The theatre arts, like many art forms, are multidisciplinary in nature. Teaching theatre arts in a liberal arts institution provides a fantastic opportunity to equip students with the necessary means to embrace and connect multiple areas of study. An appreciation and understanding of history, literature, psychology, sociology, kinesiology, religion, and culture, help the theatre student to understand and examine their craft, which in turn allows them to grow both as a student and as a professional within their field.
I am an actor and a director. What I bring to my students is the fundamental comprehension and practice of these art forms. This informs my teaching and allows me to confidently assume the role of educator in the theatre arts.
I teach classes such as Introduction to Acting, Actor’s Lab, Chicano/Latino Theatre, College Writing Seminar, as well as paired courses and others that satisfy liberal education requirements. My objectives within each course, while varied depending upon the individual requirements, are geared to have the individual student make meaningful connections between as many disciplines as possible. For example, when teaching my course on Styles of Acting and Performance (Shakespeare), I help the students to decode the etymology of the Bard’s words and understand how the choice to use a particular interplay of words communicates meaning to the audience. We also explore the significance of the Elizabethan world in both its historical and social contexts in order to further appreciate the environment in which Shakespeare was writing plays.
In other courses, such as Introduction to Acting, my objective is to introduce students to the necessary fundamentals about performing on stage. Technique is heavily discussed and applied through performances. For each performance, they must write a paper that utilizes imagination and triggers connections to other courses of study. Questions regarding family histories, character psychology, historical and social constructs of society, etc. ask students to draw from their various educational paths as they matriculate through the college.
In Play Analysis & Criticism, students examine plays through textual, visual, and imaginative lenses, as well as the unique perspective of the students. Students gain an awareness and respect for the principles of dramatic structure by reading, analyzing, and writing about plays. Viewing the plays, either live or recorded, helps transition the student into recognizing the unique interpretation of a specific production. Finally, a series of exercises tap into the students’ imaginations, empowering them to express their knowledge of the play both figuratively and artistically. These exercises allow the students to draw from their highly varied fields of study, and make significant connections across the disciplines to the plays being examined in the course.
The theatre requires participants to pull from experiences they have had throughout their lives. Performance, in particular, has an expectation that one must draw from all life experiences in order to effectively portray a character. Each style, genre, and type of performing has its own specific needs. My role as an educator at Whittier College is to foster the growth and development of those needs by helping students make meaningful connections to the education they are acquiring across all fields of study.