Professor Daras Receives Innovative Teaching Award

Posted on 1/14/2015 2:46:16 PM

April DarasThe Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival awarded its Innovative Teaching Prize to Professor April Daras for her recent work crafting new courses and performance opportunities through applied theater at IUP.

Daras’ courses in “The Performance of Caring,” for Nursing students, and her application of student actors as simulated patients in IUP’s Nursing Simulation Lab were her first foray into broader work developing at IUP. She has also developed simulations for IUP’s Educational Psychology and Psychology doctorate programs.

Daras’ broader vision is for theater in service to community. She is a member of the Pittsburgh Playback Theatre company. Playback Theatre is an original form of improvisational theater in which audience or group members tell stories from their lives and watch them enacted by a company of players. Daras joins other faculty in IUP’s Department of Theater and Dance who are developing a program of devised, applied, and ensemble theater. This program seeks to prepare students to work in a variety of methods, collaborating to invent theater practice for the 21st century.

American Theatre magazine’s special section “Approaches to Theatre Training—Art For Whose Sake?” this month, in fact features articles examining theater used to effect change by innovative applications that bring civic engagement and communal healing to the fore. Among the articles is a survey of theater-studies programs across the country. There are only a few, and these are all relatively new, forward-thinking programs, demonstrating the interdisciplinary vitality of a program like Daras envisions here.

The Innovative Teaching Prize is sponsored by the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, which is the leading American organization for university theater. An advocate for the field of theater and performance in higher education, ATHE serves as an intellectual and artistic center for producing new knowledge about theater and performance-related disciplines, cultivating vital alliances with other scholarly and creative disciplines, linking with professional and community-based theaters, and promoting access and equity.

Department of Theater and Dance