Stephen Sondheim said that teaching is a sacred profession, and that as artists we are teachers by the very act of art-making. Indeed, teaching is an enormous responsibility, and not only do I feel responsible for the growth of my students, but also for the art of theatre itself. Our actions have material, ethical consequences, and the classroom and rehearsal space functions as a microcosm in which, as teachers, we have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to model how to exist in the world.
I endeavor to foster in students a hunger for adventure and process, a dedication to crafting vision and artistry with purpose and accountability, and, especially, a curiosity about the world around them. I guide students to pursue their own answers to the questions I help them to ask. I develop close relationships with students through which I am able to at once nurture their individual and collective processes and hold them to high standards of achievement. In this way, I think of myself less as a teacher, imparting knowledge, and more of a mentor, guiding and motivating students along their own paths of self-initiated discovery. I believe I am an extremely passionate, active, and demanding presence in the classroom and rehearsal space, tempting an evocative dialogue that elicits students’ visceral reactions to the work at hand, pushing them to move beyond their perceived intellectual and physical limitations. However, I also recognize that many of the most effective teaching moments occur outside the walls of the formal classroom, and I engage with students in myriad informal discussions and gatherings that incite them to reflect critically and think deeply.
Fostering a culture of inclusivity is of utmost concern, especially as one working in a discipline in which human lives, feelings, and emotions are made vulnerable. Class meetings in my courses are largely structured upon the Socratic method, and often involve both larger and more intimate conversation groups. This technique allows students to practice the expectation that they be considerate of one another during class discussion; engage in active listening to others’ ideas in addition to providing their own. When developing course content, I always ensure readings, audio/visual materials, and any other core components represent a spectrum of perspectives giving attention to the viewpoint(s) of underrepresented communities. Furthermore, I make certain my methods of instructional delivery and assessment are varied and I challenge my students to be aware of their own biases and perspectives.
I view classroom, rehearsal, and performance spaces as laboratories in which to carry out experiments. In concert with students, I establish such spaces as loci for ensemble and community; for exploration, play, risk, failure, and frustration; for candid interaction, and for physical and intellectual rigor. I recognize that practice – deep practice – is transformative and often frustrating and takes faith and determination and a psychophysical approach in which the faculties of mind and body coalesce.
Finally, I believe in cultivating in creaters, rather than merely interpreters. To this end, I am a proponent of technique: acting technique, directing technique, research technique, analytical technique, design technique, and so on; one must have a tirelessly-honed approach to one’s work. Far beyond “career training,” I believe that by preparing students with the skills of thought and action that the serious study of theatre fosters, I am providing them the opportunity and tools to mature into critical thinkers and empathetic world citizens with a sense of communal responsibility.