Playwriting in the Big Apple
Drew alums enter selective teaching program.
November 2017 – Three graduates of Drew University’s theatre arts program earned entrance into a selective teacher-training conservatory at Tectonic Theater Project, an award-winning play production company in Manhattan.
Philipe Abiyouness, Victoria Detres and Billie Krishawn are being trained at Tectonic’s new Moment Work Institute. Abiyouness and Detres graduated in May, and Krishawn, in 2014.
Tectonic is known for innovative works on societal issues, such as The Laramie Project, which depicts the aftermath of a homophobic hate crime, and its current production, Uncommon Sense, which explores living with autism. In particular, Tectonic pioneered Moment Work—a technique by which productions are created by writers, actors, producers and technical specialists working together from the outset.
Between 2016 and 2017, Tectonic professionals helped Drew students—including Abiyouness and Detres—create and stage a modern adaptation of Franz Kafka’s short story, The Metamorphosis.
Tectonic’s model complements the interdisciplinary nature of Drew’s theatre program, according to the graduates. “What I liked about Drew is that I wasn’t forced to take just one path,” said Detres. “I’m an actress who can use a power saw. Why limit myself?”
Abiyouness agreed, adding, “We’re equipped with the tools to be theatre-makers rather than just play one role.”
Krishawn, now an actor and teacher/artist at The Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington D.C., discovered the idea of being a teaching artist at Drew. “It changed my life,” she said.
More than 80 individuals applied for 20 spots in Tectonic’s inaugural training program, according to Director of Education Laurie Latham. After training, participants must pass a written test and do well on a teaching demonstration to become certified to mentor and teach moment work in schools, organizations and communities across the country.
This year Drew’s Department of Theatre and Dance expanded its work with Tectonic, offering a Semester on New York Theatre, co-led by professors Chris Ceraso and Lisa Brenner. Sixteen students are currently working with company mentors to craft and perform in an original ensemble piece on the curated self, according to Brenner. The play will be staged on March 8, 9 and 10 at the American Theatre of Actors on West 54th Street in New York and then be performed on campus March 15, 16 and 17.
Drew’s relationship with Tectonic extends beyond the New York semester, however. Three students have interned at Tectonic and company professionals Barbara Pitts McAdams and Meyung Kim teach on campus. “What’s really exciting about this is the professional connections,” said Brenner. “It’s a real gift!”