You’re in a theatre classroom. It is 2 pm. Class begins.
Stand. Have your feet be situated under your hip sockets. Allow your head to float up to the ceiling, as if there is a string attached to the middle of your head. Allow your shoulders settle. Let go of your stomach. Drop your head and begin to roll down your spine, vertebrate by vertebrate, until your torso hangs freely from your hips. Breathe a deep sigh of relief. Release all of the day’s tension. Only when you’re ready, slowly roll up your spine again. Take a look around. See your classmates for the first time today, free from tension, their true selves. Breathing. Blank slates, ready for the start of a new class.
Whether it be a lecture, studio class, or play rehearsal, every class I teach and rehearsal I run begins with a physical and vocal warm up that allows students to find release from the tensions of the day and of college life. These exercises provide students with the opportunity to broaden each individual’s knowledge and perception of his or her physical self, allowing for the performer to better know his most important tool, his body. It is from this place, that no matter the class and no matter the student, one is ready to be fully present, and ready to learn that day.
A theatre classroom is never boring. Every day students learn about themselves and how they live in the world. As a teaching artist, I strive to present to my students, whether they be theatre majors or Physics majors, History majors or Music majors, a road to discovering each individual’s unique creative voice, the value of his or her own perspective of the world, and the ability to capture the attention of any audience. Through both classical acting methodology and contemporary experimental performance technique I aim to instill in my students a strong foundation in the craft of performance, and the ability to think creatively in his or her chosen field, whatever it might be. My students leave my class with a heightened sense of intellectual rigor,a strong awareness of him or herself, and a solid foundation in performance technique.
When I teach, it is essential to me that the student is given the opportunity to immerse him or herself in the theory and research that has contributed to the foundation of the field. Whether it be an introductory lecture class, or an advanced performance studio, all students have the opportunity to study this material in depth, lead classroom conversations regarding the material, conduct outside supporting research, and collaborate with their peers on projects that apply theory to practice, utilizing course content to inspire and structure short experimental performances. My aim is to foster in my students a desire to dig deeper into a topic, and discover how they can use their personal creative voice in any situation to communicate an idea or tell a story.
Strong Awareness of Oneself
I work with students to examine their own skills, honed by their past experiences, personal interests, and fonts of knowledge, and discover how they can utilize them to better express oneself in the theatrical space and beyond, much as I have done in my own career. It is through the examination of the fullness of life that surrounds us that we can develop a stronger understanding of our selves, our assets, and how we relate with others, a skill beneficial to all students. Because of this, my students are constantly going out into the university and surrounding community to observe the people and world that exists beyond the classroom doors, and sharing their observations with each other. In addition, students are required to keep a multi-media journal compiled of writing, drawing, painting, craftwork, video, and/or blogged entries. These documents allow the students to creatively track their observations and personal growth over the course of the semester, while discovering new ways of communicating what they have learned.
Through the development of a keen awareness, reinforced by these activities, students are able to better grasp new concepts and ideas, and more adeptly express themselves in classes across the university curriculum.
I aim to educate the whole student, encouraging a healthy, balanced lifestyle fused with a sense of discipline and respect for themselves and others. In every class I teach, I instill a foundation of strong theatrical technique appropriate to the course curriculum, and adherence to an Eastern holistic education. All classes introduce students to a visual art vocabulary that allows the student to view and create art with a strong aesthetic sense, and appreciation of the value of well-crafted performance. In addition, students learn balance, strength, and grace through physical exercises grounded in yoga, ballet, modern dance, and Japanese movement technique. In every class, students are on their feet acting and improvising, taking risks and giving their classmates constructive critiques.
By utilizing a variety of materials outside of the traditional “actor’s toolkit”, my students, whether they be future actors or future engineers, discover the potential in themselves to be creative thinkers and confident, skilled performers who can hold an audience in whatever setting they find themselves.