Theatre is a living art which requires collaborative, multicultural, and innovative approaches to developing integrative learning. I feel theatre also requires mentorship to promote social and intellectual growth for the students, both within and outside the classroom.
The challenges I face when working on these issues with students becomes an opportunity in helping each student find their unique voice within the performing arts, be it in acting, movement, technical theatre, history, directing, or dramaturgy. One of my greatest rewards is in mentoring students as they become artists involved in the world of theatre. One of my greatest challenges in teaching is finding the way to connect with each student on an individual basis in order to help them reach their full potential as artist.
While working professionally in the international market, and teaching at the academic level, the course subjects, along with the depth of material I teach, have expanded. In my courses I feel it is important for students to understand multiple movement styles in conjunction with the various acting styles. Students should have a strong knowledge on how to incorporate these methods into their work. My advanced movement courses work within this framework, enabling students to explore clown, mask, and mime for an in-depth look at each methods technique. As an internationally certified instructor, I feel stage combat should focus on student safety and understanding of the principles of theatrical violence. My students should gain a solid understanding of safe physical action as related to the dramatic situation of the text. So that at the end of the course students have gained an understanding of action as it relates to various types of theatrical productions, how physical altercations on the stage build within the framework of the text, and the skills necessary for them to achieve international certification with the British Academy of Dramatic Combat. I believe students should be engaged and challenged by the subject matter I teach. In teaching theatre history and theatre appreciation my methods have grown over the years, I work to engage them in discussions with activities to help them develop historical knowledge, a multi-cultural perspective, and promote social inquiry into world theatre.
In my courses I find it is best to utilize a variety of teaching methods. For example, in physical based acting I start with individual work that progress towards group exercises. I work toward helping each student gain a solid understanding of the principals involved in the technique. By guiding the class individually at the beginning, I help each student gain the skills and confidence necessary for them to engage in group work further into the course. I tend to focus on leading interactive discussions in my lecture based classes, while engaging students with critical thinking essays, research, collaboration, and appreciation of multiple viewpoints. To help students enhance their ability to interact with the subject matter, I utilize technology, such as online videos, distribution of documents through the school’s web based system, and interactive discussion boards for each class. When directing at the academic level, I work on helping students grow by finding techniques that enhance their skill, methods which allow them to explore character, and guide them in findig ways to connect with the text.
When assessing my effectiveness as an educator, I focus on the student’s growth and student feedback. By using written assignments along with performance evaluations to measure student progress, I adjust classes and lessons as necessary, while communication and interactions help guide them with the objectives listed in each syllabus. The other method of measurement is the student evaluations of me. In my first year teaching, many evaluations came back stating the material was presented too quickly, and the students did not feel they had enough time to gain mastery of the techniques. In reviewing my classes, I realized I was rushing through some of the material, and I adjusted both the syllabus and teaching method in order to provide sufficient time for understanding the subject matter. In another course, my feedback asked the question of relevance of material to modern theatre or film acting multiple times. I worked on resolving the issue by adapting a deeper interactive conversation with the students on the practical techniques and engaging them in exploration of the applications to modern theatre and film acting. For external indicators, I believe it is important to be adaptive to the needs of the students and the classroom by keeping current on research, publications, trends in education, and performances. I have been fortunate to have some excellent teachers and mentors, and I try to give back to my students the same great energy, devotion, and mentorship I received in my education.