The first lesson I teach students is that originality in terms of inspiration out of thin air is a myth. Creativity is inspired by some stimulus outside of ourselves. The imagination uses that stimulus to impose a unique perspective on creativity. Perspective and imagination drive creativity. The distinct lens from which we look is designed by our life experiences. It is that lens that is original. It is through that lens we can show the world something original.
I utilize the knowledge and skills imparted to me by my colleagues and mentors to construct a style of teaching which encourages imagination, respect, communication, and professionalism. These four elements build a foundation for students to develop objective self-assessment, which is a key component to the performing arts and being a productive member of the community.
Imagination: I often see students afraid to engage their full imagination. Fear of the “wrong” choice, ridicule, and indignity impede the student from seeking to explore the full spectrum of possibilities in a script, scene, dance, or even the voicing of an opinion. Imagination is the most useful tool a performer has in their toolkit. I challenge students to move away from what they “should” do and move towards what they “could” do.
Respect: A place of respect is conducive with the risk taking and disquiet needed to grow as an artist. The goal is to respect one another as beings having a human experience. The experience that differentiates us from another person. The result is in the way we introduce ourselves, the pronouns we use, the way we hold our bodies, and the voice utilized to express ideas. Those examples are the tip of the tip of the iceberg of self. Respect for the variances of life’s happenings. A place of respect promotes anti-racist, pro-feminist, queer-affirming work and equality of outcome.
Communication: The 5 C’s of intimacy direction inspired me in every area of performance, directing, and teaching. Context, Communication, Consent, Choreography, and Closure are pillars that any artist can build on toward respect, growth, and fierce creativity. The one pillar that is a through line for all the others is communication. Communication begins with the words people use to convey their ideas and feelings. A performer needs to make strong choices and express those choices with as little doubt as possible. I challenge students to use words that establish a definitive choice and take away modifiers such as the word “like,” words that depreciate intention.
Professionalism: Reputation, marketing, and a business awareness assist the artist in mounting a successful career. A reputation built on integrity and dependability will propel an actor further than raw talent. Marketing begins with knowing how to type and brand. What are you selling? Like any good business, the actor should be able to objectively evaluate the past and plan for the future to feel secure in the present. Each student learns to calculate where their efforts and money will best serve them. This important skill is a step towards defining success for themselves rather than allowing others to determine it for them.
As much as I instill these philosophies in the students, I reiterate them to myself. I firmly believe the skills and knowledge imparted by the training will positively affect the students in their creative and everyday lives. For myself, these attributes are key to growing as a teacher and being a part of any community.