Theater in the classroom makes education fun

AUSTIN, Texas—Members of Creative Arts Team (CAT), an innovative theater company from New York City, will be in residence at The University of Texas at Austin's department of theater and dance Feb. 25-March 1 to create a new curriculum-based theater program with UT students and AISD elementary teachers.

As the oldest and largest company in the United States that specializes in providing interactive theater-in-education programming in school classrooms, CAT members will share their techniques for training performers to work as "actor/teachers." The collaboration between CAT and UT will result in the creation of a new theater-in-education program that will include several UT graduate students. These students will perform with CAT as they test the new program with fifth grade students at Zilker Elementary School on March 1.

The UT students also will travel to New York City in April and continue to tour with the program at several New York schools. "We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with the top professionals in this field," said Dr. Sharon Grady, a UT assistant professor who specializes in the theory and practice of TIE. "Our students will have the chance to learn from the best." TIE is a relatively young art form that originated in England in the 1960's when several theater companies were experimenting with interactive approaches that combined young people's theater, improvisational drama and pedagogy.

A guiding principle for TIE work is the belief that theatrical practice is not an end in itself, but rather a means of engaging student audiences in active critical learning. Performed in classrooms or school auditoriums, TIE programs are specifically designed for particular age groups according to educational needs and goals determined in collaboration with on-site teachers.

The first phase of the UT/CAT collaboration featured a campus visit by CAT's elementary team program director, Christopher Lyboldt, who conducted a demonstration TIE workshop with UT students and Austin area elementary teachers last November. An advisory team of teachers from Zilker and Metz Elementary schools worked with Lyboldt and Grady to determine crucial curricular and educational issues affecting students today.

During the second phase of the work, Lyboldt and two actor/teachers from CAT will work with a group of graduate and undergraduate students from Grady's TIE course and students from Zilker Elementary School. For more information, contact Grady at 471-5793.