So it’s Monday (and like ,what are Monday’s for a freelancing artist in a pandemic anyway?). I just finish my morning workout and as I’m stretching to cool down, I realize that I’m doing the same stretch routine that I used when I taught high school theatre many years ago. I start remembering my students, how Debbie Allen was my inspiration as I taught physical theatre/theatre movement at a private school and musical theatre at a city-wide arts program started by the former First Lady of Chicago. I pushed my students hard to be them best selves because they needed to know that someone believed they could. Even if they didn’t end up living a life in the theatre or the arts, I wanted to make sure that they skills they learned in their time with me would help them further in their careers.
I often would start a new term with the question, “Who’s here because they want a career in theatre and who’s here because they love this as a hobby?” I assured them that there was not a right or wrong answer, I just needed to know how to best serve them that term. For those for whom theatre was just a hobby, I wanted to make sure that they had fun while we were in session while still pushing them to be their best. For those who wanted a life in this crazy business we call show, I wanted to make sure they were prepared for what lay ahead. The rejections, the ongoing development, the heartbreaks, the successes and wins. But most importantly, I wanted them to never forget that no matter how many times the industry/decision makers/gatekeepers might tell them “no”, they have to be their best advocate. “Let them tell you ‘no’,” I’d often say. “Just get in the room”.
So as I sit here, post-stretch and post-meditation (admittedly logging in late to my freelance job because hey when inspiration hits, you gotta sit down and write) – I sit here and I think about where they are. So I’ll be checking in with some of them this week and maybe blog about it (it is “Arts in Education” week after all). But as I sit thinking about how far they’ve come as people, I selfishly think about how far their teacher has come. I’m sitting sweaty in my living room after doing a work out and stretch very similar to what I put them through (ask any of them about my “circuits”). I’m closer to mid-life then I care to admit. I haven’t found the smallest percentage of fame that I hope to achieved when I was their age. I worry about how I’m gonna make ends meet every month. But I’m pursuing my passion, finally fully investing in my career after so many years of not believing in myself and hiding my self-doubt in full-time career-centered day jobs. Even in a pandemic, I’m finding ways to stay creative and even booking work (more on that when the press release goes out). And as I sit thinking about myself and my students, I can’t help but think of the teachers in my life that helped me get to this point. Of following my passion and dreams no matter what and fully committing myself to the development and growth of my craft.
So throughout this year’s “Arts in Education” week, I will be highlighting the teachers who have impacted me throughout my life and the students whose lives I’ve hopefully impacted for the better. If you’re reading this blog and you’ve taught me or have been taught by me, I would love if you dropped a comment about a favorite memory of our time together. And if you happened upon this blog post, I would love if you dropped a comment about a favorite memory with an arts teacher that’s impacted your life. And make sure to follow the greater conversation on social media: #ArtsInEducation #ArtsInEducationWeek #BecauseOfArtsEd