I use theatre in service of education, community development, and social justice. I work to explore and support critical-thinking, collaboration, and communication on key themes in group and community contexts. This work is not prescriptive. Every project I embark on is collaborative and unique to the needs, interests, and curiosities of each partner and group. I listen and then scaffold participatory activities that support specific explorations. The people I work with are the experts of their own lived experience. I offer a framework to explore issues of concern and curiosity.
What is applied theatre?
Applied theatre is an umbrella term that defines the use of theatrical forms outside of traditional theatre-as-entertainment settings. It is the use of theatre in participatory ways that smudge the line between audience and performer in service of exploring topics of interest or concern in communities. Applied theatre can happen anywhere. It can occur in schools, museums, community centers, prisons, offices, and civic centers to name just a few spaces.
Why I do this work
Statement of Meaning
Theatre has always been a place where I have felt comfortable expressing myself. I love getting to play different characters because in doing so, I have to figure out a way to relate to each perspective and ask the question "why does this person do what they do?" I had no idea that my training in theatre would build my empathy so much, that getting to try out different perspectives would help me explore a sense of shared humanity.
My connection to theatre led me down a traditional path. I trained in London as an undergraduate study-abroad student and after graduating with a liberal arts degree, I moved to NYC and enrolled in a two-year acting conservatory. I studied improv and performed in both new plays and classical productions. Always, I felt a responsibility as a theatre-artist to engage in dialogue around issues of social justice. Traditional theatre did not provide me space to delve into this interest. A close friend of mine told me about the MA in Applied Theatre Program at CUNY School of Professional Studies and under the instruction of Chris Vine, Helen White and a host of other talented educators, I found a place where that sense of responsibility came into focus.
During the three years I spent working toward my degree, I realized a desire to use theatre in service of igniting radical, courageous conversations that will reimagine communication across differences. I spent time as a teaching-artist with the Creative Arts Team, the People's Theatre Project, The NYC Children's Theater and The Moth Education and Community programs.
Theatre is fun, it is playful AND it can give us space to dig deep into how we relate to each other. I am specifically interested in pairing with educators and offering what I have collected along the way to support curious inquiry. This work is not about finding the answers but about what is discovered in asking the questions. To that end, I have partnered with a human resource consultant and created participatory workshops on active listening and emotional intelligence, a family therapist on how we can explore systems thinking in therapeutic practices, and a community college professor on how experiential learning can better equip occupational therapy assistant students in preparation for their fieldwork.
I learn so much from everyone I have worked with: my fellow applied theatre practitioners, the educators and professionals, and most of all the participants of each and every project.
PROJECTS & NEWS
The Work in Action
Theatre in Tandem: Presenting at the 2021 AATE Conference
The American Alliance for Theatre & Education Annual Conference [July 21-25]
Theatre in Tandem is thrilled to be presenting at AATE this July on our work using theatre techniques to enrich adult learning.
Theatre in Tandem: Update
10 Months after Officially Launching
10 months after officially launching, Theatre in Tandem has partnered with five colleges and universities to facilitate experiential learning sessions and fieldwork experience through applied theatre. We have been asked back and worked into the budget for an ongoing partnership by three of those partner organizations.
Creating Interactive Theatre for Young Audiences During COVID 19
Six theatre makers came together in March of 2020 to work on a play for young audiences that was meant to be performed in person in July of 2020. But as the world entered a pandemic and kept quickly changing, we started the search for a new story. Through discussions, improvisations, and play, the theme of community and connection arose, and we found ourselves as neighbors in a Zoom building. You can check out the trailer HERE.
As we devised this play together over 4 months, the creative team experienced community and connection through time and space. Our international team was located in Beirut, New York and Canóvanas. The process kept us going during these challenging times. We shared our Zoom building with other neighbors throughout the U.S. and all around the world in September of 2020. We had young people join us from India, the Philippines, Lebanon, and Spain, to name only a few locations.
In August of 2020, I launched an experiential learning applied theatre company along with my thesis partners, David Melchionne-Martinez and Colleen Horan with the aim of bringing applied theatre into adult education. Through a variety of theatrical techniques we practice problem-solving, critical thinking, observation and questioning skills, and explore professional ethics. Our framework supports students in interrogating and reflecting on their learning, culture, identity, power dynamics, and more in relation to their future profession.
Workshop at The Ackerman Institute for the Family
Interactive Workshop on a Systemic Approach for Family Therapists
On November 18th, 2019 along with my father, Dr. Ken Silvestri, I created and facilitated a 5-hour workshop for family therapists called 'Revisiting Systemic Thinking.' Together, we explored what it means to work with a systemic mind-set.
Master in Applied Theatre Thesis
My thesis team created and implemented the experiential learning component of the human development class in a community college occupational therapy assistant program. My individual thesis paper asked the question, how might applied theatre offer occupational therapy assistant community college students space and support to practice and reflect critically upon their emerging professional identities?
Applied Theatre in Rwanda
As part of my graduate studies, we traveled to the University of Rwanda where we shared theatre activities with student-teachers and explored how the techniques could be used in classrooms.
Presenting at the Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference
In 2018, my team of fellow facilitators presented our original forum theatre piece, first created to share with students at the University of Rwanda. The piece centered on the experience of the character of a domestic helper. Forum theatre is an Augusto Boal technique used in Theatre of the Oppressed.
Along with my team of fellow actor-educators, we created an original Spanish-English interactive theatre piece for kindergarten students in Brooklyn. Centered around their curriculum topic of the life cycle of butterflies, the piece explored the impact of littering on our environment.
Along with my fellow actor-educators, we created an original forum theatre piece entitled Marie's Crisis that looked at the social justice issues faced by a domestic worker.
Index cards from participants of an original process drama. The cards addressed the question, what are you willing to take a stand for?