead role! The play was “Much Ado About Nothing,” a comedy by William Shakespeare. The day finally came, after days of rehearsing, it was finally go time. Walking into the building where we was about to perform was terrifying. Seeing the stage, seeing all the seats that will soon be filled with people, it was just a rush. Once it was our turn to go on stage and perform all I could think of was, what if I forget my line or say the wrong thing, all these things was just clouding my head. So, I decide to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and just do what I was doing for the last few months, having fun. To my amazement, we were a hit, everyone loved our performance! We won the award for best comedy.

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Luke’s scene, “Love Can Make You Do Some Crazy Things”

Thinking this would be the last time I would ever hear about this program and this wonderful festival they host every year since, I would be going to high school the following year, I was devastated. I would never have another experience like that again. To my surprise, 6 years later I was giving the opportunity to intern for them through an internship program called CUNY Service Corps. This was my chance to finally get connected with the people who created this wonder festival and made my middle school experience the best experience I ever had. Interning for the Creative Art Team was a blast, I got to work with a lot of great people who taught me so much like Krista, Rachel, David and so many others. Then it finally happened, I got directly connected to the people behind the Shakespeare Festival! Not only did I get to meet the people who brought me so much happiness as a child, but got the chance to be a part of the magic and help out with the Festival this year!

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Luke, center, on Sixth Avenue, with CAT’s 2017-18 CUNY Service Corps crew, Service Corps alumni who are current CAT staffers, and three CAT administrators

Going from being in the Shakespeare Festival as a child to interning for the company as a young adult and being able to be a part of making this year’s festival as amazing for the kids this year as it was for me 6 years ago is really a blessing.

Lucille Lortel Theatre, here I come again! Can’t wait!

Luke-Domond

Luke Domond
CUNY Service Corps Member
Student, New York City College of Technology

Field Notes

Field Notes

As a new employee at CAT, I’ve been really fortunate to be able to watch and participate with our Actor-Teachers as they share and create interactive stories with young people in grades K-2 at the start of this year’s Astor Program. The Astor Program stems from a generous grant that allows the Early Learning Program to engage in a mentor-modeling in-school residency (alongside after-school professional development sessions) to six schools in Queens on how to use interactive drama practices in the classroom to foster higher order reading skills. One of my favorite moments to witness has been each and every class being so excited to see their respective actor-teacher walk in the room, even if they have only met him or her once before.

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CAT’s 2016-17 Early Learning Team

I am also constantly humbled and impressed by how thoughtful and intentional our team is. The care they put into reaching each student on both an academic and personal level is truly moving. I have no doubt that the young people’s ability to recall the stories (and, in turn, skills) they have been creating is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team. I’ve had a great time participating with the young people as our actor-teachers create stories with them, and look forward to seeing the growth of the team, the young people, and their teachers throughout the year.

What I love most about this work, and this may be fairly selfish of me to say, are the people that I’ve met and worked with who are out there practicing it in the field. Because I primarily prefer to work in administrative roles, I am fortunate to have connected with a multitude of individuals who operate under the umbrella of applied theatre, which encompasses work of this nature. Borrowed from CUNY’s MA in Applied Theatre homepage, applied theatre “involves the use of theatre and drama in a wide variety of nontraditional contexts and venues, such as in teaching, the justice system, health care, the political arena, community development, museums, and social service agencies.” Overall, the practitioners and artists that I’ve worked with are some of the most conscientious humans I have ever met.

I found myself working in applied theatre a little over two years ago when I messaged my high school mentor in a panic a few months before graduating college with a degree in English and Secondary Education and a minor in Special Education. I expressed that I really missed being involved in theatre (I had taken a hiatus from stage managing for a few years) and that I found the education system to be failing the students of America and was unsure if I could be a part of it. She asked me if I had heard of the term applied theatre, which I had not, and on something of a whim I found myself applying to get my master’s degree in it in London. While there is no denying that I rushed into getting a degree in a field of work I had next to no experience in, I was fortunate to be met with open arms by my fellow MA students at Goldsmiths University of London.

Over the past two years I have worked in administrative roles where the populations being worked with are very vulnerable ones. The work that our actor-teachers and teaching artists do is not easy, and I cannot emphasize enough how hard they work to make sure that they are practicing the work as ethically as they can. I feel very privileged to witness and hear about their success stories in the field. From a personal standpoint, I also feel pushed to use some of the strategies I have learned from this work in exploring how I can be a more politically aware and active citizen. In today’s political climate, I have found it especially necessary to examine my own privileges and how I can use them in supporting movements that challenge the many inequalities marginalized groups in this country face. The people I have met who work in applied theatre have been integral in that process for me, and I am very grateful to them for their patience, skills, and support.

While a goal of the Early Learning Program is to enhance higher order reading skills, it is also to encourage young people to ask strong questions. What I like about applied theatre (and why it’s a field I want to remain working in) is that these two goals are not mutually exclusive here – they shape and inform each other. Our actor-teachers and teaching artists work with populations who will be the artists, activists, and policy-makers in the years to come, and it’s very humbling to play a small part in that.  kady-stockman-2-elp

Kady Stockman
Program Manager
Early Learning Program

A Fond Farewell

CAT is certainly an innovative organization. The impact it has had on the field of education is profound. By incorporating its integration of participant-centered pedagogy while simultaneously meeting the direct needs of all the communities it serves, CAT has played a huge role in the ever changing dynamics of how education is facilitated in and out of the classroom.

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Lexy, Rachel and family at CAT’s 2014 Holiday Party

What most people don’t see is the impact that CAT has on the people that work here. People in the “outside world” don’t get to see the support CAT’s leadership provides to its employees around family and self-care. People don’t get to hear the conversations of passion, anger, exhilaration around the various social issues we are all affected by. People don’t get to see the deep emotional connection CAT staff invest when developing their workshops. People don’t get to see the comradery that develops amongst us all working at CAT, making it feel more like family than just colleagues.

DSCN5643-s6 years ago I walked through CAT’s doors as part of the first cohort of the MA in Applied Theatre. I was excited about the new opportunity to apply what I had always been practicing (theatre for social justice) but never had a name for. Several months later I was blessed with the opportunity to be hired as a part time Operations Assistant where the incomparable David Mitnowsky was my supervisor. His eccentric ways and incredible humor automatically gave me a sense of belonging; giving me the space to just be me and not feel like I had to adapt to some sort of corporate way of being. After some time, I was able to move my way up and became a Program Manager supervised by Rachel Castillo, who taught me that the idea that participant-centered pedagogy not only applied to educators, but was a crucial practice for administrators and supervisors. She inspired me on a regular basis, helping me formalize and actualize my beliefs that women can be compassionate friends, mothers, and co-workers but also be super hard core impactful supervisors.

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Lexy (left), Kat (right)

During my time as a Program Manager, I developed many deeply committed and intricate friendships; a first for me as an army brat who never had opportunities to invest in long term friendships. One of my most profound relationships developed with Katherine Chua Almirañez, who continues to see my strengths and passions and always worked towards pushing me to get out of my comfort zone. She always encourages me to achieve the things I secretly dreamt but never voiced simply out of fear of failure. From facilitating poetry workshops, to dancing on stage, to writing a play, Kat has given me opportunities to achieve what I thought was the unachievable.

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Early Learning & After School Literacy Team

I finish my tenure here at CAT as the Early Learning & After-School Projects Director, where I have been able to work closely with Helen Wheelock and Brisa Muñoz. These amazing women have been incredible cheerleaders for me during the past year and, even in the moments I was struggling the most, they were there with bright eyes and big smiles to remind me “You are amazing. You are worthy.” Their positive attitudes and way of seeing the world has continued to inspire me and adapt the way I approach being a supervisor and overall human being.

DSCN8570sWhile I name specific people above, what I have come to realize is that I have worked in some capacity with almost every single person at CAT. I can identify a specific conversation with each of them that has literally changed my life. Every person here has helped shaped my view around parenthood, race, class, education, gender, and everything else under the stars. I certainly would not be the person I am today without the contributions of every person that I have encountered while working at CAT. And while I may be moving on to other opportunities, I know that I will always be carrying CAT and the wonderful lessons I have learned here with me. Thank you CAT for everything you have provided me. I will never forget any of you.

With the deepest of love and respect,
Lexy

Lexy NisticoLexy-Nistico
Until yesterday: Projects Director,
CAT Early Learning & After School Programs
Now: Program Director, Manhattan Youth Community Center

At a company picnic with her daughter and CAT and CUNY staff

At a company picnic with her daughter and CAT and CUNY staff

Lexy and other CAT staffers have become serious runners over the past few years

Lexy and other CAT staffers have become dedicated runners over the past few years

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Halloween 2014 (Lexy is the Jack Skellington in the center)

The Impact of Project CHANGE

In September 2015, I began working with the Creative Arts Team (Project CHANGE) and it has truly had a life-changing impact on me. At first I was not entirely sure about what the program would entail, but after doing research, I was eager to work with the other Agents to teach adolescences about sexual health. Project CHANGE is such an outstanding program that has a great impact on the lives of many, by using a more creative approach to educate and grasp the attention of adolescents in current issues pertaining to sexual health.

Over the course of the year, I noticed various changes which have improved my personal and academic skills. Project CHANGE has allowed me to better mold my time management skills. At first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle working at my full potential. Once I found a balance, where I was able to successfully plan and execute dates and events prior, I realized it was smooth sailing. I am now more efficient in balancing my academic and social life, while being able to successfully meet my responsibilities. Before working at Project CHANGE, I found it difficult at times to balance school, work, sports, and my social life; but now I am able to find a balance where I manage to complete various tasks that are required and not feel overwhelmed.

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Chloe, circled, with Project CHANGE Agents and Staff

Project CHANGE is a family. I was welcomed with opened arms and included in all aspects. We have all grown together as a unit to make this project impactful. Each Agent supports one another and gives great reviews and advice on how we can all achieve our goals.  Project CHANGE has been a great support system, where everyone looks out for one another. We have supported each other in various plays, readings, and remarkable events. I did not know I would be entering into a caring, loving family that cares of the well being of each individual. When you are feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, you can confide in anyone there. Project CHANGE is a safe haven for the Agents.

While working with the Project CHANGE I am able to take the skills I have gained and use them even outside of Project CHANGE. One skill I have acquired is proper facilitation, which is beneficial when working with children. Outside of Project CHANGE I direct a drum corps, and the facilitation skills have allowed me to better teach my drum line. I noticed that I am better able to express various routines, and styles of playing, and that my students have a better grasp of what I explaining. Being at Project CHANGE allows me to not only be a better educator, but to place myself in the mindset of a student so I am able to give specific and clear instructions that everyone understands.

Not only has Project CHANGE educated me, it has encouraged me to educate my family and friends on their sexual health. I found myself being in school and stating statistics and important need-to-know tips on STDs, STIs and HIV/AIDS. I would then have my peers asking me questions and I was properly educated and able to answer. I’m able to derive the truth from a myth. Project CHANGE has given me knowledge that I believe all youths should be informed about, and it was a great pleasure to be able to share the knowledge.

Project CHANGE has allowed me to find a balance where I am able to complete various task without feeling overwhelmed. I am better at explaining various task and assignments. Project CHANGE has truly left an impact on my academic and social life that I will continue to carry with me. I am able to plan out a week or weeks of events in advance, and manage to balance classes, work, and everything else in between. As my Project Director Carmen Kelly would tell her agents, you have to find that balance. It isn’t easy and may be one of the most challenging aspect of college, but after being at Project CHANGE, it is a lot easier to find.

Chloe with CAT Executive Director, Lynda Zimmerman (left), and Project CHANGE Director, Carmen Kelly (right)

Chloe with CAT Executive Director, Lynda Zimmerman (left), and Project CHANGE Director, Carmen Kelly (right), at the CUNY Service Corps culminating event

Chloe Thomas-Bedeau
CUNY Service Corps Member
Assigned to CUNY/CAT: Project CHANGE

Showing, Telling, and Interacting: Presenting Theatre-In-Education… Theatrically

Claro & Mfoniso at TIOS  Photographer: Sobha Kavanakudiyil

Claro & Mfoniso at TIOS
Photographer: Sobha Kavanakudiyil

Marrying content (the subject of inquiry) and form (the artistic discipline) remains a central value in my endeavors as a theatre/film artist, educator, and cultural worker. This value solidified for me as a graduate student in the M.A. in Applied Theatre Program at CUNY SPS, and special credit goes to my applied theatre mentors: Chris Vine and Helen White, who offered a deep and practical study of what marrying form and content may look and feel like in practice. Moreover, as I continue to move forward in my work, I often return to the following quote by theatre scholar Anthony Jackson: “theatre that aims to educate or influence can truly do so only if it values entertainment, the artistry and craftsmanship that are associated with resonant, powerful theatre, and the aesthetic qualities that – by definition – will appeal our senses”. This quote, found in Jackson’s book Theatre, Education and the Making of Meanings Art or Instrument?, reminds me to never lose sight of the theatre form when sharing and implementing the work. It reminds me that the effectiveness of any artistic experience, regardless of the end goal, is directly related to the integrity with which one approaches the artistic form. In other words, it reminds me to wholly embrace the “theatre” aspect of the term theatre-in-education.

Mfoniso Udofia

Mfoniso Udofia

This past March, my co-facilitator Mfoniso Udofia and I had the honor of representing CUNY-CAT at the AATE New York Theatre in Our Schools (TIOS) Conference 2015 hosted by New York University. We presented a session outlining the Bronx History through Theatre: Resistance and Renaissance (BHTRR) curriculum which we created under the direction and guidance of CUNY-CAT‘s Artistic & Education Director, Gwendolen Hardwick. I spearheaded the TIOS application a few months prior because I felt immensely proud of the work we did on the BHTRR curriculum; I wanted more people to experience the work. BHTRR continues to be particularly significant for me because it was built on a collective passion to creatively, and theatrically, bring local history and culture into high school classrooms. BHTRR was intended to not only support the learning goals of the 10th grade English classes we serve in the Bronx, but also to integrate content that is more reflective of the culture and history of the students we serve.

Claro & Mfoniso at TIOS  Photographer: Sobha Kavanakudiyil

Claro & Mfoniso at TIOS, Photographer: Sobha Kavanakudiyil

Our session at TIOS, “Cultural Relevance in the Classroom: Integrating Local History (Social Movements and Hip Hop) through Theatre in the Bronx,” offered attendees a practical investigation of key selections of our curriculum. In attendance were students, educators, and others members of the broader theatre-in-education community. Aligned with the concept of marrying form and content, Mfoniso and I facilitated and performed samples of our curriculum, which engaged our attendees in various capacities. We asked our attendees to not only assume the roles of observers and peers, but also, at times, as student participants. We felt it was important for our attendees to have a “lived-through” experience because it would be the most effective method of clearly explaining BHTRR.

Claro & Mfoniso at TIOS  Photographer: Sobha Kavanakudiyil

Claro & Mfoniso at TIOS
Photographer: Sobha Kavanakudiyil

We closed our session with a short, insightful Q&A with our attendees. An educator from NYU seemed quite appreciative of the commitment that Mfoniso and I brought to the work as both facilitators and as performers. Another attendee, a public school teacher, shared how she was able to identify a good number of learning standards in our work and seemed quite interested in seeing history and theatre used in that fashion. Perhaps even more compelling was something that happened a few weeks later, at the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable’s Face to Face Conference. A graduate student stopped me in the hall, introduced himself and said he’d attended my workshop at the TIOS conference. He said: “thank you for that work. I’ve never really seen anything like that. You all were really performing.” I was very thankful for such positive feedback. Hearing his words reminded me how marrying form and content became, and continues to be, a central value to my practice; his words also reminded of the power of theatre and its ability to leave a mark on the memory of audiences and participants. As I continue to reflect and refine my practice, these reminders help support my view that the aesthetics of theatre is directly related to its effectiveness as a learning tool. I therefore continue to strive to create the kind of theatre experience that doesn’t compromise the aesthetics of the theatre discipline. I strive to make the type of theatre that is wrestled with and crafted, and I strive to do so no matter what circumstances I am working with.

Claro de los Reyes

Claro de los Reyes
Actor/Teacher
High School Program

Editor’s note: CAT heard from one of the TIOS staffers that Claro & Mfoniso’s session reminded her of how powerful and effective it is to have a team of two teaching artists in the classroom, rather than one, which has been a long-standing CAT practice. Congratulations to the team for making an impact on conference attendees and organizers alike!