When James T. Spencer, director of the Syracuse University Brass Ensemble (SUBE), turned to accept the applause at the 2018 Great American Brass Band Festival (GABBF) in Danville, Kentucky, he joked to himself, “Now what do we do for an…
Syracuse Stage Announces New Director of Community Engagement and Education
Joann Maria Yarrow has been appointed to the newly created position of director of community engagement and education at Syracuse Stage. Yarrow is scheduled to begin shortly before the start of the 2018/2019 season.
With more than 30 years’ experience as a director and producer, Yarrow most recently served as the executive artistic director of Teatro Prometeo in Miami, the only Spanish language theater conservatory in the country. She has also produced and hosted the International Hispanic Theatre Festival of Miami and Play Time! An International Theatre Festival for Children. She spent three years working with Harold Prince on the Broadway productions of “Parade,” “Whistle down the Wind,” “Candide,” “Show Boat,” “Kiss of the Spiderwoman” and “Phantom of the Opera.”
“Jill Anderson (managing director) and I are thrilled that Joann Yarrow has accepted our newly created position of director of community engagement and education,” says Stage Artistic Director Bob Hupp. “Joann is doing exciting work in Miami with her company Teatro Prometeo. We know Joann will bring dynamic ideas to Syracuse Stage as we expand educational opportunities and seek to engage more people in the life of our theater.”
Yarrow joins Syracuse Stage at a time when the theater’s education programs are serving more students than ever. Her appointment to this newly created position is part of a strategic initiative that includes promoting Kate Laissle, formerly assistant director of education, to associate director of education.
“The new position is the centerpiece of a restructuring of our community outreach activities,” Hupp explains. “Emerging as a priority of Stage’s yearlong strategic planning initiative, the theater is committed to making its work accessible to citizens of all ages and backgrounds. The work is about expanding our audience base, taking the work beyond our home on East Genesee Street, and learning how we can make our community a better place to call home.”
Stage has already begun to explore and implement such outreach initiatives. Last month, students from Indian River High School in Jefferson County, close to Fort Drum, home of the 10th Mountain Division, presented an original performance piece devised by the students under the guidance of Syracuse Stage teaching artists. The project, B.R.A.T. (Born, Raised and Trained), explored the complexity and reality of the students’ lives. The average class at Indian River comprises 30 percent local students and 70 percent children of veterans and active duty military personnel. Performances took place at Indian River High and Syracuse Stage and were live-streamed to reach deployed family members of the students.
Currently, Syracuse Stage’s educational offerings serve upwards of 20,000 area students each year. With special morning matinee performances of main-stage plays, an educational touring program for elementary schools, an in-class program for middle schools, playwriting contests, plus a Young Adult Council and more, Stage maintains a variety of ways for students to explore the art of theater and to develop their own talents and interests.
In the 17/18 season, more than 9,000 students attended special matinees, while 8,000 saw performances of the children’s tour “Metamorphan” and more than 3,000 saw the middle school “Backstory!” program presentations of “Anne Frank: My Secret Life” and “Airborn.” More than 300 students contributed original scripts to the annual Young Playwrights Festival.
The popularity and success of these programs gives Yarrow a firm foundation on which to build and expand Stage’s community and educational outreach.
“I’m really excited about coming to Syracuse because the community is so rich and so diverse,” Yarrow says. “The ground is so fertile, and people are very excited about what can happen here. There are amazing people in Syracuse.”
Yarrow has extensive experience in community engagement as well as education. Currently, she produces and directs the ARTrepreneur Program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a collaboration with ArtServe that offers young artists business and marketing tools. She also created the Miami Hispanic Showcase, a networking event for bilingual performers to meet agents and casting directors. She has created programming for the Miami Book Fair International for 10 seasons and through her company Distinctive Voices works with entrepreneurs on creativity and team building.
Syracuse Stage begins the 18/19 season on Sept. 12 with the rollicking backstage farce “Noises Off.” The season continues with the world premiere of “Possessing Harriet” by Syracuse Stage Associate Artistic Director Kyle Bass, “Elf the Musical” in a co-production with the Syracuse University Department of Drama, “Native Gardens,” “Pride and Prejudice” and “The Humans.” There are 10:30 a.m. student matinees scheduled for each production.
The Bank of America Children’s Tour to elementary schools begins performances Sept. 13 and performs Tuesdays and Thursdays through Dec. 13. This season’s production is “Miss Electricity” by Kathryn Walat. Already, 16 schools have booked “Miss Electricity” for the fall.