As a Theater director and acting teacher, I am constantly reminded of the importance of play. When tensions run high, I remind my students: “this is a play; to play is to have fun.” However, I also know that the gift of play and fun is only attained by hard work. During my twenty years as a drama teacher, I have learned a lot about myself, my students, and the hands-on work of putting up a play. I’ve taught in New York City, at Interlochen Arts Camp, at the Vermont Children’s Theater and have run the Theater programs at three high schools in Vermont: North Country Union High School, Lyndon Institute and U-32 Middle and High School. In all of these venues, with all of the diverse students, unique stages and communities, I have discovered my core values of teaching have remained constant: always have respect for the actor and the process, embrace discovery, maintain impeccably high standards of achievement for all students and always honor the transformative ability of the art of Theater.
Each actor has his or her own process that must be honored. A director’s job is much like the job of an interpreter; a good director is always asking herself how best to communicate to each actor on the stage. With any art form, there is no one-size-fits-all philosophy and this is especially true for Theater. The task of the director is to help each performer find his or her individualized acting method, one that can grow and evolve just as humans continue to grow and evolve through their lifetime. I am well versed in a variety of acting techniques, such as Stanislavsky, Spolin, Bogart and Meisner and the teachings of these master teachers are the foundation of my Acting classes. However, I don’t rely on just one single school of thought when teaching acting or working with actors in a play. Instead, I refer often to the actor’s toolbox – an arsenal of techniques that each actor must develop and have at his or her disposal. Only by knowing the many approaches of the master acting teachers and the history of how the study of acting has evolved, can a student choose what is right for him or her as a performer and an artist. My goal as a teacher is to help each student develop his or her own actor’s toolbox so that each actor has possibilities from which to choose. This to me, shows the utmost respect, not just for actors and their own artistic and creative processes, but for the art of acting itself.
Because I work with young people, I am constantly reminded of the revelations that can happen in a safe and encouraging creative environment. Student actors, technicians and designers who feel supported, but still challenged, in the classroom, behind the scenes or on the stage are able to make wonderful discoveries about themselves, their classmates and the art and craft of theater. This commitment to the act of discovery is vitally important in the classroom setting as well as during the rehearsal process and subsequent performances. Acting is reacting and each moment on stage can remain fresh and new if each moment is approached as a discovery. I often ask my students, “who is the most important person on the stage?” The answer to that question is always “your acting partner.” By developing relationships on the stage and “looking to your partner” for your motivation and your own personal development, actors can transcend themselves and discover their characters, their relationships and the text itself. The same holds true for student technicians and designers - every moment of creation can be a discovery and by working together great discoveries can be made.
All of the arts are transformative, but the art of Theater has a special ability to bring people together, to educate, to enlighten and to help us evolve as people and communities. Whether a student of mine plans to pursue a career in Theater or not, I want him or her to be a strong supporter of the arts. I want all of my students to experience the transformative power of Theater, personally and within their community. Nothing brings people together like the act of putting on a play; an experience that every young person should have. Theater makes us more enlightened, helps us understand ourselves and others; teaches us to work together and raises us to high standards of achievement. There is nothing that compares to it and there is no substitute. When a student of mine is able to see and articulate connections between Theater, Art, themselves and their community and to use those connections to enhance their lives, I know I have done my job and done it well.