Posts Tagged ‘University of Southern Maine’


Learning and Leading Conference

April 1, 2019

Southern Maine Partnership

4th annual Assessment for Learning & Leading Conference 2019: Brain-Based Strategies to Cultivate Positive Learning Environments. May 6-7, 2019, Abromson Hall, USM, Portland. REGISTRATION!


The Arts and USM

August 10, 2018

In today’s news

Rendering by Scott Simons Architects

The University of Southern Maine announced Wednesday that an anonymous donor has contributed $1 million toward its new Center for the Arts project which will be located on the Portland campus.

The Center for the Arts will feature a 1,000-seat concert hall – about half the size of Portland’s Merrill Auditorium – as well as a recital hall, black box theater performance and an art gallery.

READ MORE in the Press Herald.


MALI Teaching Artist Leader Story: Dana Legawiec

April 3, 2018

Teaching Artist – actor, theatre maker

This is one of several blog posts in 2018 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 7 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 93 Teacher Leaders and 8 Teaching Artist Leaders.  CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE  for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories.  Thank you Dana for sharing your story! You can find Dana’s teaching artist profile on the Maine Arts Commission roster

Dana Wieluns Legawiec (‘Wheel-ins’ ‘Luh-GAHV-yetz’) is an actor, theatre maker and arts educator who specializes in Physical Theatre. Dana teaches Stage Movement with the Department of Theatre at the University of Southern Maine, and works as a teaching artist in local schools. She’s been teaching just about as long as she’s been making theatre, leading physical training for her professional theatre ensemble – so for about 25 years – but she’s been working more consistently in elementary and secondary schools for the last eight years. Every age group brings its specific challenges, discoveries and delights. Dana is currently inspired by the creativity, energy and fearlessness of elementary school kids.

What do you like best about being a teaching artist?

I love dropping into a new community, becoming a sponge to the energy and dynamics in the room, and assessing and meeting the needs of the group and individuals—drawing out the stories they need to tell, the way they want to reimagine themselves and their worlds, the bodies they want to animate.  The promise of transformation has drawn me and kept me working in the theatre, and I strive to create that potential for students.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

Dana in the back coaching high school acting interns for the Camden Shakespeare Festival’s 2015 production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.

Hmmm. I’ve returned to school myself (pursuing an M.Ed. in Arts in Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education) to ponder this very question…I’ll have to get back to you when I’ve landed on a definitive answer!  Eric Booth says “80% of what we teach is who we are;” giving kids access to artists who are actively engaged in the arts-making process, who are living an artist’s life first and foremost, has value.  I believe the process IS the product; that the process centers on posing challenging questions rather than finding right answers.  I also believe in the power of collaboration and ensemble, and that arts education should provide opportunities for kids to work together and lead in every possible permutation.  I am a fan of David Perkin’s theory of learning as “playing the whole game:” programs that allow kids to tackle big, ambitious projects with lots of moving parts have enormous potential for realizing ‘the impossible’ and making learning whole. Theatre affords the opportunity to play ‘the whole game’ of human experience.  OK, I guess that’s four things 😊.

Have you found assessment to be helpful in your classes, workshops and residencies, and if so, how?

In my experience and context, I have not yet been exposed to much in the way of formal assessment. But I have experienced the necessity for clear communication between stakeholders to align the values and purposes between those in the room (kids, teachers, teaching artists) and outside the room (administrators, funders, parents, school board, community).

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

Definitely the people! This can be lonely work. It’s very buoying to meet others who are in the same space. It’s also inspiring to meet teachers who are artists themselves, who’ve found ways to integrate their art and teaching practices within the school setting. MALI provides a ton of resources and a robust network of support.

What are you most proud of as an artist and/or a teaching artist?

Honestly, to still be working in the space as a theatre artist. When we moved to rural Maine eight years ago from Los Angeles, I had the fantasy of rehearsing in a big empty barn, putting on shows in the local town hall, weaving together day-to-day life with creative work based in community.  Well, it isn’t always pretty or easy, but I like to think I’m ‘living the dream’ every day.

Dana at the MALI Summer Institute

I’m proud of my work toward establishing an extracurricular theatre program at my kids’ elementary school, Bowdoinham Community School, but this has truly been a group labor of love. The school’s principal, Chris Lajoie, created the initiative, bringing together a core group of dedicated parent-volunteers to spearhead the project. This is our third consecutive year putting on a school play. This year it’s a lean-and-mean adaptation (with a cast of 43) of Shakespeare’s rollicking comedy that we’re calling A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DANCE PARTY. Public performances are Saturday, April 7th at 3pm and 6pm.  Come one, come all!

I dream of the day when theatre will be fully integrated into the elementary school curriculum.

What gets in the way of doing a better job as a teaching artist?

Midsummer Night with participants

The same constraints that apply to any artistic endeavor (and possibly educational endeavors as well): time, space and energy. I do think confronting these challenges offers its own rewards: We don’t need a big fancy theater, expensive costumes or a ton of time to make great art. By the same token, I impress upon kids that their creative expression, exploration and play has value, is worth my time and energy. I hope that by modeling this behavior, I’m investing in the creative capital of the community. Ultimately, we need a cultural shift where the arts and arts education no longer have to scrape for dollars, minutes and respect. 

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

I’m fond of the expression “you make your own luck.”  I believe in intentionality; I believe that art only happens because one or more passionate, committed, brave and vulnerable people work tirelessly to make it happen. I hew to this message, because I want to challenge and empower young artists to mobilize.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a teaching artist or is just starting out?

Do your practice. Be flexible. Breathe. Teaching, learning, and art-making are two-way streets – prepare to learn at least as much from your students as you will share. And do share! Be generous with your knowledge, be transparent with your experiences, offer insights not usually gleaned from a classroom.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

Dana clowning around

So glad you asked, because in my secret, other life, I’m a fantasy grant-maker. I’d create an incubator for arts and wellness initiatives in rural Maine. Maybe I’d open a community arts center. I wouldn’t reinvent the wheel, though, so I might funnel those funds right back into other arts and social service organizations that are doing great work. I’d shop local.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

No, no regrets.  Nothing but gratitude.


Who Are They? Portland Stage – Part 3

October 11, 2017


Portland Stage, located in Portland, Maine, offers vital theater arts education to learners ages 4-18 through our In-Theater and In-School programming. All classes and workshops are taught by professionally trained Teaching Artists and focus on literacy, cultural awareness, collaborative play, and creative thinking. Our teaching philosophy highlights process over product, deepening students’ ability to analyze, synthesize, and think critically while making connections to the thoughts and ideas behind the written word. This is one of a series of 6 blog posts outlining who we are and what we do, brought to you by Hannah Cordes, Education Manager, and Julianne Shea, Education Administrator. These posts will appear September 27 through November 1, 2017, on Wednesday’s.

Education Artists Bess Welden and Julia Fitzgerald at a Play in Schools dramatic reading Photo by Aaron Flacke

Portland Stage’s PLAY in Schools program brings children’s books to life through a school-wide dramatic reading, followed by interactive classroom workshops. The goal of PLAY is to connect theater with literacy by making literature performative and encouraging character recall, understanding of themes, emotional recognition, physical storytelling, and vocal characterization. We actively engage students in small groups/workshops using their bodies, voices, and imaginations to build understanding of the text while bringing the stories and characters to life.

Each school-wide dramatic reading includes three picture books and two poems centered on a theme. These themes range from Choosing Kindness to Made in Maine. It is exciting to explore books that young people know well and to introduce them to new stories. During the 2016-2017 season, we included Chris Van Dusen’s The Circus Ship. Each time we announced the title of this book at the all-school assemblies, the room would erupt in cheers. Beverly Coursey, the principal at Ocean Avenue Elementary School, said it was like when Billy Joel announces that he will be performing “Piano Man”! There is nothing quite like listening to a room full of elementary school students laugh at a particularly funny story or moment! It is a privilege to witness this reaction to so many engaging stories. We ask each audience to pay attention to the three actor tools (Portland Stage defines these three tools as body, voice, and imagination) that will be used during the reading. That way when the students enter the workshop, they are prepared and empowered to explore their own actor tools to bring the story alive in their own way.

We then give students the chance to dive further into these works during workshops with our professional teaching artists. We are delighted by students’ thoughts and creations as they explore their actor tools through the texts and characters. On our third and final visit of the year to one classroom, the students were invited to write their own versions of Holly Meade’s If I Never Forever Endeavor. After a year of exploring their actor tools with Portland Stage Teaching Artists, the students wrote this poem:

“If I never endeavor to perform, I won’t get to try and be brave.
If I did endeavor to perform, I could play with my voice, my body, and my imagination!”

Nathan Pike from Ocean Avenue Elementary stated that his students’ “creativity, physical movement, and imagination” when engaging with stories “has dramatically improved since participation in the PLAY workshops. Portland Stage has become a vital component to the culture and learning of our students.”

Education Manager Hannah Cordes in a Play in Schools Workshop Photo by Aaron Flacke

Theatrically exploring text can help students find a new way in to reading. Alec Lapidus, PhD, and Heba Ahmed from the Literacy, Language, and Culture Program at University of Southern Maine produced a report on the PLAY program titled Multiliteracies in Maine: The Play Me a Story Program. They state that “PLAY caters to a wide array of learning styles and linguistic backgrounds, offering a variety of ways to interact with content, explore new ideas and concepts, and create meaningful output…As the learners use their body, voice, and imagination to observe, analyze, interpret, and express thoughts on the world around them, they become able to go beyond passively absorbing information provided to them…This multiliteracy approach is clearly indicative of the program’s awareness of the changing linguistic and sociocultural landscape not only in Maine, but also in the United States in general.” It is powerful to create a space were students can get excited about text in a new way. We hear feedback from teachers that reinforces the idea that for many students PLAY has opened a door for them. A 4th grade teacher shared with us, “This student struggles to remember letters, sight words, and other information. With the PLAY program, he could remember EVERY word and act out the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I know now how to teach letters, sound, math, sight vocabulary, etc. To this student!”

We are continually grateful to be able to bring theater to elementary school students through this program. Witnessing students get excited about literature, see professional actors fearlessly use their bodies, voices, and imaginations, and explore their own actor tools during the workshop is a joyful experience.

Interested in learning more about this program? Email or call 207-774-1043 ext. 104

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