I have a theory… theatre produces teachers. I have had this theory for quite some time and the more shows I see and work on, the more teachers I see onstage and listed in the playbill. I don’t think this is coincidental; in fact, it makes perfect sense to me.
In the most recent show I’ve seen (which was Sophie’s Light, as you may know if you’ve read my last post) I grabbed the playbill to count out for you how many teachers were in that show specifically. After reading the bios of 17 performers, I found that 5 were teachers or retired teachers, 1 was a principal, 1 was a coach, and 1 was a high school director. I should also note that 6 did not have a career listed, so it’s possible there were even more involved in schools. Even without the potential additional teachers, that means that about 30% of this cast were/are teachers and about 47% are professionally involved with schools in some way.
On a personal level, I’ve been involved with theatre since I was about 6 years old, and I am currently heading into my sophomore year of college in, you guessed it, the education program. Not only that but I’ve worked on shows with countless other teens who have already decided that teaching is where their heart lies. I’ve noticed that teaching always seems to outweigh any other profession in the bios of community theatre performers and I think that as I make the transition into working with adult companies that I will connect with many other teachers and soon-to-be teachers through the shows I do.
Why did I say that this makes perfect sense? Well, think about it; what are some of the skills or qualities every good teacher has? Great teachers are empathetic. The best performers truly feel the situations their characters are in; that allows them to give the most honest performance possible and is often why audience members are able to feel such a connection to those characters. Great teachers are creative. Performers by nature are artists, they construct people and worlds out of nothing. Great teachers are adaptable, they are able to tailor their lessons to work for all different kinds of students and change their entire plan when something puts off their lesson or they finish early. Performers have to be adaptable, they must constantly be evolving the way they portray a character to fit who they feel the character is and what the director wants from them. They also have to be able to improv well when things go wrong mid show. Great teachers are passionate. What artist is not passionate? Performers give their entire selves over to a character when they have been cast in a show, for the run of the production they lose themselves in becoming someone else. Beyond that performers and teachers alike often give of their own time and supplies to enhance their show or classroom. I can’t tell you how many performers I’ve seen, myself included, give up an afternoon to work on a set or run out to buy a costume piece or some makeup whether it be for themselves or a castmate. And, almost every teacher I have ever met has used their own money to provide items for their classroom. Great teachers are caring, they spend their days enhancing their students minds and getting to know their personalities. They go home with those kids on their hearts, hoping each one is fed, warm, loved, and reminded just how special they are. Performers are almost always willing to help out their castmates, whether that means bringing someone with a sore throat some tea and honey, staying late to run lines, or being a shoulder to cry on after a particularly stressful tech rehearsal.
For these and many other reasons, being a performer and a teacher seems like a match made in heaven. If you are a teacher/performer and you agree with me (or if you don’t) please share your experience with me in the comments!!
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