At Theatrefolk, we celebrate the theatre educators who share their stories and continue to make their classrooms and stages a warm and wonderful place for all students.
Julie Zatko is a Northwest Ohio based theatre director and educator. She is passionate about presenting new and bold works, juxtaposed with educating and creating theatrical opportunities for young thespians. For 13 years she held the position of theatre advisor for Rossford High School (Rossford, OH). While advisor, she directed a total of 38 productions ranging from classics to family musicals. Three of her productions were chosen as full length features for the Ohio EDTA Theatre Conference.
She is currently involved with the The Toledo Repertoire Theatre, where she has directed main stage (Fun Home, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) and Young Rep (West Side Story, The Crucible, All Shook Up) productions. She holds a seat on their Education Committee, and frequently teaches Young Rep acting/directing/playwriting/improv classes. She is currently directing Godspell for The University of Findlay. She holds a BA in the Arts (The University of Toledo, 2000).
1. What was it like for you as an LGBTQ+ teen?
Like every other teen, with some anxiety , show tunes, glitter, and coping mechanisms to boot. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. Scared anyone would find out. Unsure of relationships when they found out the truth about you. Confusion at the overwhelming tsunami of feelings you had. Relief when you found your support. Excitement when you finally found “the one”, fully realizing what was right in your world. Growing up in this world is hard enough. In this day and age we must recognize the importance of individual growth, support, and building a healthy generation that is able to progress.
2. What’s important to you in terms of supporting LGBTQ+ teens today in your classroom?
Visibility. Understanding. Respecting their pronouns. Our young students are more advanced than we realize. Many have a strong idea of who they want to be, and how they want to get their. Guidance is important. Even though they have an idea of who they are, materials and personal recognition will only help them make smart decision for their future. Lastly, make sure they feel included. Seeing themselves in your curriculum will make them feel a part of your program. Taking that extra time can do more good than you realize.
3. What is one thing you’d like to change in the drama classroom in terms of LGBTQ+?
Its simply more inclusion. Showing every student the LGBTQ+ community existed way before they walked in your classroom. Share history. Names, plays, works of art, etc. Solidify that we exist, and our work is immeasurable.
4. What is something you want to share with teachers who have LGBTQ+ students?
First off, if you are a part of the community, and live authentically, you are doing more than you realize by just being there. Many students have shown up because they knew “I was like them”. Even without saying it, they know, and they are really excited by you, and your support. I don’t need to tell anyone the word is drastically changing. Even in the last few years students have let it be known the importance of pronouns, and what they want to be called. They are communicating feelings we have to hear. Be there. Hear them. Work with them to make the space inclusive, positive, and nurturing. They are the future, we just have to make sure they have one.