“Let’s do that again!”
Those were the first words I uttered after my first performance in a major role. I was in 6th grade, and I could not have felt more alive.
That rush and sense of accomplishment from theatre has never left me. Whether I’m performing, directing, or writing, nothing compares to the feeling of putting your work in front of an audience. This magnifies when working with young people because I get to watch them through the lens of my gangly 12 year old self, experiencing that exhilaration for the very first time.
Before I began my graduate school journey at City College of New York this past September, my greatest teacher fantasies focused on those moments. Watching my students high five and hug after they completed their first performance. Listening to them relive the best moments from the show. Begging me for one more performance and desperately inquiring about the next auditions. These dreams of youthful joy are supported in my Theatre for Young Audiences class. Discussing techniques for creating work with students heightens my ideals even more. Imagine the delight on those future students’ faces when the performance was something they also created together! The pride, the ensemble, the wonder! I’ve always believed that creating work in theatre builds confidence and empowers students to be leaders and innovators in the world of theatre and beyond.
But in my Drama in Education class, a whole new door of educational theatre was opened. Process drama. Creative dramatics. Teacher in role. No audience was mentioned. No culminating performance was referenced. What was this product-free world? How were my students going to win theatre competitions with this listless drama for drama sake?
But as Prof. Sobha Kavanakudiyil guides us deeper into this world, my mind travels even farther into the past, beyond sixth grade all the way to Kindergarten. I remember pretending to be babies with my best friend, committing to the point of drinking out of bottles. I remember dedicating ourselves to the idea of being identical twins, even practicing our handwriting to look the same. Truly method creative dramatics. The satisfaction of that make believe, even without anyone watching, instilled something inside of me even more profound than that exhilaration that would come years later. It created confidence and imagination. It built a personality able to lead others and solve problems creatively. And yet, before Drama in Education I’d never considered these moments to be a part of my theatrical education because they took place outside of a classroom.
Imagine if a teacher had been there to guide my entire class through these new stories and worlds within our minds.
I was lucky to have parents and other adults in my life that supported my theatrical flights of fantasy. But not every child has those people in their lives. That is why we need drama teachers in schools that aren’t there to just put them up on stage to perform but help them develop their creative energy and storytelling abilities within a safe environment and community of their peers.
I am grateful to the Educational Theatre program for opening my eyes to this balance between process and product. My development as an educator has been altered for the better. I wasn’t expecting to have an epiphany that would change my educational philosophy so drastically within the first few months of starting this program. But I’m beginning to see that my path of learning is going to be quite different than what I expected.
My visions of exhilaration and post-performance joy haven’t disappeared. They’ve expanded in a way I never imagined, and that is truly exhilarating.