Natalie Sowell, associate professor of theatre, specializes in theatre for young audiences, creative drama, storytelling, and theatre for social change.
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.
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 readers 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. Prerequisite: Some coursework in theatre and/or education.
Do you remember being read to as a child? Reading your first book out loud? How can the energy, excitement, and enthusiasm of telling tales, story dramatization, and ultimately reading aloud be harnessed, maintained and encouraged through theatre? The first step in the progression towards theatre is the child's natural tendency towards pretend play and storytelling. This class will examine reader's theatre as a way to engage children in the act and art of literacy. Students in this course will consider how arts integration, theatre education, and critical literacy methodologies that can enhance the storytelling process. We will then examine reader's theatre scripts and finally write and perform reader's theatre pieces with children at a local elementary school. Along the way, students will build upon their abilities to communicate stories theatrically. Prerequisite - some prior work with children, education, theatre preferred.
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.
Youth theatre, predictably, describes theatre for and by young people. Youth theatre at its best is a safe space in which young people explore issues and take risks while learning the art of theatre making. This youth theatre course is comprised of three main segments: Research, skill building, and creative practice. We will begin by researching local, national, and international youth theatre troupes with a focus on activism. Next we will learn and practice strategies for directing/facilitating youth theatre (including applied theatre methods and techniques for devising original work). Finally, students will engage in an extensive community based learning experience working with a group of youth artists co-creating an original performance piece. Prerequisite: Some experience working with youth is necessary.
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 Lily Plants a Garden by Jose Cruz Gonzalez. The play deals with issues of war, diversity, identity and difference, family and adoption, biological interdependence, and hope. The course will begin with researching touring practices of TYA companies(including marketing, booking, education components, management, and design elements). 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(with a focus on using recycled materials) will be followed by performances at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and several area schools. The entire process will be informed by close collaboration with a group of child consultants. Prerequisite: Some theatre experience desirable.
Associate Professor of Theatre
Mail Code HA
Emily Dickinson Hall 27
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002