Theatre As A Doorway Into Transformational Education.

As a performing arts teacher, I have found it most effective to create curricula that move towards creating ensemble-based projects that result in public performances — the students are seen as collaborators.  My experience in the classroom and my time on the professional stage have taught me that the best teacher for theatre is the play itself, the best teacher for how give a speech, is the speech itself.  All lessons and activities are designed to unlock this potential.  And the best way to maximize this experience is to do what the professionals do:  aim to produce excellent theatre.

Since theatre can only be successful if it gives the audience a rich human experience that feels authentic, eye-opening, passionate, transformational, then the performers themselves must tackle their roles with their whole selves, with full-on curiosity, empathy for the characters, compassion and concern for the dramatic circumstances of the story.  Then what we can hope for is an educational experience that is truly transformational.

Morris Carnovsky (one of the great masters of modern acting) calls the path of the actor, “the path of empathy”.    I keep this in mind and try to model this trait in all the moments I am with students so that they have as many as opportunities as possible to open their imagination and their emotional awareness to realities beyond themselves.

Finally, while life may be complicated, acting technique should be kept simple:  the main tool I hope to give students is to learn that it’s easier to do something than to try and be something as the latter only leads to self-consciousness and insecurity.  It’s even sometimes best to believe that there are no nouns in the universe at all! (Look under a microscope deep enough and you find nothing but verbs… but I’ll leave that to the physicists…)

I aim to nurture a safe environment where students are challenged, invited, provoked, and encouraged to dive in as passionately as possible.  True learning usually feels like waking up, and most of us need to be shaken up a little if we’ve been asleep.