theatre education

Everyday Artist Spotlight: Tyrese Avery

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We are over-the-moon excited to introduce you to Tyrese Avery, a brilliant young artist in New York City.  He is a spectacularly talented singer, actor and dancer.  Tyrese is an 11th grade student at Democracy Prep Endurance High School in Harlem and is actively involved in the performing arts program there.  He has stolen the show countless times, in numerous productions.  In addition, he is an award-winning member of his school's speech and debate team and is a member of a musical group called HIS-TORY.  We are so happy to have had the opportunity to interview him to learn more about his art and why it’s important to him, who his musical inspiration is and how arts education has impacted his life.  One thing we know for sure is that this young man is a bright shining star!  

What is your art medium?

Music has always been my first love. However, I’ve taken up acting and dancing and found that I have a place in all three. I’ve never been a visual artist in terms of drawing or painting, but performing arts is my calling. There’s nothing like it for me! 

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Why is your art important to you?

My art is really the only thing I have to call my own. As a minority, and as a minor, a lot of things can be taken from you without question. Even your will power may be taken. On the contrary, nobody can ever take away your art and what speaks to you. Art is the one thing that is very unique to me and it runs throughout my family’s blood. However, nobody before me has had the opportunity to excel and practice their art. 

What do you want your art to say?

I want my art to engage youth and adult audiences alike. I want to bridge the gap so parents and children better understand and communicate with one another. 


What project are you working on now?

Fools In Love (April, May)

Cinderella (June) 

West Side Story (June)

Who is your favorite artist?

I find it hard to narrow it down to one artist, but, growing up Michael Jackson was a huge influence for me. May he rest in peace. 



How has arts education impacted your life?

 Without arts education via the likes of the talented Jerry Phelps, Sarah Rosenberg, Luis Cardenas, Norberto Troncoso, Lisa Kowalski, Dominic Colon, Kaitlyn Kenney, and Julie Haggerty, I would not be where I am today. Truly these individuals have changed my life and I am eternally grateful for it. 




Tyrese Avery, a Junior in High School, is a scholar who has a yearning for learning when it comes to the arts. He is constantly engaging in extracurricular activities such as Speech and Debate, School musicals, and Open Hydrant Theater Company on weekends. His past projects have included Lion King Jr. (Rafikki), Hairspray Jr. (Link), Aida (Mereb), High School Musical (Zeke Baylor), and In The Heights (Benny). His upcoming endeavors include Fools in Love (Puck), West Side Story (Tony), and Cinderella (Prince). Other projects that are in the works include a workshop of a play in which he plays a Harry Potter like character (HP) who is the imaginary friend of the protagonist. This is a coming of age story of the protagonist who watched her parents go through cheating and separation. He also has his own musical endeavors with his colleague and partner Clayton Fountain (ClayClutch) as part of their musical group, HIS-TORY. Tyrese is also an acceptant of the BADA Conservatory program in Oxford England. 







Everyday Artist Spotlight: Laura Beeman Nugent

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We are so excited to introduce you to a multi-talented Shreveport-based teacher and artist, Laura Beeman Nugent.  Laura teaches high school theatre and film at Loyola College Prep and is an adjunct instructor at Bossier Parish Community College, where she is committed to equipping the next generation of artists with the skills necessary to pursue their creative ambitions. In addition to her teaching roles, she is heavily involved in community theatre and serves as Shreveport Little Theatre’s Director of the Children’s Theatre Academy, Choreographer and Director as well as Director of Summer Camp for the Robinson Film Center.  She truly has a heart and passion for working with children and youth and we were so excited we had the opportunity to ask her a few questions to learn more about her work in the arts and her incredible commitment to kids and her community.  


Why is your art important to you?

After touring the United States and Canada with Missoula Children’s Theatre, I realized that I was called to be a children’s theatre practitioner. I feel the arts implemented in a child’s life at a young age can have an enormous impact on their lives. I have seen so many children truly discover themselves and their own passions by being involved in the arts. Knowing that I could be cultivating the next practitioners in my field gives me hope for the sustainability of the arts! 


What do you want your art to say?

I want people to understand that educational theatre is about the experience and what students can learn from the process rather than the end product. 


What project are you working on now?

Currently, I am working on choreographing a show within our education theatre academy with high school performers and directing and choreographing a show with our elementary and middle school performers.


Who is your favorite artist?

Bob Fosse on the set of  Sweet Charity , 1969

Bob Fosse on the set of Sweet Charity, 1969

Personally, I am a huge Bob Fosse fan! I feel that he is a fantastic study for the director/choreographer. As far as theatre educators, I admire both my college mentors Ray Scott Crawford and Cherrie Sciro. Their devotion to higher educational theatre laid the foundation for me to pursue the educational path of theatre. 


How has arts education impacted your life?

What started as an interest in middle and high school has ended being my life’s work.  I have been able to do so many things through theatre education, too many to list individually. I think watching children grow through participation has made the greatest impact on my life. 





Laura Beeman Nugent, a local actress/director/choreographer, begin working with Shreveport Little Theatre 20 years ago in Dearly Departed (1997) and has considered SLT as one of her theatre homes since that time. While Laura started out as an actress for SLT, she began using her passion and training in dance, becoming the choreographer for SLT in the early 2000s and eventually making her directorial debut at SLT in 2011 with her Master Thesis project Little Shop of Horrors with her theatre partner, Adam Philley. Laura also helped co-found the Shreveport Little Theater Academy in 2007 and has served as choreographer since its inception. In 2011, Laura began her position as Academy Administrator and director/choreographer for the Academy, more recently being named as Academy Artistic Director. She holds her Associate of the Arts degree with a concentration in Theatre from BPCC, a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts with a concentration in Theatre from Louisiana Tech University. She also holds her Master of Liberal Arts with 18 graduate hours in Theatre from Louisiana State University in Shreveport. Laura has appeared on many stages throughout the North Louisiana area playing some of her favorite characters including, but not limited to: Amy in Company, Honey in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Matron in Hairspray, Eunice in A Street Car Named Desire, and various characters in Parallel Lives. Educationally, she served as a Tour Actor and Director for the Missoula Children’s Theatre Company, a touring company specializing in theatre for children. She has also been the company choreographer for Canterbury Summer Theatre, near Chicago, as well as a choreographer Bossier Parish Community College and the Performing Arts Center at First United Methodist Church of Shreveport. She cannot fail to mention her mother Carol, husband Clay, and daughter Lorelei for their continued love and support of her passion. 







MAGICAL UNICORNS: Artists & Teachers

by Jerry Phelps

Throughout my career as a classroom and private music teacher, and now as an arts education supervisor, leader, and consultant, I’ve often heard others say that arts education helps raise test scores. I realize that most people who say this do so in honest and genuine support of arts education. They think that if they comment on how arts education improves test scores, somehow influencers and policymakers in public education will understand that we should keep the arts alive in public schools.

While I like this sentiment, I also find it highly problematic. To me, the arts are not to be used as a tool for the other—that is, the arts are worth the study and pursuit because they function as stand-alone academic subjects. I have never once considered what I do as extra. Sure, I could tell you about the countless research studies that have clearly shown that schools with quality, robust arts education programs have higher standardized test scores, graduation rates, engagement in the school and surrounding community, and positive impact on school culture, but that relegates arts education to solely being used as a tool to solve the world’s problems. I like to think of it more as a tool to understand the world’s problems, not necessarily to solve them.

I started CORE Arts Consulting in effort to expand my work into multiple schools, communities, states, and even countries. I deeply believe in the power of arts education and that it should be a right to every child in public schools, regardless of socioeconomic background. Access to quality arts instruction changes lives. I speak from personal experience. I grew up in a small, rural town in Louisiana where little to no arts education was happening. I was fortunate to encounter Ms. Edith (Duhon) Wilkerson who ultimately changed my life through the study of piano and singing. I frequently think of all the children (and adults!) across our great country that never are so lucky. They rely almost exclusively on public schools and churches to receive education and experiences in the arts. But, what happens when those institutions are no longer doing the work?

In the article, Study: Music Education Could Help Close The Achievement Gap Between Poor and Affluent Students, the author, Rebecca Klein, explains the results of a study from Northwestern University in which researchers “looked at the impact of music education on at-risk children’s nervous systems and found that music lessons could help them develop language and reading skills.” The study was conducted over two summers in Los Angeles in a program where low-income students received free music lessons through the Harmony Project. This study reiterates that which many of us already understand: Arts education matters! We are better off having studied and experienced the arts. So, why do we continue to have to explain this to naysayers? Why are school leaders and administrators having to make scheduling decisions based on whether or not arts classes are taking away from the already increased literacy and math blocks? Why do we always attempt to support our work by first saying that it helps growth in other areas? What if it only helped children grow as artists and thinkers and doers? Isn’t that in itself enough?

My favorite line from the article is, “These findings are a testament that it’s a mistake to think of music education as a quick fix, but that if it’s an ongoing part of children’s education, making music can have a profound and lifelong impact on listening and learning.” Listening and learning. Now that’s something we could all stand to get better at! As you begin your school year, I encourage you to stop justifying your work in the arts as merely a means to assist schools in teaching literacy and math. Rather, I ask you to consider that your work is important and worthy for what it is. You teach the arts for the arts' sake. You teach it because it alone is worthy. Cross-curricular connections are inherent in the arts. You don’t really have to spend much time searching for ways to incorporate them. If you teach theatre, teach your students theatre. If you teach visual art, teach them visual art. If you teach dance, by all means, teach your students to dance! Our society is depending on us to do this work. They may not always be grateful for our work in the moment, but they certainly will in the long run. Artists and teachers, YOU ARE MAGICAL UNICORNS. Keep creating magic with your students! I’m wishing you the best year yet.



With more than a decade of classroom teaching experience and a proven track record of arts education program development nationally, Jerry Phelps is a sought-after arts education professional specializing in curriculum, program development, professional development, teacher coaching, and organizational sustainability. In addition to a variety of classroom and private teaching experiences, Phelps most recently served as the Director of Arts Education and eventually the Director of Co-Curricular Programs for Democracy Prep Public Schools. In these positions, he managed and oversaw the development and growth of dozens of school-based arts education programs, national award-winning speech and debate programs, and physical education and athletic programs across the nation. Among his awards and recognition, Phelps was named a quarter finalist by the RECORDING ACADEMY© and THE GRAMMY FOUNDATION© for the inaugural Music Educator Award. As a seasoned singer and performer, Phelps can be seen on stage frequently throughout New York City in a variety of solo shows and one-off performances. Phelps currently serves as the Principal Consultant for the New York City-based arts education consulting firm, CORE Arts Consulting.