My approach to teaching provides students the necessary schema to develop three major skills. First, the skill of thinking as both theatre artists and as global citizens; second, the skill of collaborating as an intellectual and artistic mind; and third, the skill to express and support their opinions both verbally and in writing.
A theatre education should not only orient students as emerging artists, but also as public intellectuals and citizens of the world. To that end, a theatre classroom - be it a seminar room or a studio - should be a laboratory wherein students are empowered to examine their assumptions about how theatre works; question what it is that makes theatre “good;” and develop a sense of their own role in making the better theatre (and better world) of tomorrow. In the theatrical laboratories under my supervision, students develop the skills to critically engage with theatre practice and history, as well as to evaluate their world with a keen critical eye toward a better future.
I create this kind of laboratory space in my classroom through student-led learning strategies, which gently push students to teach themselves and their classmates about the topic of the day and work together to grow towards learning outcomes. These student-led learning strategies give students a sense of ownership in the classroom as we work together to strive towards mastery of our subject. By recentering classroom strategies on students rather than solely on the instructor, I forge in students an individual sense of intellectual curiosity that they can carry well beyond my classes.
I do not teach theatre as an art form; I teach theatre as a way of knowing and understanding the world.
Through my student-led learning methods, students develop the skills to closely read theatre performance and dramatic literature, as well as experience with applying those skills to everyday interactions with the world around them. For example, students might read a monologue, record their intuitive responses, and make connections to one or more current events; or index every detail of the “world of a play” – its rules, its weather, its culture - using a corkboard idea map and connect those details with historical context. These exercises allow for moments of critical reflection on a global scale even when students least expect them. My favorite example of which was facilitating a difficult conversation for students who wanted to challenge the rest of the class on declaring Henrik Ibsen’s titular character Hedda Gabler to be an unmentionable gendered insult. I take these challenges between students to reflect both a comfortable classroom climate and a level of intellectual respect.
In my classroom, students use their logical and creative minds in tandem, bridging a gap I often see in those who have determined they are either solely an artist or solely a student of theatre literature. I wield my experience as a practitioner-scholar to create assignments suitable to this goal, reflecting many of my own practices. Major projects provide students with an opportunity to use their research and persuasive writing skills to support creative choices. Classroom discussion on the major themes of a play often lead to fanciful brainstorming of a dream production; a phenomenon I encourage.
I empower students to improve their writing and verbal communication skills through demystifying frameworks for successful writing and frequent opportunities for low-stakes feedback. Students in my classroom spend one full class period learning an academic writing template which provides them with a clear pathway to success. Students also complete short writing assignments for frequent assessment with high-quality feedback, so they can monitor their progress and see growth throughout the semester.
I foster fiercely independent young artists with keenly critical insights by teaching them how to bridge the gap between the intellectual and creative, and to communicate persuasively with those around them. In giving them the skills to find and use their voice in an already outspoken discipline, my greatest goal as a teacher is to encourage students to be so vocal and true that they cannot help but be heard.