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The World Theatre Video Project

The World Theatre Video Project

Episode 72: The World Theatre Video Project

Teacher Nick Cusumano shares The World Theatre Video Project on the podcast, a excellent example of project-based learning perfect for the drama classroom. We also talk about Drama Teacher Advocacy and what teachers can do to become more comfortable using technology.

Show Notes

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Episode Transcript

Welcome to TFP, the Theatrefolk podcast. I am Lindsay Price, resident playwright for Theatrefolk. Hello, I hope you’re well. Thanks for listening.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… I love Christmas songs and Christmas carols. I just think they’re filled with a lot of joy, right?

Although I cannot imagine having to work in a mall or in a store that starts playing carols at the end of November, it would be sort of like an assault I think if you had to listen to them day after day after day. It’s like, “No please don’t make me go to work, please don’t make me and listen to ‘Joy to the World’ again!” Ahhhh.

When you only have to listen to it at your leisure I think it’s lovely. I think it’s a lovely sentiment and I think it’s a lovely song – I mean who doesn’t want joy to the world? I want joy. I think joy is an awesome word. I love words that sort of sound like they are. Like joy. I think holiday is another word that’s like that. It sounds like it is. Because who does not love a holiday? I love a holiday.

Ok I’m all giddy now. I gotta go find me some eggnog and you’re going to listen to my conversation with Teacher Nick Cusamano – we’re talking about an awesome project for your drama class, that’s right your drama class, that is happening right now. The World Theatre Video Project. Go Nick!

Lindsay: Okay. Hello everybody! So, today on the podcast, we are talking about a specific project and the reason that I want to talk about this project is because it is something that every Drama class can do, it is something that every Drama club can do. Teachers, you know, grab your students and pull them together and get them involved with the World Theatre Video project at

I have teacher Nick Cusomano on the podcast. He is the, you created this, right? This is your deal.

Nick: Yes, it’s something that I was inspired by a tweet. One of my first Twitter followers was Karla O. She is the creator of the Drama Teachers Network. It’s a WordPress blog. And, she was one of my first Twitter followers and we got to know each other on Twitter and then there, other friends of mine – Courtney, Elrond, and then Mohamed El-Ashiri – the four of us kind of, I think Karla posted out, “March 27’s going to be World Theatre Day,” and I’m like, “We should do a video with two weeks,” and another two weeks wasn’t enough time.

Lindsay: Hey, you know what? When you’ve got two weeks, that’s what you use, right?

Nick: Yeah. So, I thought, “Well, let’s record students doing All The World’s A Stage from As You Like It.”

Lindsay: Yeah.

Nick: And so, we were able to get the footage together so we had two schools from the states along with another school, Mel Agar who teaches in Illinois, she sent in her video and then Courtney’s students and then Mohamed’s students and then Karla’s students. And then, I edited that in together, all together as a video, and then we posted it. I world premiered it at the Google in Education Summit in Chicago on the 27th because that’s where I was on that day and that was my Google demo slam and just had a great time connecting those students together. And, from there, right about that time I found out I was accepted to the Google Teacher Academy.

Lindsay: Now, what is that exactly?

Nick: About two to three times a year, it’s kind of a competition. You have to create a one-minute video about either classroom innovation, change in your community, and motivation in learning. You have to do a one-minute video and so, for me, for a time, wasn’t charmed because I had tried twice before and I found out, if I go, what do I know? I know theatre. Well, that worked.

Lindsay: You go with what you know, right?

Nick: Yeah. I finally realized, “Oh, go with what you know,” so I turned Hamlet’s advice to the players to, I Googlefied this so it was search, this search I pray you, as Dan Russell who’s like the search guru at Google pronounced it to you, and just adapted it from there. And so, that got me in.

And, as a Google certified teacher, one of your responsibilities is, one, you spread the word of Google, and two, you come up with a Google certified teacher action plan. And so, that’s where that inspiration from our March video, I came up with the idea of the World Theatre Video project.

Lindsay: And so, how does this sort of take the next step from that March video? What is the World Theatre Video project? What do teachers and students do?

Nick: Well, I would love to have a world theatre ensemble. Like, it’s a little expensive.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Nick: Together some place. So, through Google and the YouTube video editor and all those cool free tools that Google gives us, I thought, “Well, let’s create a virtual ensemble.” And so, taking scripts probably the month or two months at the time, we’re going to, I think two months at a time might be our magic sweet spot because it gives time for teachers to plan for it.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Nick: But I also know that the videos aren’t going to get made till probably the (0:04:43.3 unclear) before but they get some time to plan, to include it into their lessons, and I totally understand that. And so, we’ve been taking our, my first thought was, “Go big or go home,” so let’s take the toughest.

Lindsay: I know, you did pick the toughest one. It’s like, “Okay, here you go, The Raven.” That was the first one, right?

Nick: To Be or Not to Be was the first one.

Lindsay: Oh, sorry, sorry. Then, The Raven?

Nick: Then The Raven.

Lindsay: I feel like I’m in very good company here because the next video, which is the next text, is one of my monologues. We’ll get back to that though. So, this is the whole notion is that, hopefully, teachers and students from all over the place will take the same text and just sort of interpret it in a video, right?

Nick: Yes, and then…

Lindsay: Yeah.

Nick: And then, what I want to do with it, or what I’ve been doing with it is, in order to create that ensemble feel, I take a bit of everyone’s performance that’s part of it and create a mash-up video. And so, depending on how many people submit, you know, it could be cutting it really tight, or it just kind of depends what I get from the world.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Nick: Then we can use that to create that full ensemble and then I have a YouTube playlist with all the scripts that I have submitted.

Lindsay: What an interesting idea just to see, like, just different interpretation, right? And just, like, from where you are in the world, how do you approach the same text?

Nick: Yes, and, you know, and I love the mixing of the accents, too. That’s fun for me because, you know, Karla, my good friend from Australia which I was able to meet in person at the Sydney Google Teacher Academy, or while I was in Sydney for them, so that was just kind of blew my mind that someone that I connected with on Twitter, you know, I’m meeting in person. It’s at 8AM. That’s the power of theatre, that’s the power of the internet, and just to have that mixed together, it’s just, it’s still kind of mind-blowing to me.

Lindsay: Yeah, no, absolutely. Why is this so important now just to sort of be combining, to making the world smaller by using these technologies with theatre? Like, why is this important now?

Nick: Well, I think, as storytellers, we need to be actively engaging our students to storytelling. And, if we can give our students a personal connection, what I’d really love to start doing is, as the project builds, is to maybe start doing hangouts on air, you know, maybe a week after the project’s all in, and talk with the groups and have them share with each other and kind of schedule some time things. That’s something I’d like to move towards because then, you know, you have this connection of, “You’ve all worked on the same text.” And, I think, it’s always, to me, I always want to try to find maybe a hook or some ways either it’s something students study, or as we’ll get to in just a little bit, or it’s an issue that they’re facing. And I always love Shakespeare because I think, if we take those short monologues, it’s not like you’re tackling a whole play.

Lindsay: No.

Nick: But you can get an understanding and have fun with the text.

Lindsay: Well, maybe it’s a doorway, you know?

Nick: Yeah.

Lindsay: That’s all we need sometimes is just a doorway in.

Nick: And there’s a lot of fun, interesting projects out there that aren’t moving on that global scale and I think, “We have this technology, why not connect and meet people all over the world?” What I love about being your Google certified teacher is I have friends all over the world now – all over the world. My group was one of the most international. We had, I think, nineteen different countries.

Lindsay: Wow!

Nick: So, you know, I have a friend in Singapore, I have people in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Alaska – well, Alaska.

Lindsay: Yeah, that’s still pretty far away.

Nick: (0:09:36.0 unclear). You know, Australia. My good friend, my roommate from the Google Teacher Academy, he’s from India. So, (0:09:49.9 unclear) was, you know, and that I can connect with. And, through the power of Google Hangouts, connect with people all over the world.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Nick: It’s just a matter of timing.

Lindsay: Well, you’ve built this community, right?

Nick: Yeah, and so…

Lindsay: Why not do it with theatre and with video, right? Why not?

Nick: I think, because, I think at times, we, one, we have to be our own advocates because I think – and I’m guilty of it myself – we’re always doing a show, but sometimes we have the stuff outside of that and help lead the way because we do project-based learning all the time. Oh, what’s everyone talking about? Project-based learning.

Lindsay: I just talked to Kay Jones about that.

Nick: It’s my nineteenth year teaching, twenty years of teaching project-based learning. We know how to do it, we understand the thing, and we know how to present for an authentic audience – a well common core.

Lindsay: Yes.

Nick: For those of you in the states listening.

Lindsay: Oh, it’s everywhere.

Nick: Oh, yeah. There’s various versions. I know how there are similar things in Australia and I’m sure there’s similar programs all over the world. But, you know, we are the project-based learners and we have to step out of our comfort zone and just doing a show where we have to look at either using technologies, or projects, or just helping, you know, the math teacher, “Okay, come on. We can do this and have a little bit more fun with teaching math,” or, “Here’s a practical thing about, you know.” We always use math with sets all the time.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Nick: And family consumer science with making costumes and social studies with, you know, any time you’re doing anything historical. “How does this show fit in with that?” and it’s just…

Lindsay: It’s all connected.

Nick: Yeah. We’ve got to step out and be leaders. And so, this is kind of a little bit of my push to do that.

Lindsay: Okay. So, how about, say there’s a teacher listening who is, like, “Oh, I can’t do video! I can’t get my kids to do this!” So, what’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone who was like, “This sounds like a great idea but…”

Nick: Well, have the kids, grab their cellphone, and have them film it.

Lindsay: Awesome. Absolutely! Why not, eh? It doesn’t have… I think people our age have this notion that video is this complicated machinery when you’re quite right. It’s picking up a phone.

Nick: And, really, I just, I mean, as long as I can see you and hear you – and I put a little bit of the guides on the website of, you know, rule of thirds because I think I definitely want to see the actors’ eyes, to me that tells so much about how they tell the story. You know, it doesn’t need to be really complicated. I think that’s kind of the neat part about this is, if we can just do that, just that shot of that student, I think that says so much. We don’t have to put all the…

Lindsay: Bells and whistles.

Nick: Bells and whistles because I think this allows us to get to that core. Now, just tell the story, connect with the text, and share, and then wouldn’t it be cool when we get all those mixed together and you have your groups work together and, you know, if we can plan ahead, you know, and I think, because it’s a little bit of trial-and-error to get this project going and just finding the right mix of time and, you know, how long is too long, you know, and I think they’ve discovered The Raven’s a little too long and probably should’ve selected some of the stanzas but not the whole thing, or divide it by continent.

Lindsay: But that’s how you figure this stuff out, right? You don’t know until you try. And, I have to say…

Nick: Think like the student and, you know, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of our students, too. And, just, you know, we learn by ourselves by trial-and-error. How many times do you use the same lesson plan every year after year without any sort of tweaking?

Lindsay: Well, and the one, the monologue that is offering, so it’s not Shakespeare and it’s not Poe, it’s me! It’s… So, it’s modern language, folks. And, I think it’s on a pretty topical issue and that’s bullying.

Nick: I think, if we have a mix of and I think I’m thankful that you’re able to allow us to use this.

Lindsay: What’s cool is that this is really theatre at its core and that’s interpretation, right? How do you take the same text and work with it? Like, I’m dying, I can’t wait to see what happens.

Nick: The cool part about this, and it’s also a little bit OK… The waiting, the waiting sometimes.

Lindsay: Well, you’re taking a risk and I think that’s a good thing to show students, too. You know, like, “Look, teachers can take risks, too.” You know, like, why not? So, the due date is January 25th, is that right?

Nick: Yes, January 25th because I knew our friends in the southern hemisphere are on their summer break which is a little weird for me sometimes. We have snow on the ground in St. Louis. And, I know as a teacher, right now, this is finals week and no recording’s going to happen this week.

Lindsay: Then it’s Christmas.

Nick: And then it’s Christmas and winter break and so, that’s why, no, we’re going to… this one we’re definitely going to go with a two-month timeframe just because of the way that the timing works out.

Lindsay: Awesome. So, that’s The text of the monologue. So, every group who does this uses the same monologue and I think it would be an awesome thing if you took your class, you divided your class up into groups, everyone took out their phones, and they just came up with an interpretation of the same piece. And then, the submission information is also on the website. Right, Nick?

Nick: Yup, it’s got broken down by description of the project, the script, some guidelines. If you are using your phone, please turn it to the horizontal way because, otherwise, your video gets very slim. It gets vertical.

Lindsay: Awesome. Okay. So, before I let you go on this, just talk a little bit because we really are moving into an era where it is the responsibility, it’s becoming the responsibility of the teacher to become more tech-savvy as our teenagers and those who come after them are digital natives. They live it, they breathe it, they know it, they don’t need to learn it because it’s in them. And, how can teachers, how can Drama teachers embrace this technology? How can they embrace technology?

Nick: Well, I think, one thing is just try to integrate it. To me, one of the great things I love about technology – at least from the teacher end – is, if using things like Google Docs, it’s giving that feedback and using Google forms. I know, just simply, Google forms and t-shirt orders, they are your best friend. For years I kind of looked back. I did a blog post on it but I have been charged of over sixty t-shirt orders in my lifetime as a teacher and I love that I found Google forms because now, whether they lose a piece of paper where everyone signs on there, “Oh, now we have to recreate it again.” Still have to chase them for the money. I haven’t…

Lindsay: You figured out how to get technology to do that for you.

Nick: Well, I know it’s possible but I also have to get district approval for that kind of stuff.

Lindsay: It’s robots. We need robots.

Nick: But at least I know I can know this is the number of t-shirts I have to order.

Lindsay: Aside from Google Docs, like, just in terms of, like, Drama activities, have you been able to integrate technology?

Nick: Yeah, I use Edmodo is a great one to use and I’m using YouTube. The Royal National Theatre has tons of great videos.

Lindsay: Yeah, for sure.

Nick: I have a great introduction to Greek theatre. That’s only, like, seven minutes long but it gets all the basics in there. So, I love finding those things. Of course, kids can spend hour running performances on there. One big thing I really like now is there’s two great things to help you create your posters and you don’t need to be a graphic artist anymore. You just need to have an idea and one’s called – – and the other one’s called and they will help you create great advertisements or use with your students to create a project or, I mean, just the whole process of creating, you know how you can use a collage…

Lindsay: Yep.

Nick: Describe a character. Well, now you can do that virtually and just, you know, students can gather the pictures. The British Museum does at least a million pictures that you can use and remix. How awesome is that?

Lindsay: Oh, my God. Holy cow.

Nick: And there’s this new stuff all the time and, to me, I think, and Google just has this thing called the Open Gallery that you can go and sign up for and, if you’ve seen their Google Cultural Institute…

Lindsay: Yes, love it.

Nick: Great for, like, if you’re doing Diary of Anne Frank, anything historical. Well, now you can do your own version of that, or you have to sign up to get the invite. But go to them, do it now. What will it be? How cool would that to be one to create a design display that you could integrate all your parts for a show and maybe put up a computer monitor in the lobby or you’re a student interviewing for colleges because it’s that time of the year. Okay, well, you can do a Powerpoint but how about this interactive thing? And then, you can put your own reasoning on there and they see it visually, and you could do a video, and you can add all these other cool things in there.

Lindsay: Well, I’m excited now.

Nick: A ton, ton, ton of stuff out there and just to get kids to spark their creativity.

Lindsay: That’s awesome, yeah. There’s tons out there.

Nick: Yes, and if you want some of the resources, you can go to

Lindsay: That’s your website.

Nick: That is my blog.

Lindsay: Yup. Yes, we will put links to everything that gets mentioned here on the show notes and that’s awesome. Okay. So, how do you feel? We think we’re good with World Theatre Video project and we are excited about all of the amazing videos that are going to come in from all over the world, right?

Nick: Yes. I would love to see all the work that you’re doing and love to create something new out of it. I can’t wait to see what everyone can bring to the table. It’s going to be very exciting and then, if you have ideas for the next one, I know we’re going to hit February after that so in the back of my head I’ve been thinking your love sonnets or maybe a Shakespearean sonnet, I don’t know. I am open to suggestions for the next part, too.

Lindsay: Awesome. And where can they send that? Where can they email you?

Nick: They can email me at – Canadian spelling.

Lindsay: Only way to spell it.

Okay. Awesome. Thank you so much, Nick.

Nick: Thank you. It was great to chat with you.

Thanks so much, Nick.

So like every teacher right about now, Nick was about seven levels of exhausted and I really appreciated that he took the time to talk. Before we go let’s do some Theatrefolk News!

Who doesn’t love new plays? I love new plays and we just keep rolling ’em out. It’s like little presents. It’s very appropriate for the season. Just for you.

So today I want to share with you some plays from a fellow Canadian, from the fabulous province of Newfoundland! Gary Rodgers. He has just published two plays with us, and if you want something exciting, something different, and not your same old competition play I beg you to buy a copy of either Layers or Lose Not Thy Head.

Layers is a play within a play within a cabbage within an onion. Just when you think you know what’s going on, you don’t. So if you like to take your audience on a twisted journey, this is the play for you. Pick up Layers.

And Lose Not Thy Head has William Shakespeare’s sister up for beheading for trying to impersonate him and write his plays when he’s sort of run off with some dough. Death is standing by, a severed head chimes in, the Executioner is depressed causing a Sigmund Freud type doctor to make an appearance. So what this all gathers up to is if you like your Shakespeare with a dash of Monty Python (or your Monty Python with a dash of Shakespeare) Lose Not Thy Head is going to be the play for you.

I love these two plays and I think that they make an awesome awesome addition to our catalogue. And again, if you’re looking for something you haven’t seen before yet in competition – Gary Rogers – Layers, Lose Not Thy Head.

Go to Again that is Layers and Lose Not Thy Head.

And finally, where oh where can you find this podcast? We post new episodes every Wednesday at and on our facebook page and twitter. You can find us on You can find us on the stitcher app, AND you can subscribe to TFP on iTunes. Go over there. Search on the word Theatrefolk. Give us some feedback. Give us a review. That would be so nice.

And that’s where we’re going to end. Take care my friends. Take care.

Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg… I love the classics…

Music credit: “Ave” by Alex (feat. Morusque) is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

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