The EdTA events staff is already working on plans for the 2014 EdTA National Conference. It’s less than a year away as the event moves to a midsummer date: July 24-27 at the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati. The 2014 Conference theme: Theatre at the Core.
On Saturday evening, Conference attendees had a chance to see Making Magic, Defying Gravity, the revue produced by three EdTA board members that gives high school performers a chance to work onstage with cast members from a touring Broadway show. Below, Justin Brill and Laurel Harris (with microphones) of the first national cast of Wicked in rehearsal with students from Minneapolis-area high schools.
Photo by Jim Talkington.
Ayanna Hudson, director of education for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Two important keynote presentations featured at the Conference addressed public policy issues: a speech by Ayanna Hudson, the director of education for the National Endowment for the Arts, and a town hall Q&A with representatives from the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS), the partnership of organizations (including EdTA) leading the writing of the 2014 Core Arts Standards. Both keynotes can be viewed at http://new.livestream.com/edta
In her address, Hudson detailed her personal journey from a young, idealistic woman who thought she could single-handedly change the world to her role as director of arts education for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and eventually, to her current job at the NEA. She recounted how she came to realize the value of collaboration and the life-changing difference arts education could make to students, particularly those at risk. She also told the story of two schools’ approaches to sustaining their arts education programs, one of which prevailed and the other that did not, when economic hardship threatened them. Hudson wrapped up her address with an overview of the NEA’s collective impact strategy towards arts education and its four aspects: leverage investments; drive the national data and research agenda; collaborate for collective impact, and lead the field.
Mary Schuttler during the National Standards Town Hall Meeting.
The town hall presenters included NCCAS theatre team writers Leslie Van Leishout and Mary Schuttler (also the team’s co-chair); Hudson; Cory Wilkerson, the project’s technology manager, and leadership members Lynn Tuttle, Arizona arts education director, and Jim Palmarini, EdTA’s director of educational policy.
Palmarini began the event by reminding attendees that the public review process of the draft high school theatre standards would run September 30 to October 21. Tuttle then asked the audience to answer three fundamental questions about standards: What is a standard? What is good about standards? What is scary about standards? After a series of audience responses, she offered a brief overview of the history, strategy, and timeline of the project before opening the floor up to questions. Among other topics in the hour-long Q&A, Van Leishout and Schuttler addressed queries about the theatre standards; Hudson answered concerns about the role of teaching artists; Wilkerson talked about the standards website, and Tuttle detailed how model cornerstone assessments will be embedded into the work.
Minneapolis-based storyteller Kevin Kling wrapped up the Conference Saturday afternoon, sending his audience home laughing (and for some of us, a little weepy) with a selection of stories that seamlessly blended childlike wonder with hard-won wisdom and baseball with Greek mythology. Thanks, Kevin.
The state of the Association is good, Executive Director Julie Woffington said in her remarks to the annual EdTA membership meeting on Saturday morning at the Minneapolis conference. Membership numbers are up, the organization is financially healthy, and the staff has been engaged in important initiatives in support of major strategic objectives.
In other business during the membership meeting, President Jay Seller announced election results: members approved a revision of the EdTA Code of Regulations and elected Gai Jones and Anita Grant to the board.
Five new members were inducted into the EdTA Hall of Fame in ceremonies at the Depot Renaissance Hotel in Minneapolis Friday evening.
Left to right: Hall of Fame inductee Leslie Moon Van Leishout, EdTA Executive Director Julie Woffington, inductees E. Frank Bluestein and Robert Singleton, EdTA President Jay Seller, and inductees Jeff Nienhauser and Michael B. Fisher.
The National Conference workshop schedule got underway Friday morning. Continuing through Saturday afternoon, the schedule offers workshops and master classes in more than fifty topics such as actor training, technical theatre, and using digital devices in the theatre classroom.
Photos by Jim Talkington.
Actor and teacher Richard Omar leads a session titled “Effective Coaching for On-Camera Auditions.”
Learning how to use readily available computer apps for student assessment from Nick Cusumano.
In choreographer Shira Schwartz’s workshop on lifts and partner work.
The theme of this year’s EdTA National Conference is “The Evolving Theatre Classroom“ and Disney Theatricals President Tom Schumacher kicked it off with a passionate keynote speech that challenged the three hundred theatre teachers in attendance to “consider how we can trigger the evolution.”
Photo by Don Corathers.
Disney Theatricals President Thomas Schumacher.
“The future of the American theatre depends on it, and depends on you,” he said. “I need you. Business needs you. Your country needs you.”
“I believe the most important thing that we can do for kids is to give them a broad education and exposure to the arts,” Schumacher said in a brief interview after his remarks. “The arts and particularly theatre demand from kids that they work together, that they develop empathy, that they develop compassion, that they develop an ability to think on their feet and to operate. It calls on all of the senses and all of the skills that you need to be a functioning adult. You have to be organized, you have to be dependable, you have to be consistent, you have to be trustworthy, and because we are a team, whether you are on the wardrobe crew or the prop crew, what you learn makes you a better human being.
“The people who are in this room today are the gateway to that. Without the platform these educators give these kids, we’re nowhere. And at a moment in time when we are so worried about tomorrow and so worried about the youth of America, theatre training is deeply important. I need it, the country needs it, the culture needs it, and business needs it.”