Dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Associate Professor of Theatre
She received a B.S. in biology from Creighton University, a M.F.A. in theatre for youth from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is a trained Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner. She has taught numerous creative drama and theatre workshops in schools, prisons, community centers, and churches throughout the U.S. and in Nigeria and served as artistic director of UJIMA YOUTHEATRE for seven years. Her areas of interest include critical pedagogy and liberatory education, diversity and interculturalism in theatre for young audiences, integration of science and creative drama, multicultural children's literature, and African American theatre. In her spare time, Sowell directs and works as a professional storyteller.
In this course, we will explore various theories and practices that support collective group process, shared learning, and collaborative actions with the aim of creating more just and resilient communities. Through reading, discussion, reflective exercises, and intentional community engagement, we will seek answers to questions such as: How can we co-create a learning community that values each member as a teacher, learner and changemaker? How can facilitation support effective participatory group process? How can we cultivate critical connections, build resilient relationships, and strengthen communities so that we are better equipped to create the changes we envision? How do our positional identities impact our work? Which practices support collective reflection and accountability, and avoid replication of the systems and structures of oppression that we aim to dismantle? How can we develop nuanced and robust understandings and analyses of the challenges we face, so that we can create effective responses? What are our visions, values and ethical commitments, and how can we put these into practice?
Creative Interventions will deeply explore the intersections between global environmental change, sustainability, the arts, education, and social action. In particular, we will highlight the essential role that creativity and art-making plays in organizing, strategizing and initiating powerful and effective social change. Through creative thinking and expanding on one's artistic practice, students will learn powerful and productive ways to be agents of social change. In this course consideration of how social, economic, cultural, political, and ecological concerns relate to identity and positionality. This project-based course will include engagement in a cycle process of making, assigned readings, guest speakers, group discussion, and individual research. Students will be expected to expand upon their research and develop a project that focuses on art as the anchor in exploring the intersections between education and social change. This course offers a bridge to the fall Innovations for Change: Problem Solving for the Future and focuses on Art and Activism and is co-taught by professors of theatre, dance and art education. Friday labs will occur at various times throughout the semester.
Rooted in a practice of Paulo Freire's concept of praxis-"reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it," this course is comprised of three main segments: Research, skill building, and creative practice. We will begin the semester by researching practices of performance creation with children focusing on work intended to address social issues. Children's perspectives on their experiences as students in public education and as active participants in their communities will also be explored. Simultaneously, we will learn and practice strategies for directing/facilitating youth theatre with younger children (grades 1-3) -including applied theatre methods and techniques for devising original work such as theatre of the oppressed, performance poetry, storytelling, and creative drama. Finally, students will engage in an extensive community based learning experience working with groups of child artists in local elementary schools. The goal of this project is to affirm the child participants' positions as agents of change through the process of co-creating original performance pieces. Prerequisite: some prior work with children, education, theatre preferred.
This course focuses on strategies and techniques for teaching creative drama and theatre with young people in primary and secondary school settings including afterschool programming. Throughout the semester we will answer questions such as - What tools and skills are required to design and implement theatre curriculum? How is youth theatre implemented in schools? How can reader's theatre and oral interpretation of literature be utilized in classrooms? In addition, students in this course will focus on building their facilitation skills and establishing their teaching philosophy. The intersections of critical pedagogy and creative pedagogy will be central to this component of the course. Guest artist educators and community engaged learning experiences will provide practical examples of theatre education in action. Prerequisite: Some coursework in theatre and/or education.
Storytelling is an oral art form whose practice provides a means of preserving and transmitting images, ideas, motivations, and emotions. The practice of oral literature is storytelling. A central, unique aspect of storytelling is its reliance on the audience to develop specific visual imagery and detail to complete and co-create the story. The primary emphasis of this course is in developing storytelling skills through preparation, performance, and evaluation. Participants will engage in exercises and activities to enhance the delivery of telling stories; learn to incorporate various techniques to engage audiences; and develop an awareness of resources, materials, cultural contexts and philosophies of storytelling. This class is designed to help participants build a storytelling repertoire which will express their unique identities as tellers. Prerequisite: Some coursework in theatre and/or education.
This course is designed to introduce students to the ways in which children's literature has influenced and informed the field of child drama. We'll examine an array of children's literature with an emphasis on critical literacy and representations of childhood, family, ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class. We'll consider how creative drama strategies (story dramatization, theatre games, etc.) can serve as analytical tools to empower children to challenge dominant social and cultural storylines and to imaginatively deconstruct and reconstruct these narratives in conversation with their own stories. We will simultaneously engage with plays for young audiences that are adaptations of children's literature considering what (and whose) stories are staged and how do storytelling structures, motifs, and illustrations impact the crafting of a script? For the final project, students will work with child consultants to explore a piece of children's literature, adapt it into a play script, and create an accompanying study guide for educators.
What does it take to produce, book and tour a theatre for young audiences (TYA) production? The answers to this question will be explored while producing New Canadian Kid by Dennis Foon. The course will begin with researching TYA practices with a focus on touring. Next, students will serve as producers, actors, designers, publicity directors, company managers, education directors, stage managers, build and run crew, and creative drama workshop leaders for Seedling Productions (the TYA branch of Hampshire College Theatre). Finally, rehearsals, production meetings, creative drama workshop planning, as well as set, sound, costume and props construction will be followed by performances at Hampshire, and a tour to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and elementary schools in Springfield and Holyoke. The entire process will be informed by close collaboration with a group of child consultants. Prerequisite: Some theatre experience desirable.