First of all, everyone needs to watch this video.
Now that that’s out of the way, I have been planning this post for a while now. This past quarter I took a class called Ethnic Drama and one of our first sessions we discussed how we define ethnic groups. I came to the conclusion that the ethnic group I relate to most, is that of theatre people. So I wanted to do a post about the different theatre groups that I’ve connected with through the years.
Also, at the end of the quarter I had a student ask to interview me via e-mail about theatre. So I want to post my responses to the student’s questions and some pictures of me with my various theatre groups.
1. What sparked your interest in theater?
I was always interested in the performing arts. I went to a performing arts elementary and middle school, but in the past I tended to focus on art, music, and singing. I also have terrible stage fright, which is probably I didn’t explore theatre right away. In high school I had a group of friends in theatre and it was around then that I realized I could be part of the theatre and not be on stage. I started in publicity, doing tickets, ushering, etc. Then when I was 16 I went to NYC for the first time and saw RENT on stage, that’s when I became enamored with the lighting. After that I knew theatre is what I wanted to do and I devoted all my free time to learning about lighting and lighting design.
2. How did you decide what area of theater you wanted to pursue?
I actually enrolled as a freshman intending to get a BFA in lighting design, but after a poor experience my first semester I decided that lighting design was not in my future. I continued as a BA (generalist) in theatre for a couple semesters. As part of my degree requirements I had to take Intro to Theatre History, Play Analysis, and two additional theatre history classes. I really enjoyed my history classes and I had a professor who made even the most boring subject interesting, so I took as many of her classes as I could. It was somewhere around my junior year of college that I realized I wanted to study theatre history.
3. What is your favorite part about theater history?
I love that idea that anything you can do in the “real world” you can do in the theatre world. Also, that theatre is a tool for social change and it serves as a mirror for society.
Two classes that I took in undergrad solidified what I love about theatre history:
First I took a class called “African Theatre and Performance.” I was able to learn about African culture, their religion, cultural beliefs, and study the history of these different African countries. I liked that I could use theatre as a lens through which to study all these different elements. I also learned about how African’s use theatre as an element of their religious/spiritual rituals, as well as a tool for change and education.
Second, was a class called “Gender, Race and Performance” where we studied and discussed how our cultural views on gender, different races, disabilities, etc. can be expressed in theatre and used to educate others. The final project that we did forced me way beyond my comfort zone, but also forever changed my perspective on the world.
4. Do you want to continue teaching or are you going to pursue a different field in theater?
Yes, I want to continue teaching. I am in the process of applying to PhD programs in Theatre Studies/Theatre History, so I can continue my education in all aspects of theatre studies. Ultimately I want to research and teach at the university level.
5. Would you recommend theater history to other young students who are interested in the theater arts?
I firmly believe that a background in theatre history is important for any theatre practitioner. Even if someone wants to be an actor, director, designer, playwright, etc. understanding and knowing about the history and background of what you’re studying is only going to improve the product. For instance, if someone were to direct, design or act in a Medieval cycle play, it is imperative they understand the point in history when Medieval theatre developed. Then they would need to look at the influence of religion on the culture of the time, who was in control of the culture, who was creating and performing the theatre, the types of stories being told, the style of the performances, etc. From there an actor/director/designer could make stylistic changes, but you need to understand the roots before you can make modifications. Also, by taking classes in theatre history, you develop the skills necessary to do the research.
6. What are your life goals?
I plan on getting my PhD starting in the fall. Then after I complete my education I will hopefully get a job at a university where I can research, teaching and work in education, perhaps work as a dramaturge.
7. Did you ever consider another major?
No. That being said, as I mentioned earlier, I shifted my focus within theatre several times. At one point I considered getting an MFA in Theatre Management as a “more practical” degree/career choice, because I was worried that I couldn’t make it in the field of theatre studies. Ultimately I decided that I would not feel satisfied in that career path involving business and management, even if it was in the theatre.
I want to be able to spend my life learning and helping others discover why theatre is important.