We’re kicking off our NRN Blog Series with a contribution from Amanda Pintore. Originally from Omaha, NE, Amanda Pintore has spent the last several years traveling around the country as a Teaching Artist and Director focusing on creative movement, arts integration and facilitating theatre making with young people. Her current projects in Arizona include devising an immersive performance about the rainforest with a group of Montessori students for Childsplay and developing a Theatre for the Very Young piece for Kerfuffle. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Theatre for Youth at Arizona State University.
When approaching research, I often try to not approach it…I really think of myself as a practitioner in Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) and I worry that I have already spent too much time not developing research skills.
This is something that I wrote during my first week of graduate school in the MFA Theatre for Youth program at Arizona State University during the fall of 2014. I came into graduate school convinced that I was strictly a teaching artist and could not simultaneously exist as a researcher within my practice. I had a naive aversion to the idea of research and a stubbornness in how I defined myself within this new world.
I took a Research Methods course with Dr. Mary McAvoy during this semester. The first thing she taught me was that I needed to genuinely have a desire to learn about, question or deconstruct whatever I set out to research. I had just moved to Arizona after spending many years teaching in the midwest and was steadily realizing what a challenge it was to get hired in this new environment as a heavily tattooed educator. I began to wonder how my tattoos shaped the way I was perceived in the classroom. When I described this frustration to Dr. McAvoy she introduced me to autoethnography as a research methodology. I realized I already had the tools to conduct research from the inside of my own unique perspective.
I began traveling two different, but parallel paths. First, there was the path I created as a researcher in learning about and applying an autoethnographical approach to my research project that semester. With no prior knowledge of this subject, I first had to break through the stigma of what I thought research couldn’t be and uncover all the things it could be. This allowed me to understand my own lived experience as research. Second, I created a new path in defining and understanding my body as an educator and how that role can be shaped by body art. I can not claim to understand someone else’s tattooed body in action as an educator. The beauty of autoethnography is that it allows you to view other people’s shared experiences in correlation to your own, but it demands that you rely on your own lived experience to truly analyze what you are researching.
During this research project, I created several pieces of narrative about specific moments I had experienced when young people interacted with my tattoos. I also included moments where I engaged with caregivers and employers about my body art in ways that were often positive, but sometimes negative. I interlaced this narrative with portions of interviews I conducted with other heavily tattooed educators in different parts of the country. Ultimately, I created a personal account of the ways in which adults and children choose to engage with, confront and investigate tattoos on the body of an educator. With Dr. McAvoy’s guidance I was able to discover that my practice is research and that my body is a performative element of that research. She also introduced me to a platform that allowed me to provide insight into a specific culture of educators, while exploring my own anxiety and pride in being a part of that culture.
I believe that this project, this professor and this new understanding of research has enabled me to approach my work in a more reflective and investigative manner. I also believe it has made me me more aware of how I can use my lived experience to navigate a new environment or set of circumstances. In my artistry, practice and research are now fundamentally linked rather than working in opposition.
Has there been something that has made you reconsider how you approach your research? Or, is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your research? If the answer is yes, then your NRN wants you! Email Kate & Emer at firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute to the STR NRN community by sharing a blog post.