Student Blog: The Value of Theatre Education in Our Schools

From a future director & theatre teacher!

By: Apr. 28, 2024
Student Blog: The Value of Theatre Education in Our Schools
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I have been studying theatre in school since eighth grade, and numerous theatre teachers have touched my life. I feel as though the various education styles from those different teachers have made me a stronger artist while also providing me with the potential to be a strong educator. Theatre classes are a space for everyone to belong, and where each student’s background and life experiences are not just tolerated, but celebrated as a means of enhancement of the art they are able to contribute to the space. I have always felt as though theatre was what I had to do, but have in recent years, through opportunities to take on various leadership roles in my school’s theatre program, found that I have an even greater passion for guiding others in their artistic endeavors. I love helping underclassmen workshop pieces, sharing my philosophies on professionalism, and watching younger performers and technicians learn and grow. I have worked as both a performer and a technician, and recognize the value of both in any and all spaces. Prior to working in high school theatre, I was raised by the world of regional theatre, which I know shaped my personal development to a significant degree. Having personally experienced the effects of creating theatre on a human’s development, I cannot help but smile at the thought of getting to be apart of that process in any capacity. I find the deepest fulfillment not in my own art, but getting to see the process of others creating theirs.

One of the primary tasks of a theatre teacher, especially at the high school level, is serving as the director of various full-scale plays, musicals, one-acts, and more. As a junior, I have only had the opportunity to direct one one-act at my school, but I just recently signed my contract to assistant direct a children’s musical at a local professional theatre and also have the intention and capacity for directing three or more additional productions over the course of my senior year. Overseeing productions, however, is nothing new to me. At the age of four, when I first saw a live performance of Jack and the Beanstalk and fell madly in love with theatre, I began directing my own productions. No human actors were involved, of course, but I would argue that my action figures were perfectly acceptable performers (and cheaper than hiring union actors). Every time I slept over at my grandparents’ house, I would set up a table in their living room and play the cast recording of whatever musical I was obsessing over at the time while re-enacting it with my action figures. By the time I was eleven, my grandpa had built me a whole puppet theatre, complete with a PVC pipe rigging system, a cyc, several battens which I hung colorful flashlights on, and a full-scale sound system. I continued turning every major musical phenomenon of the 2010s into an action figure performance, from Hadestown to Frozen, while also introducing my own original plays. After I was done cleaning up my performance of an original work called A Case Worth Sharing, I headed to bed. My grandparents were still rocking in the living room, and I heard my Grandpa Dave say “That kid is gonna be a writer. Or a director. Or an actor. But he was meant to do this.” In January 2021, he lost his battle with COVID-19, but I still feel him with me every time I pick up a script, or sing in an audition, or write a new play: he encouraged me at every step of the way, and it would be the honor of a lifetime to be able to be the Grandpa Dave to even one young theatre maker who may not have one. 

My hypothetical philosophies within the sphere of theatre education, prior to any formal collegiate training on how to actually be a theatre teacher, come down to three core ideas. I want to provide a space for every student to be seen, heard, and valued, no matter what their circumstances are. While it is a common stereotype for arts teachers to serve as an additional parent to many of their students, I truly believe in establishing a close relationship with students, both as their director and their teacher. Just as important as having a close relationship, in my experience, has been establishing fair boundaries. Burnout obviously exists even for teachers and directors, and it can be a lot easier to reach a point of being truly burnt out when dealing with an inappropriate work-life balance. It took me many years of working in the Phoenix metro area theatre scene to truly come to the realization that although theatre feels like my entire life, dropping everything and everyone around me in the name of artistry is neither just nor sustainable. I see too many theatre teachers losing their passion by ignoring burnout. Of course, every teacher wants to give 100% to their students every day, but I want to bring a sense of humanization to the field of theatre education. I am not going to be capable of giving 100% to my classes every single day, and would never expect my students to be able to either. If either party in this scenario was able to show up every day with maximal energy, we would not be human artists. We would be game show hosts. In addition to this, I want to embrace innovation in theatre by honoring the past while simultaneously acknowledging that my students and their ideas are the future. Innovation lies at the core of my artistic philosophy. Theatre is a playground, an experiment with what we are capable of creating. I want to take students beyond “that works” and into the realm of asking “why does that work?” Too often the voices of young artists are censored and overlooked, despite them having some of the most valuable ideas about the world and the human experience as a whole. Whether this expression of innovation comes through the utilization of new mediums, experimental new works, or just pushing the limits of what society tells us that teenagers can produce in the artistic realm, it is centric to my views on theatre education. Finally, I want to provide every opportunity possible to my students to make it in the industry, should they so desire. I have a significant amount of personal experience with the power of networking and professionalism, both of which are arguably just as important to “making it” as talent itself. I am fully prepared to help my students make connections with who they need to, guide them through the college audition process as needed, etc. It is my honest belief that anyone who wants a career in theatre can find one somewhere, even if it may not be the specific one they originally intended. No matter what, I want theatre education to continue to be a space where young theatre makers can explore the various niches that the art form has to offer while developing as students, artists, and humans. 



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