Aesthetically Speaking: Lizzie McAdam

Please welcome Lizzie McAdam to the Stowaway team of travelers. Lizzie did a lot of theater in high school and college, has taught in the NYC public school system, and is currently getting a master’s in drama therapy at NYU. She’s a lovely and talented person, and here she shares with us a bit about what it’s like to combine an artistic format with a therapeutic goal. Thanks for sharing, Lizzie!

What is your name and city of residence?
My name is Lizzie McAdam, and I currently live in Brooklyn.

What medium do you work in?
I am currently working towards a Master’s degree in Drama Therapy at New York University. I am training as a therapist that uses theater-based techniques as part of the therapeutic process.

How often do you work on your art–is it a full-time endeavor or something you work on in your spare time?
I am engaged in the program full time. In terms of making art, I am currently working on a theater piece with some of my fellow classmates entitled Race as Performance. This project is a theater performance, but is also part of an arts-based research project that explores the question, “Is race playable?” This project arose out of our experiences engaging in dialogues around race that felt unplayable, stuck, or even harmful. We wanted to create a piece that would encourage dialogue and playability around the (sometimes scary!) topic of race.

How does art fit into your life, in general? Is it something you think about and talk about every day, or every week, or only in certain situations, etc.?
I think about theater and art all of the time! My work as a therapist involves working in metaphor and thinking about aesthetics. I also try to get out and see as many concerts and shows as my budget will allow.

When you start on a piece, what kind of end result do you have in mind? Does it get performed or published, put in a permanent form or is it more temporary?
This specific research project came out of our general desire to engage in a dialogue about race that allowed people to be safe while also taking risks. The performance was an end-product designed to engage audiences in this dialogue, but the rehearsal process–wherein we told our own stories around race–was essential to exploring the playability of race for ourselves. As we often say in drama therapy, we can’t ask our audiences to go to a place we haven’t been ourselves.

What goals do you set in relation to your art, both short- and long-term? Is it something you hope to make money doing, or is it something you want to keep uncommercialized? Does the term “sell-out” hold meaning for you or do you see the art/commerce relationship as a necessary one?
We have no financial goals for this project–admission is free. Instead, our research process is focused on the experience of the audience and whether or not they are able to play with race–in short, we seek the answer to our research question, “is race playable?” I think the answer for all of us is that we want it to be, and it’s important that we engage with the audience in a talk back after the performance in order to further the dialogue. I think it’s probably not surprising that a group of therapists-in-training are interested in the process and experience of the audience!

What role does collaboration with others play in your art, if any?
Without collaboration this piece would not have been possible.

How conscious are you of your artistic influences? Who are your artistic influences?
We have many artistic influences in the drama therapy world, but I have to say that our director, Nisha Sajnani, has been an incredible role model for us all as burgeoning therapists and arts-based researchers. Nisha is the President-Elect for the National Association for Drama Therapy, and currently works as the director of the Drama Therapy, Community Health and Prevention program at the Post Traumatic Stress Center in New Haven, CT. In addition to her extensive background in trauma work, she writes extensively about social justice and advocacy issues and is, in short, an inspiration.

For those people interested in learning more about drama therapy and arts-based research, I am including a list of references for further reading! 🙂

Since this is a travel blog, how does travel relate to or affect your art? (Themes in what you produce, road trips to perform your music, thoughts on what happens to your painting when you ship it across the country to a customer, etc.)
We hope to take this current project to various conferences, schools, and lectures as an educational piece that encourages discussion around the topic of race. We hope to reach both the drama therapy community, as well as the wider community of anyone working in the helping professions or who is interested in dialoguing about race. We may also write about the research process for this piece to contribute to the larger field of arts-based research.

And finally, a right-brain question: If your art was a map, what would it be a map of?
I think it would be more like a web that connects people to one another. So a map of human relationships, I guess!

If you’d like, share your website/Facebook page and any upcoming gigs/plans you’d like readers to know about.
Here is the info on the performance:

New York University
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions
Drama Therapy Program Presents:

Mama Always Said, ‘Don’t Play with Fire’
Race as Performance
With Ashley Kleinman, Lizzie McAdam, Amber Smith, Dana Trottier and Britton Williams
Directed by Nisha Sajnani

An arts-based research performance exploring the question: Is race playable?

WHEN: Friday, January 27th, 8:00pm

WHERE: Black Box Theatre, Pless Hall, 82 Washington Square East, New York, NY

TICKETS: Admission is free, but you must reserve your tickets. To reserve your tickets, please call the NYU drama therapy office at (212) 998-5402.

This performance is a part of the Drama Therapy Program series, “…as Performance,” made possible by a grant from The Billy Rose Foundation.

Arts-Based Research and Drama Therapy References

Barone, T. & Eisner, E.W. (2012). Arts based research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Creswell, J.W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Eisner, E. (2008). Art and knowledge. In J. G. Knowles & A.L. Cole (Eds.), Handbook of the arts in qualitative research (3-12). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Finley, S. (2008). Arts-based research. In J. G. Knowles & A.L. Cole (Eds.), Handbook of the arts in qualitative research (71-81). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Fox, J. (2003). Acts of service: Spontaneity, commitment, tradition in nonscripted theatre. New Paltz, NY: Tusitala Publishing.

Landy, R.J. (2008). The couch and the stage: Integrating words and action in psychotherapy. Plymouth, England: Jason Aronson.

Leavy, P. (2009). Method meets art. New York: The Guildford Press.

Mayor, C. (in press). Playing with race: A theoretical framework and approach for creative arts therapists. The Arts in Psychotherapy.

McIntosh, P. (2004). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. In P. Rothenberg (Ed.), Race, class, and gender in the united states (6th ed.) (188-192). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

New York University (Producer), & Landy, R.J. (Director). (2005). Three approaches to drama therapy [Video/DVD]. New York: New York University Press.

Norris, J. (2009). Playbuilding as qualitative research: A participatory arts-based approach. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, Inc.

Sajnani, N. & Nadeau, D. (2006). Creating safer spaces for immigrant women of colour. Canadian Women Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme, 251/2), 45-52.

Sajnani, N. (2009). Theatre of the oppressed: Drama therapy as cultural dialogue. In R. Emunah & D.R. Johnson (Eds.), Current approaches in drama therapy (2nd Ed.) (461-482). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Sajnani, N. (2010). Mind the gap: Facilitating transformative witnessing amongst audiences. In P. Jones (Ed.), Drama as therapy: Clinical work and research into practice (Vol. 2) (189-207). East Sussex, England: Routledge.

Sajnani, N. (in press). Response/ability: Imagining a critical race feminist paradigm for the creative arts therapies. The Arts in Psychotherapy.

Salas, J. (2009). Playback theatre: A frame for healing. In R. Emunah & D.R. Johnson (Eds.), Current approaches in drama therapy (2nd Ed.) (445-460). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Springgay, S., Irwin, R., & Kind, S. (2008). A/r/tographers and living inquiry. In J. G. Knowles & A.L. Cole (Eds.), Handbook of the arts in qualitative research (83-91). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Sue, D. W. & Sue, D. (2008). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Yalom, I.D. (2005). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy (5th ed.). New York, NY: Basic Books.

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