My purpose as a teacher is to find the spark that will ignite a student’s passion to know and foster that quest for learning by giving it direction, focus, and opportunity. Likewise, my goal as an artist is to teach – not in the didactic sense of simply imparting a message, but in a larger sense of sparking a community’s curiosity and desire to learn. My first responsibility is to the production team, to construct a community of learners who explore a performance text together. But once that ensemble has formed, I must guide that small community in meeting its responsibility to serve our audience – by providing spectators with a shared experience that invites curiosity and contemplation. I engage my students in class to find out what inspires them, in order for them to find connections between the theatre and their lives, but also to demonstrate the value of seeking out such connections on their own. Similarly, I engage my performers and production team in the collaborative exploration of a play – sometimes conventionally, sometimes unconventionally – with the underlying goal of discovery rather than just proficiency or execution. The purpose of my work as a director is to serve my community, by enabling an ensemble of collaborating artists to build an environment where the public can be entertained through the utility and pleasure of wonder and discovery.
My job as a teacher and an artist is not to give a complete world or finished concept to the student, actor, or audience, nor is it to build a better person. My job is to enable growth, by initiating and taking part in dialogue (in many forms, in many contexts) with fellow human beings. As a teacher I bring voices to bear that students may not have heard; as a director I provide another perspective to guide an actor’s or a designer’s choices. But I also try through collaboration to help the student discover her own voice, and build an ongoing conversation with life. By definition, theatre is interdisciplinary; in application, it is consensual and cooperative. Studying theatre on stage, in the classroom, from the auditorium, and in the life of our increasingly mediated culture, allows us the opportunity to directly explore the immanent potential of human experience and possibilities.
Theatre is serious, but it cannot be taken too seriously. Its tremendous value derives from the playfulness and joy – from the humor as well as the gravity – which we bring to the work. In teaching theatre, I try never to lose the sense of play that renews the intensity of theatre as well as the joy that creates, supports, and strengthens it. What makes not knowing bearable, in the theatre particularly, is the willingness to surrender to not knowing, and saying “yes” to wanting to know, which –I believe – brings us together to make theatre, and makes us matter.
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