Mark McKenna teaches in colleges, schools, and community centers – helping people rediscover their creative voices to find agency and play in their lives.
Growing up on the lower east side of New York City my parents sent me to the Educational Alliance – one of many settlement houses, each serving different neighborhoods throughout the city – where I took a dance and drama class for kids. The first seed was planted.
In fourth and fifth grade, I was the lead in the class plays. My mom and dad started taking us to Broadway shows about once a year – mostly musicals. But, the show that I remember most was a production of Waiting for Godot that was played at the 79th Street Fountain in Riverside Park under the Westside Highway. I was in high school and I was amazed.
At PS 137, the Paper Bag Players performed at assemblies and I can still sing one of their songs. They created buses, buildings, and other worlds with cardboard, paper, and paint! Their energy connected with our large rambunctious audience. Another seed!
On the way home, we stopped at the local bookstore, bought the script, and I read and relived every moment of the performance that night before bed. More seeds and a blooming awareness that fully grown adults could make a living by making believe. In cahoots, on a secret mission, their play was purposeful, moving and made people think. It was like other kinds of play and teamwork that I was drawn to – rock bands and sports.
I grew up and became a theater maker and joined a company that played in the streets, in theaters, and toured the country. We created original shows with each other and we collaborated with our community to transform their stories into large-scale productions in factories, on fire escapes, in churches, and playgrounds.