On Breaking the 4th Wall: Education Program, Spring 2017

| May 23, 2017

The_Cherry_Orchard_MAT

The fourth wall in theater or film is the one that separates the actors or characters from us. Actors in modern realistic theater ignore the audience, focusing their attention solely on the dramatic world. Disengaged from the audience, they are, for all intensive purposes, “alone” in a public setting — but perhaps for the conceptual space they invite through our shared connections to universal human truths. Conversely, the fourth wall is broken when an actor or character steps out and talks to us, or when we, the audience, play a role, such as a witness or character, in the dramatic setting. This creative technique reminds us that we are both a part of the audience, and also the larger human experience.

Do you know that our talks address some important themes? blue-talk-bubble
Michel Alhadeff-Jones speaks on emancipatory education — learning and teaching free from constraints of time and space; Rick Hess, on education reform; Myra Strober, from the heart, as a woman and mother in the Academy; Bill Gaudelli on global citizenship education, complete with a childhood story about the Big Blue Marble; Joseph Mathews, first-hand on The Dropout; and Jeff Kelly Lowenstein and Juan Castellanos on truth and social justice in Chile through writing, art, and curriculum. Guest speakers feature Ted Dimon, with another season’s launch of Neurodynamic Lunch hour; Bob Fecho on the power of story to create a more reflective stance on the classroom; and NYC councilwoman Helen Rosenthal on human rights and advocacy, with relevance to the work of the Center for African Education. Film talks center on award-winning educational documentaries: 180 Days to Hartsville, Anatomy of a Snow Day, and Adelante.

The Everett Cafe is a constant hub. Book displays align with student interests and college events: Black: Children’s Authors, Children’s Books, curated by Ilya Washington, and Celebrating Voices: International Poetry, with input from the TC community. In support, we create a Rhizr, Want to Curate? Magical Book Displays. Special news displays start with the Iran Hostage Crisis and finish up with Brown versus Board of Education. Today in History highlights Robert Burns, Groundhog Day, Daylight Savings, St Valentine, Gulf War, Peace Corps, Georgia O’Keeffe, Uranus, Black DeathVietnam, William Wordsworth, Titanic, Great San Francisco Earthquake, Library of Congress, May Day, and the Dust Storm of 1934 – mini social studies lessons via the lens of historical newspapers. Live musical performances feature a variety of styles and genres. Performers include Linda Flores; Noah Teachey, Melissa Shetler, Wadsworth Strings, Kambujo, Nakami, and Ann Teed.

Instructional offerings attune to student needs: library tours, workshops on topics of continuing relevance (research navigation, course reserves, educational apps, K-12 primary sources, alumni services, Abby) and sessions held by TC student and edutainer Joseph Mathews (Engaging the Disengaged Student), and faculty in Arts and Humanities (Career Development Program and Interdisciplinary/Cultural Studies). Clapperboard2Monthly promotion of databases similarly relates to current events and college offerings by focusing on key research tools; citizenship education; government and education, National Poetry Month, and resources for Teaches College alumni. We promote Staff Picks, a rotating display of interesting and recommended books on broad educational themes — Green Card Stories, Earth Day, and Sea Creatures.

Jonathan Mandell of the American Theatre Critics Association, blogs on how immersive theatre breaks the bounds of the physical environment and defines itself with five core elements: use of the five senses; art installation as a hands-on museum; unique personal experience; social elements, including play; and storytelling. A step beyond the fourth wall, immersive theater can be applied to educational philosophy and practice by drawing upon these elements for inspiration. Just attend a performance or two of Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More, and you will be thinking about possible connections for months ahead; a production based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it capitalizes on the definition of immersive, by pushing it to the extreme and leaving you wondering.

So to apply the concept of immersion to library programing is to open up possibilities for the development of the Gottesman Libraries’ Education Program. Breaking the wall can mean a variety of new approaches to the way we host library-sponsored events — interactive players in a highly exploratory space that intentionally blurs the line between teacher-actor and student-audience. Everyone essentially is a player in the theater of learning, where experience is the story, and where experience is also enriched through narrative. How this all plays out waits to be told…

Sandcastle

One summer we venture along a nature trail on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic. The bleached beaches are full of shells, stones, boulders, and interesting pieces of driftwood — necessary materials. We find the shore and scavenge a lucky letter from the nearby reeds. It happens to be the letter “G”, whose color befits royalty, but associates with wisdom and creativity. Knowing the sea will sweep it all away, including the circular border, we see that it is the making that counts — for our work is a collective building up, met with a greater breaking down, and we are immersed in the rhythm of the tide.

Education Program Spring 2017 Offerings Attendees
Talks
   Book 6 187
   Guest 12 189
   Film 4 42
Instructional
   Tours 5 28
   Workshops 15 201
   Online Discussions 3 n/a
   Self Guided 4 n/a
Live Musical Performances 14 n/a
Displays & Exhibits
   Special News 20 n/a
   Regular News 80 n/a
   Book Collections 5 n/a
   Installations – Gallery 2 n/a
Total 170 647

 

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