Students learn in a number of different ways. Some students assimilate information when they read, others when they memorize for a test, still others learn more through research and writing. I provide all theater history students with the opportunity to work in their learning stuyle. In addition, I create a syllabus so students know from the beginning what is expected of them .I have a midterm and a final, as well as two research papers and a class presentation. All assignments have equal weight, allowing each student toshine in his or her area of expertise.
Acting, however, can only be learned through practice. Initially, I teach the students rehearsal protocols, as well as the importance of being heard and understood. I also emphasize theater as a team sport. There are no stars. A good actor works with the rest of the cast and crew to present the best show they can. Once the basics are in place, I teach students how to find and document a character. I follow this up by assigning each student a scene to analyze and perform. In addition,the students learntheater games and warm up exercises, so that each student can design the best warmup for them before the show.
The student's grades are never based on their acting, however. Rather, the grades are based partially on written work, such as character analysis and goals, and partially on class participation. In addition, students are asked to keep a keep a log, documenting the work put into rehearsal and memorization. A student who has done the preparation will receive a solid grade, no matter their acting ability.
The first quarter of directing should involve teaching the basic concepts of directing. The first order of business is how to design a set and analyzing the text, then how to move your people. The second quarter would be less theory and more hands on working a cast in a play. Ideally, acting 2 class would meet at the same time as directing 2 and much of the class would be spent with the directing students casting and directing the acting 2 students in the piece. Acting and Directing 2 students would keep a log of rehearsals, documenting time spent, rehearsal protocols followed, and struggles in the rehearsal process. At a couple of points in rehearsal, I would meet with students and help them work through some of the struggles, helping them see interpretation problems and find better ways to communicate to actors.
My final point is that a good teacher is always learning. There is much to be learned from the students, of course, but a good teacher should be involved in continuing education, as well, and involved with other professionals in the local community. There is always more to learn, more to develop, and students learn more from this example than anything we can teach them.
I travelled for twenty years with Covenant Players. Three and a half of those years were spent in other countries, during which time I learned Danish, Swedish and some German. In addition, throughout my time in Covenant Players, I worked with people from many different cultures, including France, the Netherlands, Korea, and China. I often had to work through cultural and language barriers, often discovering my own biases. Many of those I worked with I now consider lifelong friends. I also helped others with their English and helped them adjust to cultural differences here in the States.
I also volunteered to teach math and English skills to speakers of other language groups while I lived in Aberdeen and I worked at Seattle Vocational Institute teaching math and English for a few months. It was challenging to communicate math skills to people of other language groups, but also gratifying.
In my experience, drama is in itself a culturally unifying concept. Music and theater exist in all cultures, not only as entertainment, but as a way to communicate the mores of the culture. It has been a universal method for fighting injustice and oppression. There are a number of plays from every culture speaking to these concepts.
It would then be my goal as a theater instructor to do several things to enhance diversity in the theater department. I would search out plays, first of all that have or can have a diverse casting. I would also attempt at least one play a year that is written for and by a specific minority group, such as women, African Americans, Latinos, etc. In addition, if there were students interested, I would help the students put together a drama group that spoke to social justice issues that was independent from the school program.