By MC Bell | firstname.lastname@example.org
A successful show full of lights, qualified actors and an entertaining script can be enough for some directors.
For others, like senior theater and psychology major, Rylee Kuberra, applied theater means more than simply entertaining the audience – it’s about being a catalyst for change in the community and offering a different way of looking at social issues and politics through theater.
“Applied theatre is using theatre techniques and practices in non-traditional settings where theatre isn’t normally present,” Kuberra said
She said applied theatre is used in places like prisons, shelters and schools without art programs. Her goal is to either own and operate her own theater or teach children.
Her love for applied theater started in high school while auditioning for the musical, “Hairspray.”
“I didn’t start thinking about how impactful theater could be until I was in ‘Hairspray,’” she said. “My art teacher organized these speakers that would come in and do workshops so instead of rehearsing, we were learning. We were learning about the Civil Rights Movement, and how it’s still affecting us today.”
Kuberra said the workshops aided in finding her passion, but she did not know how to turn her ideas into reality.
It wasn’t until she attended a conference at the Juilliard School of Performing Arts in June 2016, where she learned about applied theater.
“I learned about applied theatre being a catalyst to create change in communities because it offers a different lens to view things such as politics and social change,” she said.
Her discovery of applied theater gives her the motivation to pursue and truly love what she does.
“Through the fault, through the bad, through the good, you keep going,” Kuberra said. “You keep going, and you can see and recognize what it is that you love, then it doesn’t matter what gets in the way because you just keep going at it. That’s how I have always felt about theater.”
Kuberra participates in a theater activist group called Artists Striving to End Poverty.
ASTEP was founded by Broadway Musical Director Mary Mitchell Campbell and Juilliard students who look to use their artistic talents to end poverty.
Kuberra said art gives children and adults a choice of freedom in what they do artistically. Applied theatre can pull people out of situations that are out of their control such as homelessness, or an unhealthy home life.
“It gives them a new perspective to their situation,” she said.
She said ASTEP focuses on reimplementing art programs in organizations and schools that have cut them from their curriculum.
Kuberra not only actively participates in ASTEP, but also spreads her love for applied theater teaching children through Limelight Theatre in St. Augustine, Florida.
Limelight Theatre offers shows year round as well as offers theater education to young children and adults.
Kuberra said Limelight Theatre allows her to teach young children through workshops that present them with problem-solving skills. Along with teaching workshops, she also directs plays such as “Junie B. Jones the Musical.”
Kuberra said that to her cast performing the play, they were simply childhood stories, but they held a more relevant meaning for kids watching.
“Those little stories actually have meanings in them,” Kuberra said. “They’re going to be learning something from it.”
Kuberra also teaches workshops to kids at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. The purpose of the workshops is to teach special awareness and the basics of theater.
Kuberra said working with blind students was a wake-up call. She had never worked with students who did not have physical access to their senses and had to approach teaching in a new way.
“These kindergarteners have never seen these activities done because you and I learned how to mow the lawn by watching our parents,” Kuberra said. “At the end of the day they could all leave the classroom knowing they did something. For me, that was the most rewarding thing.”
The unconditional love she has for applied theater translates into her future plans after college. Kuberra said getting a degree is not about the money and believes it does not lead to happiness.
“I am going to be rich in love for my job and that’s enough for me. I would not like to look back at my college years and think that I wasted so much money doing something that I hated,” Kuberra said. “I would rather take a job in theater and be happy with what I was doing than be miserable behind a desk. I’d rather impact people. I couldn’t do that without this outlet.”
Kuberra said people are all trying to change or impact something in their lives and that comes from the people they surround themselves with.
“I’m not going to remember the nights where I drank myself silly,” she said. “I am going to remember the nights where I sat with my friends and dreamed.”