Community engagement is an intrinsic part of the performing arts at Ohio State. In addition to presenting live theatre and film screenings to the public, the Department of Theatre, Film, and Media Arts has a long history of engaging with the community through various programs that are embedded within the department's curriculum.
For more than twenty years the department has brought live theatre to area schools with an Ohio State Theatre School Tour. In the first decade, the tour featured plays addressing socially relevant themes for younger audiences. In the second decade, after a partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the department began touring adaptations of plays by William Shakespeare.
Students enroll in THEATRE 4921S: Performance Studies in Outreach Theatre, where they rehearse for the first half of autumn semester before taking the production on the road for the remainder of the term.
After a covid-induced hiatus, the department is reviving the School Tour in Autumn 2023 with a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Shakespeare and Autism
THEATRE 5922S: Shakespeare and Autism is an ensemble-based interdisciplinary service-learning course where students are trained in the Hunter Heartbeat Method intervention. After the initial training, students in the class facilitate interactive workshops with children on the autism spectrum.
The course is an integral element of the Shakespeare and Autism Project, an ongoing research-supported civic engagement effort that began with a groundbreaking, internationally recognized collaboration between the department and the Wexner Medical Center's Nisonger Center. From 2012 to 2014, teams of trained students and instructors played Shakespeare drama games with children on the spectrum, and researchers at the Nisonger Center administered tests to generate data and determine the work's effectiveness. The resulting findings solidified the Hunter Heartbeat Method as an effective intervention for strengthening social and communicative skills in children with autism.
The InterACT Theatre Project for Social Change began as a collaborative project between the Department of Theatre and the University Center for the Advancement of Teaching (now the Michael V. Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning).
Each semester, students enrolled in THEATRE 3921S: Creation of Outreach Theatre research a socially relevant subject or a topic facing students and educators in universities and create a short performance using collaborative and improvisational devising techniques. When performing the piece, audience members are invited to engage with the actors (in character).
Topics addressed by InterACT have included prescription drug abuse, food insecurity among college students, diversity in classroom and clinical settings, and environmental justice.
Students and Chadwick Arboretum Volunteers planted native pollinators at the 4H Club grounds on Earth Day 2023.
Graduate Acting Outreach and Engagement Project
The Outreach and Engagement Project is an opportunity for students to investigate ensemble-devised new work creation through collaboration with community partners. The project may also be viewed as service-learning: a form of experiential education characterized by student participation in an organized service activity that is connected to specific learning objectives; meets identifiable community needs; and provides structured time for student reflection on the relationship between the outreach and their development as artists in the MFA program. The Outreach and Engagement Project is designed to culminate in a fully realized performance, complete with student performers, directors, designers, and dramaturgs.
Past partners have included Maryhaven Treatment Center, Veterans Affairs, Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS), the Nisonger Center for Autism, and Columbus City Schools.
Our next project will center on the symbiotic relationship between humans and animals. In other words: People Saving Animals/Animals Saving People. We’ll be working with diverse partners from The Ohio Prison Dog Coalition to local service animal organizations and from Search and Rescue to neighborhood veterinarians. The project will begin in January of 2024 and perform in Spring of 2025.
This project is part of the graduate acting curriculum where they enroll in THEATRE 8921.
Past productions are noted in the department's production history as being a devised work written and performed by the MFA class.