https://firstonlinewithfran.com/2011/07/08/12/

Current News! Meeting Eve Ensler.


Real Women Talk About Real Sex billed as an animated panel discussion about women and sex  at the 92nd St. Y was anything but and sorely lacking in substance; fortunately, Eve  Ensler cooked up the conversation (are we surprised?!) with her sex-for-all comments countered with candid polar perspectives by Ann Roiphe. Erica Jung whose Fear of Flying permanently boosted the feminist movement in the 70s provided the guiding questions that focused on sexual cultural trends and how many have them have become “passé for the younger generation.”  (The New York Times Sunday, July 19, 2011).
Lauren Balabin (Marketing & Promotions Coordinator at Stand Up NY and Assistant Director of The Vagina Monologues at The Triad Theater), and I got to chat with Ensler and took a picture to capture the moment.  She was very excited to meet us and urged us to not stop the momentum! As IF…

Current News! Long Island Hair Salon Show.

30 at Four A Hair Salon Contest  was held at this hip Manhattan-style club at Four Food Studio in Melville, Huntington.  Thirty salons from Nassau and Suffolk competed for first, second, and third place prizes and trophies The music was hot, the display of hairstyles ranged from Alexander McQueen inspirations to Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter hats of hair! Excellence Hair Salon’s  3 minute show was simple, yet sublime: it was about authenticity (what else??).

Classroom Teaching Experience: K‐12

I knew from the very start that theater would be an integral part of my life. Growing up among 10 brothers and sisters, a “typical” Italian family as far as I was concerned, it was that environment that instilled a love of music and the arts; in fact, after Sunday dinner, we would perform a talent show replete with lip syncs to Lou Monte’s Yakkity Yak, an interview stint with our Doberman pincer, Rex dressed in gym shorts, my ballet rendition, and a trio of sisters singing to The Fleetwoods’ Come Softly. Thus began my journey to evolve as an artist and educator, with my mantra echoing the Spice Girls’ Wannabe lyrics:

You know what I want, what I really, really want….

After being told the harsh reality by my undergraduate mentor/advisor at SUNY Oneonta, Professor Frank O’Mara that I would NOT get a job in Theater Education when I graduated in 1973, my desire to pursue a career path as an English and Theater teacher remained steadfast. It was my fervent belief that theater education would alter the scope of the K-12 classroom and change the face of education; it was my calling to contribute to the field. There were no teaching jobs. Thanks to my sister Aurelia’s influence, she got me my first job at St. Philip Neri School teaching 4th and 5th grade Science. My theater training background provided the skills to devise hands-on lessons. I had 13 preps, including a Music enrichment class, and learned how to organize and manage 38 children. Mistakes were made, and I barely survived; however, Principal Sr. Paul Francis saw something special in me and encouraged me to experiment and utilize my skills as well as direct my first after-school drama club production of Aurand Harris’ Androcles and the Lion

The rest is history, as they say. I went on to teach High School English Lit and Drama at St. John the Baptist School moving on to the school I graduated from, the Northport-East Northport School district. My former English teacher, Carl Stephens, who took pleasure in my enthusiasm for classroom teaching, hired me as a 7th and 8th grade English teacher. I wanted to do for students what was done for me: to delight in learning. I eventually was transferred to the high school where I developed with a team of staff members from the Art, Music, and Home Economics departments a theater arts program. The unifying theme of the curriculum was the process of production. In Theatreworks, the introductory course, students used children’s theater as the vehicle for learning the fundamentals of play production. Theatreworks used an inter-disciplinary approach to learning theater. In addition to developing acting skills, students learned directing, costuming, designing, set design and construction, application of character make-up and producing. Every student was thoroughly involved with every phase of the production. The culmination of these learning experiences was the production of a children’s play. The play was performed at Northport High School for visiting district elementary students, at Northport Public library for patrons and their families, and at the annual Art and Music Festival held in the Northport Community Park.

Having learned the basics of production in Theatreworks, students advanced to Theatreworks Troupe where students applied their production skills to a full season of plays. Unlike an after-school drama club, Theatreworks Troupe students had the opportunity to increase their understanding of theater arts with each play. They learned to function as an ensemble, to appreciate the importance of production-related tasks, and how the contributions of each student resulted in a successful collaborative effort. Each year had a particular focus; for example, in 1993 the theme was “Breaking Traditions” with the season including plays from Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour and a selection of winning plays from the 1993 Young Playwrights Festival (see College teaching). The plays were performed in The Little Theater and high school and community audiences were invited to attend. Both courses were under the aegis of the English department, encouraging the English department staff to cover the dramatic selections in their classes.

In 1993 I was selected by The American Alliance for Theatre & Education (AATE) as the John C. Barner Teacher of the Year award. It was time to consider where I would go from here.

College Teaching Experience

I knew from the very start that theater would be an integral part of my life. Growing up among 10 brothers and sisters, a “typical” Italian family as far as I was concerned, it was that environment that instilled a love of music and the arts; in fact, after Sunday dinner, we would perform a talent show replete with lip syncs to Lou Monte’s Yakkity Yak, an interview stint with our Doberman pincer, Rex dressed in gym shorts, my ballet rendition, and a trio of sisters singing to The Fleetwoods’ Come Softly. Thus began my journey to evolve as an artist and educator, with my mantra echoing the Spice Girls’ Wannabe lyrics:
You know what I want, what I really, really want….
I wanted to teach at the college level. That meant pursuing a Ph.D. degree at New York University’s Program in Educational Theater. This was a major turning point for me as an artist and educator. As an English teacher I felt that writing should be fun and not some onerous task; in addition, I wanted to close the Troupe season with plays written by young playwrights. Professor Lowell Swortzell, my advisor, recommended I contact Young Playwrights Inc. Founded by Stephen Sondheim in 1981 as the only professional theater devoted solely to the work of writers aged 18 or younger, Young Playwrights Inc. introduces young people to the theater and encourages their self-expression through the art of playwriting. One of their mission statements is to promote the arts in basic education by facilitating the integration of playwriting into the curriculum. After attending one of their Festivals, I knew that this would be the study of my doctoral research: A History of the Young Playwrights Festival: the first decade (1981 – 1991). The research provided a descriptive overview of the first ten years, its Festival, workshops, teacher training institutes, and staged reading programs. In a 1988 study by Lawrence O’Farrell Teaching the Playwrights Art professional playwrights recommended how playwriting should effectively be taught and how the process of teaching playwriting could be evaluated. These recommendations describe an ideal approach to the teaching of playwriting to determine the effectiveness of the process established by Young Playwrights Inc. to introduce young people to the playwright’s art and to give insight into how their programs help to achieve its stated mission, to nurture the future of American theatre. I earned my Doctor of Philosophy degree in 2001.
I thoroughly enjoyed teaching at the college level as an adjunct professor. At Nassau Community College I was assigned the Composition course that had a diverse population ranging from anxious women returning to the workforce to young people who partied too much at school and needed to get their lives back on track. Utilizing the Young Playwrights Inc. Write A Play! Curriculum Guide as a resource, I was able to allay many of their fears about writing as well as challenge those students whose skills were proficient. I used these same resources to supervise student teachers at NYU’s Program in Educational Theater and at the Department of Theatre at CUNY/Brooklyn College’s Educational Theater Initiative as part of their Drama Across the Curriculum course. I attended national conferences presenting workshops and networking across the fields of arts education.
I decided to move forward and pursue work with arts-in-education organizations to further my mission to promote educational theater practices among teachers, students, and the community. (See ‘Professional Development’ page).