A mentor of mine once described his directing approach as building a playground for his actors, releasing them to explore within it, and stepping in as necessary to make sure they stay safe and remember the game they are playing. As an emerging artist, fresh out of undergrad, this resonated with me and uplifted my idea of theatre-making and actor training. I brought this mindset into my graduate school experience and refined it in my teaching approach. I seek for the rehearsals I lead, and classrooms I teach, to embrace all identities and learning styles.
This ideal of flexibility thrives when placed upon a firm foundation of clear communication and academic structure. While independent and unfettered exploration energizes my work, I respect the roles of structure and rigor in artistic growth. With vocal and movement certifications and other tools, I craft a creative jungle gym through which students delve into their roadblocks and expressive potential. My classroom provides a space for introverted as well as extroverted artists, and we value quiet reflection equally to group exploration. Students address physical roadblocks and expand their expressive versatility with tools like Chekhov and yoga. They reignite their childlike curiosity with Lessac Kinesensics and devised work. Mutual respect is at the heart of our classroom ethos, so bodily autonomy, clear communication of intent, and compassionate language drive our discussions. This structure hones students’ impulses into repeatable techniques that also allows space for spontaneity.
Theatre training should be a time for developing students’ artistic modus operandi instead of clipping their wings with dated industry-casting practices and theatrical canon. I expose students to plays that shed light on underrepresented stories and nurture their collaborative spirits. In this way, they build the confidence to reimagine classics to include their perspectives and the courage to tell new stories. I make room to cast beyond gender-based limitations and have open communication with nonbinary actors so their identities are honored in the casting process. I want student artists to feel like their potential isn’t confined to any genre of theatre but can be applied and are valid in all of them.
It is important to me that student artists develop life skills in their training and become confident, active members of their communities. Theatre training provides opportunities for students to nurture empathy, foster emotional intelligence, and acknowledge their role in the social fabric within which they weave their artistry. Together, the use of holistic exploration and structured play creates a playground that is inclusive and empowering. This enriches student artists with strong artistic voices, ready to make a difference in a world that needs their voices heard.