As long as I can remember, theatre has been part of my life. And, as long as I can remember, I have wanted to use theatre to make the world a better place. No matter what job titles I have been fortunate to hold over the years- actor, stage manager, singer, music director, choreographer, producer, director, or even designer, I have always felt the need to make sure that everyone else could be part of this amazing world, too.
Becoming an educator was the natural progression of this impulse, for so many reasons, no matter how hard I fought against it when I was younger. So much of finding a career as a performer, for me, was about trying to open doors that I didn’t even know existed. My parents didn’t come from this community- they didn’t know how to help me get there, no matter how supportive they were. And there are were so many gatekeepers, whether they were conservatory professors who made it their job to make you feel small, or the two hundred girls who were younger and thinner than me, or the need to go to work to pay the bills instead of going to auditions. After trying to push through those doors, when all I really wanted to be doing was making theatre, I “gave up” and became a teacher. At least I would be able to afford to make the theatre that I wanted to, instead of working for free in the hopes that it would eventually lead to a paying gig.
Teaching is the ultimate act of holding the door open for those who are behind you.
What I’ve discovered over the years is that teaching is theatre. We build communities of caring and respect in order to allow our students to take risks and fail big. We manipulate people’s environments and emotions in order to open their minds to new ideas. We play the characters of Responsible Adult and Expert when the truth is that we are still figuring it all out and learning, too. Best of all, we help the next generation to find the doors that they didn’t even know existed so that they can walk right through them, when we could not. Teaching is the ultimate act of holding the door open for those who are behind you.
And here I find myself, in the summer of 2020. The year that the world turned upside down. Our civil society is disintegrating in front of our eyes. The theatre industry has been decimated, with no help from our government in sight. Our president is demanding we open the schools for in-person learning without providing them any support or guidance to do so. Like many of you, I’ve spent a large part of my summer worried that I would have to go to school with very little protection while virus rates are rising. For all of the reasons listed above, my students need me, but my family does, too.
I was incredibly relieved and grateful to find out last week that we are going to be teaching virtually for at least the first semester this coming school year. Then my mind started racing with ideas for building my communities- both the classroom and my theatre community- from the ground up. I absolutely love incorporating technology in my classroom, and I love teaching teachers how to make the most of it. But we are at home. So… here I am. It’s time for me to build my community- to hold the door open for the other teachers who are struggling beside me from their home offices.
In this blog, I hope to work through my thoughts on being a theatre educator: teaching virtually, about teaching theatre, and about the theatre community in general. I also hope that my thoughts on theatre and teaching it will create an open door for other teachers and theatre people muddling through this new and challenging era to feel good about the work that we’re doing together.