As a teacher of theatre I try to infect my students with the curiosity, inquisitiveness, and determination that will set them off on a lifelong exploration of how they work as human beings.
What is the truth? Who am I? What are the motivators of human behavior?
I am interested in providing a space where students can learn to ask vital questions. It is through learning which questions to ask that students can discover answers, rather than blindly accept information. I want to empower my students with the skills and tools to ask questions, search, explore, and find their own personal way of working.
I believe that theatre education provides a powerful tool to all students. By plumbing the depths of who we are, and by uncovering ever deepening layers of the characters in our work, we gain a precious insight into ourselves and the human condition. Our work is what hopefully increases empathy and the ability to understand “the other”. By viewing the world through many lenses, and being confronted with various perspectives, the theatre student will be able to understand different ideologies, cultures, time periods, types of people, etc. This ability to step into the mind, soul, and skin, of another is a vital step in the development of an engaged and aware mind.
Towards this end my classes tend to have a focus on illuminating a wide array of subjects about the world at large. Theatre, then, can act as a springboard for the students to learn about literature, history, politics, philosophy, etc. from an experiential point of view. Hopefully this will lead to a greater worldview, an expanded global perspective, more tolerance, and an increased engagement as an informed citizen.
My aim is to expose my students to as much as possible. I have no singular dogmatic way of approaching my work as an artist. I believe that through providing a variety of techniques and methodologies, my students will be able to find their own personal paths. I expose my students to the writings and ideas of Stanislavsky, Boleslavky, Uta Hagen, Meisner, Strassberg, and Michael Chekhov. I have also utilized Viewpoints, and the work of Kristin Linklater in my classes; as well as the writings of Brecht, Antonin Artaud, Peter Brook, and Augusto Boal.
Whether my students go on to become professional artists, or if their paths lead outside of the realm of theatre, my objective is to provide them with meaningful skills that will help them grow as people in some fundamental way. In addition to the above values, my curriculum focuses on a handful of specific skills that I believe to be central to this work:
Theatre doesn’t happen without effective collaboration. Learning how to be positive, supportive, and nurturing to the creativity of the ensemble is vital in any group project situation.
The study of theatre demands that we have our own ideas, and develop a strong point of view based on those ideas.
Creative Problem Solving
Every play is one giant problem, containing thousands of smaller problems. Not only is the act of making a play happen an act of solving one problem after another, the characters are all involved in deeply personal and important problems. In drama we are seeing characters in pursuit of an objective. Basically it is the study of characters trying to solve problems.
Effective Communication Skills
Both written and verbal communication skills are of the utmost importance in working on a play. A playwright clearly has to have effective writing skills, but he or she also needs to be able to communicate with a director. A director needs to be able to communicate his or her ideas clearly verbally to actors and designers, but very often also in writing. An actor must be able to speak the words of the character from their own truth clearly and effectively, but they must be able to communicate their choices and ideas in the midst of rehearsal.
Specific, detailed and evidence based analysis skills
Though the work we do is an exploration that is based in creativity and the imagination, choices must be grounded in some logical reality. Students learn to be logical and consistent when they are given the task of mining the text to support their creative impulses.
Empathy and the ability to shift perspectives
When students study plays, they are actually studying blueprints of human experience. Once this blueprint is brought to three-dimensional life, there is no avoiding the psychology, emotions, and value systems that motivate those characters that seem different.
This work never ceases to fill me with passion and fascinate me. I have benefitted enormously from the work of great artists and teachers in my life. It is my hope that I can pass some of what I was given along to others.