In the artistic fields a teacher that is also a working artist, I believe, makes for the ideal instructor. Students already come with a passion for the subjects that they want to learn. In order to build upon that passion, it helps if the teacher is already in touch with that feeling. There is no other feeling like being a part of an artistic endeavor. It may be that feeling that you getting hitting your stride onstage, or hearing the words that you had painstakingly crafted come to life, or even watching the supporting work that you’ve engaged in helping to breathe life into a production. Below are my approaches to being a teaching artist.
In the different subjects that I have been able to teach, I follow four main dictums. 1) I introduce students to a sound foundation. 2) Together we build a safe environment that encourages experimentation. 3) Build and encourage critical thinking skills. 4) And finally reinforce the passion we have for our chosen field.
For the first part, it is important that students in any subject learn the basic language of theatre and learn to use the basic “tools”. This requires exercises that help to develop both mind and body as instruments of expression. It is also essential to build a basic language that will help the theatre artist express their needs and desires.
We seek to build a safe environment. If a theatre artist is expected to grow, then experimentation must be encouraged. This will inevitably mean trying and failing. Students must learn to not be afraid of failing. It is by trying and failing that we learn the extent of our boundaries and how to eventually overcome them and build upon our successes. As theatre is a collaborative art form, it is essential to build an environment where a variety of thoughts, opinions and aesthetics can be considered without prejudice.Establishing a personal artistic aesthetic is vital for the theatre artist to give themselves a benchmark to measure their work by.
As the philosopher Richard W. Paul would say, “Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you're thinking in order to make your thinking better”. It isimportant to develop talent, however, it is equally important to develop a keen mind that can break down and discern information that will support that talent. Being able to think critically and objectively is an essential part of a successful higher educational experience. There are so many ways students can be swindled or lead astray by the world outside of school. Critical thinking skills are the shield against such exploitation. In my classes, students are encouraged to question everything. Whether the information comes from the book or from the professor.
There is a good deal of hard work that goes into the development of a theatre artist, but what is the point in pursuing the arts if the artist is not enjoying themselves?Success while working on even the darkest, most challenging work should inspire joy in the artist. The work of the artist in theatre is very exposed and at times can feel very fleeting. It is important to enjoy the work one does if one expects to continue in the field. Some of the ways that we look for this joy is by “checking in” during classes. In other words, I seek to get the immediate raw thoughts of students regard their own view of their progress. Also, I seek to reinforce why they choose to study in this field and get them to reflect on whether or not those feelings are still relevant.
Here are some brief ways that I apply my philosophy to different theatrical subjects:
I begin with writing exercises that explores and expands the playwright’s abilities to observe and describe human behavior. We also explore different approaches from different playwrights as we learn the basics of plot and dialogue.
I begin with vocal and physical exercises based on Linklater, Boal, and other teachers that emphasize stretching the actor both physically and mentally. Different approaches to acting are discussed (Stanislavski, Meisner, Hagen, etc.). We try to discover which method or combination of methods will allow the individual actor to more deeply explore their character and more fully and powerfully portray it. Actors then learn to find themselves through monologue work and learn to find others through scene study work. In advanced classes we investigate the importance of script analysis.
In dramatic lit courses we start with the premise that plays are meant to be spoken as well as read. Reading plays aloud is an essential part of dramatic lit classes. In addition to the analysis of various plays, we explore different productions of selected plays and discuss the importance of directorial interpretation.
A Basic directing begins with a discussion of the role of the director in theatre. That discussion NEVER stops. We also look at different approaches to directing as well as the styles of different directors both past and current. Exercises dealing with the nuts and bolts of blocking, performance coaching, script analysis and other basic aspects of the directing craft are also given.
Lecturer in Theater
Adjunct Professor in Theatre Arts
Formerly held positions at:
Lecturer, Acting I – Bates College, Lewiston, Maine
Lecturer, Acting I - University of Massachusetts, Boston
Lecturer, Intro to Theatre - University of Massachusetts, Boston
Lecturer, Theatre History 1660 – Present - University of Massachusetts, Boston
Lecturer, Intro to Theatre – Wheelock College, Boston
Lecturer, Theatre Production and Design – Wheelock College, Boston
Guest Lecturer - “Working with August Wilson” - Drew University
Instructor, Acting for Non-Majors - Boston University:
Teaching Assistant, Contemporary Drama - Boston University, Professor - JamesSpruill:
African American Theatre and Related Classes:
Mentor, University Honors Program - University of Massachusetts, Boston
Lecturer, Contemporary African and Caribbean Theatre - University of Massachusetts, Boston
Lecturer, The Black Image in Stage and Screen - University of Massachusetts, Boston
Lecturer, Black Theatre in America - University of Massachusetts, Boston
Playwriting and Related Classes:
Lecturer, Intro to Playwriting – Bates College, Lewiston, Maine
Lecturer, Intro to Screen and TV Writing - University of Massachusetts, Boston
Lecturer, Intro to Playwriting - University of Massachusetts, Boston
Lecturer, Playwriting Basics - Emerson College
Lecturer, Playwriting Basics - Gamm Theatre, Pawtucket, RI, \
Lecturer, Black and Blues Lives: Theatre at the Nexus between Law Enforcement and the Public. - University of Massachusetts, Boston
"AWESOME PROFESSOR! He really is animated and great at what he teaches!"
"Very patient and encourages discussion of texts in class. You will learn something and have fun doing so."
"His class was so interesting. I took his class on Saturday for 3 hours it felt like an hour."
"Taught the class to be very open minded and culturally respectful of everyone's history."
Student quotes from: www.ratemyprofessors.com