Episode 138: Successes and Challenges: Potpourri
We continue talking to teachers in our Successes and Challenges Series. In this episode we hear from a teacher using students as leaders, a successful fundraiser, and everyone’s favourite challenge turned success: Shakespeare. Listen in and learn how your fellow teachers have taken on challenges and dealt with them head on.
Welcome to TFP – The Theatrefolk Podcast – the place to be for Drama teachers, Drama students, and theatre educators everywhere.
I’m Lindsay Price, resident playwright for Theatrefolk.
Hello! I hope you’re well. Thanks for listening.
Welcome to Episode 138!
You can find any links to this episode in the show notes at theatrefolk.com/episode138.
Today, we continue talking to teachers in our Successes and Challenges series. I love this! I love doing these interviews! It’s inspiring to me and I hope it’s inspiring to you too as the school year kicks into gear.
In this episode, we hear from a teacher using students as leaders, a successful fundraiser – don’t we all want to know about that? – and everyone’s favorite challenge turned success: Shakespeare. Maybe you too – yes, you, I’m talking to you, you know who you are – hi, how are you? – maybe you too can take on a challenge that everyone is saying you can’t do.
We are going to do it. Let’s do it.
LINDSAY: All right. I am speaking to Kristi Jacobs. Hello Kristi!
LINDSAY: How are you tonight?
KRISTI: I’m doing wonderful. How about you?
LINDSAY: I’m doing pretty good, doing pretty good. We are talking about successes and challenges. What has been your challenge this year?
KRISTI: I would say my challenge this year has been getting parents involved in a way that is helpful and productive. I graduated not last year but the year before. I graduated a really group of seniors. I had parents that were taking care of a lot of things and then we didn’t really have the parents coming in underneath them so much to sort of be mentored by them. I had a year of real transition. And then, this year, there are some parents that are slowly starting to step up. It’s kind of overwhelming – you know, when you’re a one-woman show getting everything done – so you really have to rely on those parents and I think the kids too are just involved in so much so then the parents are involved in so much and it’s hard to really get them to dedicate a lot of time.
LINDSAY: You realize how much of a one-man band you are when that parent support sort of disappears, doesn’t it?
KRISTI: Oh, absolutely, absolutely, and I will say I do have some parents that are really wonderful and always asking what they can do. Sometimes, it’s really hard to tell them what they can do and, you know, I had those parents that have been around for five years. Our school’s at eighth grade through twelfth grade and so they could just do everything. You know, I didn’t have to think about telling them what to do. You know, they just did it. And so, it’s finding that way of communicating with them exactly what they can do to help and be helpful and sort of get what needs to be done done.
LINDSAY: Well, sometimes, the worst thing that can be thrown your way is, “Oh, just let know if I can do anything to help.” It’s like, “Yes, but I don’t know what that is,” and you don’t want to lose them.
KRISTI: Exactly. Exactly, and there are definitely some wonderful parents out there that offer all the time, but sometimes you’re just going from thing to thing – got to figure out what this prop is going to be and how you’re going to make it work and you don’t know how to communicate what it needs to be to them to get them to do it, you know?
LINDSAY: Yeah. Do you have any thoughts on how you’re going to handle this next year?
KRISTI: Yeah, I do. I actually think I’m going to, like I said, I have a couple of parents that are really great about asking to help so I think I’m going to try to get them to create sort of like a parent booster club type thing where they’re kind of in-charge of the parents – you know, a parent in-charge of the parents. That way, I can just have one person that I communicate what sort of the needs are and the top priorities and what needs to be done and then have them be in-charge of communicating with the parents and getting the things done because I think that’s another challenge. You know, because I have so much on my plate, finding that time to communicate with the parents even, you know, in a way that is sort of productive.
I think if there’s someone else that can be in-charge of that – you know, sending those emails out and making the phone calls and getting the list together – I think that would be really helpful. That’s sort of my plan going forward for next year.
LINDSAY: I think that’s an awesome idea. That way, it’s a funnel that you’re not at the end of. You’re at the beginning of it.
KRISTI: Yes, exactly.
LINDSAY: Okay. Let’s talk about your success. What was your success this year?
KRISTI: Well, we – for the first time – did a faculty one-act performance and this was our fundraiser this year – our big fundraiser this year. It’s an idea that I kind of got about two years ago. This is my fifth year at the school. It sort of came from a selfish place. I hadn’t really had a chance to perform too much because I’m always directing so I was like, “Gosh, how can I get myself on stage and still not stretch myself way too thin. You know, fundraisers are always such a challenging thing because you put so much work into them and then the amount of money that you make really isn’t always very much worth the amount of work that you put into them. So, I got this idea and the timing was just right this year to give it a go. Basically, put out feelers to the faculty and staff and said, you know, “Would you audition for a one-act play?” and a lot of them were saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” and the kids were all about it so, my officers, they did the auditions, they auditioned all of us. They did the casting and then I kind of mentored. Mainly, it was my president and vice-president and mostly the president mentored her in kind of directing the show and it was super successful. We really didn’t spend much on it at all. We spent and paid for the rights for the play and the scripts and that was pretty much it as far as the expenses went because we chose a script that really didn’t need a set and we had most of the costume stuff already we just pulled from our stock and props we just pulled from our stock or borrowed so we didn’t really spend very much money so it was all profit.
LINDSAY: That’s awesome. Sometimes, all students want is to see their teachers in a different light. You know, what a fun way to do it.
KRISTI: Absolutely. Oh, they loved it. I tried really hard to find a script that obviously was going to be funny and also had a lot of parts. I think we had twenty teachers that were in it.
LINDSAY: Holy cow!
KRISTI: Yeah. You know, the way the script was set up, it was like scenes, there were four main parts that were always there and then there was a fifth part. There was like – I don’t know – over a dozen scenes like that. The fifth person would come in and do their thing and leave so it was really great because, you know, teachers were all very busy, we don’t have a lot of time to rehearse and such so it was really easy to set up the rehearsals because not everyone had to be there and it was kind of as a teacher was available, we would meet and block and rehearse, and it really worked out well.
LINDSAY: How long would you say your rehearsal process was?
KRISTI: It was not very long at all. I would say two and a half weeks or so.
KRISTI: Yeah, maybe three weeks? It was really short and, like I said, it was mainly after school – usually not longer than an hour, an hour and a half after school – and it was whoever could come that day would come. There were a couple of teachers where they really only rehearsed maybe once or twice before our dress rehearsal. When recruiting the teachers, I basically said there are two days you absolutely must be available and it was the show day and the day before the show. I was like, “Other than that, it’s completely flexible.” As long as they were available the day before the show so we could do a dress rehearsal tech type thing and then the day of the show.
LINDSAY: What a great faculty you must have that they basically jumped in with both feet.
KRISTI: Oh, yeah, we do have a really wonderful faculty, we really do. So, yeah, I’m very thankful for that.
LINDSAY: What a great idea for your drama students to see, too. You know, I think that’s something that, if you’re looking for an interesting fundraiser idea, you know, see with the faculty, short rehearsal period, fun play, and just make it entertaining, right?
KRISTI: Exactly. Like you said before, the kids really love seeing their teachers do things that their teachers don’t normally do, especially if you can make yourself look silly for them – you know, they really eat it up. I think this is our first year doing it and we didn’t sell out but we got pretty close to selling out and I think that next year it’ll probably be sold out. That’s the other thing, we only did one performance and that was it – one and done.
LINDSAY: Well, maybe you’ve started a tradition?
KRISTI: I think so. It was definitely the buzz around school and people were excited by it so I think that we’re going to keep it going.
LINDSAY: Well, thank you so much, Kristi. I really love that fundraiser idea and it’s always great to share a challenge. Thank you so much!
KRISTI: Thank you!
LINDSAY: Hello, Liz!
LIZ: Hello, Lindsay.
LINDSAY: Hi! I’m talking to Liz Norling. Okay, let’s get right to it.
What has been your biggest challenge this year?
LIZ: My biggest challenge has been using seventh and eighth graders as leaders backstage. I am typically a control freak type of director and I’ve had a hard time letting go of some details. I’ve been predominantly a parent-assisted program. I get a lot of help through parents, a lot of support of parents, but I’ve really noticed an emergence of young leaders among my junior highers and have really felt like it was time to spread that out a little bit and allow them to get their fingerprints on the production a little bit more.
LINDSAY: How did you do that?
LIZ: Well, it started with a young student who really wanted to be a stage manager. She was really interested in that because we had learned about it and our junior high drama class. I did a unit on tech theatre and they all got to kind of study their favorite thing and that’s something that she looked at and felt like it was an opportunity that she wanted to go for instead of actually auditioning for the play and I thought, “That’s pretty cool.” So, I gave her some more information and she actually self-taught herself. This is an eighth grader. Read up on it, got a notebook together, and she was a very organized young lady and she just started taking advantage of that situation. And then, kids saw that and they went, “I really like what Victoria did. Can I try that next time?” and then I thought, “Well, they all can’t be as great as Victoria. No, I’m not ready to let go of that yet.” And then, when we did our next show, I had about eight kids say they didn’t want to audition for the show and that scared the daylights out of me. I thought, “I’m not going to have any quality eighth graders in the cast because they all want to work backstage.” It turned out to not be that way. I had plenty of people in the cast and, these kids, what I did was I put them through an interview process. I made it super serious for them and I asked them really, really basic questions like, “What do you know about stage management?” or “What do you know about house managing?” and then, after they answered that question, I said something like, “And what would make you a great stage manager? What would make you a great house manager?” or whatever. It sort of went that way with about eight or nine kids that I got to interview.
LINDSAY: I think that’s awesome. First of all, that, “Okay, if you want to do it, let’s take it seriously, let’s figure out what you know,” As scary as it is, what a wonderful thing for students to learn and to be put in a position of authority.
LIZ: Absolutely. It could be a scary thing for junior highers because, as you know, they’re twelve and thirteen years old so I do believe it’s that age where they really want to emerge as leaders and they aren’t ready to be led, if that makes any sense.
LIZ: It’s a lot easier for them to be a leader than it is to take direction from a peer at that age group. That was a little bit scary for me at first. I thought, “I don’t want a bunch of kids feeling like they’re being bossed around.” That wasn’t my focus for this. My focus was more on the student leader and urging them on and bumping them up the next notch. It wasn’t really for them to lord anything over the rest of the cast, if that makes a lot of sense.
LINDSAY: Yeah, and did you have to do a balancing act with that? Were there some issues where students were like, “I’m not taking any notes from so and so”?
LIZ: It started out that way because of some of the leaders who weren’t yet ready to be leaders. Those were the kids that were still going to be in the show but I had seen something in them during the interview where I felt like they weren’t ready to take on that challenge yet and I had seen things in their lives as students in my classroom and so I told them, “Let’s wait until the next time and we’ll put you in.” Those were the kids that struggled the most with leadership, but it didn’t take long before they began to accept that leadership, and it was a big thing for me to tell the kids, “These students are here to put their hands on the backstage production element of it. They may tell you to pick up a set piece and move it and it has nothing to do with them lording over leadership. I’m the big boss around here.” That kind of helped it bounce back into, “Okay, somebody is still in-charge of all of this and I’m not being led by a bunch of kids.” That’s really important with that age group – to keep that balance.
LINDSAY: It’s kind of sounding like this is kind of your success as well as your challenge?
LIZ: Absolutely. I really felt like it’s a great skill for kids to foster – that leadership. But, not only that, there was this new appreciation for the work in the details that actually go into a production whereas, before, if I’m just performing in a play, I show up at rehearsal, I really appreciate the performance aspect of it, but I don’t really know the entire details that go on behind the scenes that make the whole thing come together and I feel like there was a large enough group participating in that leadership part that absolutely grew my students and it kind of was this thing that grew among the rest of the cast where they are now interested and now they have a passion for some of the work that goes on backstage.
LINDSAY: I just think that’s awesome and I think it’s especially awesome at the middle school level. We’re often told, you know, “Oh, they’re too young, they’re just kids.” It’s like, “No, they’re stepping into some roles.”
LIZ: That’s absolutely true. A big part of it is remembering their age group and knowing, you know, they are twelve and thirteen. You can’t send them on a task and assume that it’s going to (a) be completed or (b) that it’s going to be completed the way that you want it to be. But, if you can really hone in on that training piece of it and teaching them to see, to set a goal, to see the end of that goal, and it may not come out the way you wanted it to. I had them decorate the lobby for the show and hang up the headshots and it wasn’t the way I would do it but they had done every single bit of it and it was something that they could be proud of.
LINDSAY: Lovely! Thank you so much, Liz!
LIZ: You are very welcome!
LINDSAY: Hello, Julie Gordon!
JULIE: Hello, Lindsay!
LINDSAY: How are you?
JULIE: Terrific! I’m really delighted to be talking to you right now about being a drama teacher.
LINDSAY: Oh! Okay! Well, let’s get into it! How long have you been a drama teacher?
JULIE: Oh, gosh, I guess about ten years now. It was not my very first career but I was always into theater and I have an undergraduate degree in literature and theatre from the University of Pennsylvania and then an arts education degree and always had my eye on being a drama teacher. It just took some time to get there. I’m just really delighted that I do what I do.
LINDSAY: What was the switch that flipped for you? How did you make the decision?
JULIE: Yeah, good question. Well, a friend of mine who knew I had a background in theatre, I was working actually, I had another wonderful job for a music production company but my friend who had been hired just to do a play – a middle school play – and she needed someone. She was a music teacher and she needed the theatre piece so she asked me if I would do that with her and I said, “Absolutely.” We did a very creative circus version of “Everyman” and I loved it and I was pretty much hooked at that point. And then, it sort of flowed from there.
LINDSAY: Well, of course, my ears pick up like, “Oh, circus version of Everyman.”
LINDSAY: Love that. Love it!
JULIE: Yes, it’s very cool. It was actually an adaptation that my middle school drama teacher did and I was in the play myself and my friend who asked me to direct with her, yeah, it was a full circle thing. It was fun.
LINDSAY: Ah, that’s lovely. It’s good that I’m sitting here alone when I do these because I get this big grin on my face and I just love hearing about all this stuff.
LINDSAY: It’s very goofy.
We’re talking successes and challenges, and we need to end with the successes.
LINDSAY: What’s been your challenge?
JULIE: Well, I guess a challenge has been we’re in our – oh – toward the end of the year of our first year as a complete one-to-one, iPad-to-student school. Not that I was worried or afraid of it but I was just wondering how certain pieces of the curriculum that I developed and also what would class time be like using and utilizing the iPad. Prior to that, in eighth grade, I do a monologue project and I’ve always been organized about having a packet of monologues and I have already vetted in making sure that they’re school-appropriate and sort of the right length and that kind of thing and I was always very, very vigilant – like, you’ve got to pick a monologue from this pack. And then, I realized that, “Hey, maybe we can utilize the iPad and I can let the kids just go on the internet and maybe they can pick a monologue from their favorite TV show or maybe they can pick a monologue from a movie. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could even find that monologue a little video of it and share that as well?” Prior to coming to that realization, I thought, “Oh, I can have the students look up their favorite TV show or their favorite movie because it’s not from the theatre.” I was becoming a purist about that and I think it was hard for some of the kids to connect with some of the monologues that I was choosing for them. And then, of course, it occurred to me, “Of course, they’ll be much more engaged if they have the opportunity, if they don’t like what’s in the packet I’ve created,” and sometimes they do, but give them the opportunity, the choice to find one of their own and it went so much better. The kids were engaged and some of their favorite TV shows have wonderful monologues. Some movies were terrific. Someone did pick the Quint monologue from Jaws which you had on one of your Movie Monologue Mondays. I remember seeing that at some point. It really turned into a much better unit. The kids certainly were way more enrolled of their own volition and really happy to coach each other – that’s a big part of it as well. Again, going back to Theatrefolk, I do use some of your assessment rubrics for the monologue as well. It all sort of gelled and shaped together and became a much more valuable experience for them. They’re scared enough as it is. This is a drama class that everybody has to take. It’s part of our rotation which is mandatory. So, I will have, of course, kids that love drama and have been doing it and have some experience but, all the way over on the other side, I’ll have kids who have never spoken in front of their class before. By giving them the choice and the opportunity, having them work in pairs and having them feel comfortable about looking for their own monologue and finding something that they really relate to and already like, it’s going to be a much more successful unit which is what happened in the end.
LINDSAY: Well, you’re bringing up a bunch of stuff which we have to ask ourselves when we’re using drama in an educational setting, what’s the purpose? I think that you’ve just hit it on the head. The purpose is engagement, the purpose is working together, connection, and I think, by giving them a little bit of control, that’s not a bad thing to give them control over a choice.
JULIE: Absolutely. I think that’s so true. To get them to feel comfortable about what they’re doing and to understand that not everybody is going to be starting from the same place and that’s fine, and working with each other and doing that collaboration in such a creative freeform sort of beginning where it’s like, “Okay, find your monologue,” then they learn a lot about each other, they learn a lot about themselves. For the student, that’s never spoken in front of their class, much less taken a look at a monologue in scripted form and having to perform it in front of their class, you know, it does go much, much smoother and it is a much more enriching, multilayered experience for them. Yeah, absolutely.
LINDSAY: Well, not only that, now you’re also adding in the technology layer that we’re all supposed to incorporate into the curriculum.
JULIE: That’s absolutely right. That’s true. We have this wonderful, wonderful technology. Everybody has a device. You know, in seconds, we can bring up this monologue and, generally, you can find it in a script format. If not, you can always transpose it. But then, we also have the video from the film, the snippet from the film, the monologue from the film, or the monologue from the TV show, and I can project it in two seconds and we’re all on the same page. We’re all looking at this monologue and then we have a much better sense of what the challenge is for the actor and how we can support them to get into their character, to do some of the background work on this character, to make them feel comfortable in creating their performance – yeah, absolutely – whereas we didn’t have that before we had the iPads.
LINDSAY: Yeah, I think that’s a really good question to put out to everybody. There’s lots of things that I’m a theatre purist on but when are we hindering the success of our students and when are we helping them?
JULIE: Right. When are we sort of putting the brakes on their creativity and on their imagination? It’s so true. It really, really is true. My goal is for everyone to feel comfortable. You know, I shouldn’t say that. I want them to come out of their comfort zone but I wouldn’t have to feel capable – I guess is what I’m saying – and feel like they have the tools they need and that they’re going to be able to go through this journey of creating this piece and they’re going to come out just fine and they really did that. I was so proud of them. Like I said, I had one of the students did that wonderful monologue from Jaws. Another student did a monologue from How I Met Your Mother where the character of Marshall is describing his search to find, again, the perfect hamburger that he had and it was just wonderful. Someone did a monologue from One Tree Hill. And so, you know, when they feel comfortable with the material, when they can relate to the material and they make it their own, I think it’s a successful unit – a successful experience for them.
LINDSAY: Well, it sounds like… was this your challenge and your success?
JULIE: My challenge was how am I going to make this monologue project really relatable for these kids? How are they going to feel more comfortable getting involved in it and really be able to make it their own? That was the challenge. And then, when I knew we were going to have the iPads and I knew that I could say, “Hey, if you can’t find a monologue or you don’t want to use one from a television show or a film, you have the packet. If you don’t want to use the packet, let’s go on the internet and let’s search for one. It can come from a TV show, a film, or you can also look up other monologues.” It was really a great solution to sort of a problem I had teaching the unit.
LINDSAY: Awesome, Julie. That was a great exercise. I’m really thrilled that we were able to get that out there.
JULIE: Yeah. Well, thanks, and thanks for your materials which always support my monologue project and various other things that we also do in our drama class.
LINDSAY: We will keep on keeping on, right?
JULIE: Yes, absolutely!
LINDSAY: Thank you so much!
JULIE: Oh, you’re welcome.
LINDSAY: Hello, Daniel!
LINDSAY: Hi! I’m talking to Daniel Graybeal. Let’s get right into it. What has been your biggest challenge this year?
DANIEL: Well, the biggest challenge we faced this year was doing an original adaptation of a Shakespeare play. Our area had not done anything Shakespeare since I was in high school and, actually, the last one we did was Macbeth and that’s been probably sixteen to eighteen years ago and we were really lucky to get fifty people in the audience because, in our area, Shakespeare is not… people are afraid of it but we really wanted to do something with it. We figured that it was something that still required reading for all of our seniors. But I knew, if I put the traditional Shakespeare on stage, we wouldn’t get them in the door. They’re afraid of it and they get so tangled up in the language that they never see what’s going on in the story or enjoy the action of the play so we decided this year – well, actually, about a year and a half ago – to start writing a modern English adaptation of Macbeth.
LINDSAY: What an awesome challenge to take on. That’s awesome. Like, you know, that is the biggest stumbling block for Shakespeare, isn’t it? The actual fact, the stories, in this particular case – you know, pretty bloody, pretty universal in terms of want – like, greed is something that hasn’t really gone out of style.
DANIEL: No. Actually, it was interesting because, the more we got into it, once we cast it and we started working on it, the more they realized – the actors involved realized – that it really is pretty applicable to even some pretty out there stuff going on today. One of my students, when we first started talking about this said, “Well, I don’t see how this could be applicable today. It wouldn’t really happen.” So, I started having them read up on political events in North Korea and that was enough to get their attention. At that point, they said, “You know, this is really close to what Kim Jong Un is doing in North Korea. He’s killing off people he doesn’t like to hold his power.” Then, it started to become a little more real to them – that it actually could be happening today and there are situations where stuff pretty equivalent to it are happening today. It was quite a challenge. We did modernize it – used guns instead of swords and daggers. We did have some knives and knife fights at the end and that kind of stuff. But we decided to do it that way and, that way, it really did feel like it was an adaptation and not just, “Hey, we’re going to take a script and set it in modern day and get it with that.”
LINDSAY: You can’t even really do that because, like, just the way the language is all set up, you can’t just plunk in the new words and go, “Hooray! It’ll work!” You need to finesse.
LINDSAY: Did you put it into a location that the people could connect to more?
DANIEL: We really didn’t change the location a whole lot. Instead of “Thane” – because nobody really knows what that means – we pulled some terminology actually from North Korea. A lot of their soldiers, they’re referred to as “marshals” instead of “generals” or whatever so we actually had the Marshal of Fife instead of the Thane of Fife because they didn’t have any idea what Thane meant. We had a “master” instead of “king” because they refer to their highest levels as the master or great leader or something like that. We tried to pull some of that in to it but we didn’t give it a real specific setting. We still left some of the Scotland references in just because it was really hard to change that and it made sense. But we did try and keep a lot of the rhythm, especially the witches. We tried to keep the rhythm of their speech because I felt like the “double double, toil and trouble,” even if we didn’t have it exactly their wording, it flowed and it had that kind of incantation feel to it so we did try and do that, and I will admit, I got two English teachers who have taught it for a number of years to help me with it. They did quite a bit to help me update it without changing the meaning or the flow of it too dramatically which was good.
LINDSAY: Yeah, that’s another challenge – making sure that it still has to be Macbeth, doesn’t it?
DANIEL: Yeah, and people get very defensive of that play. I was surprised. You know, I have some people who have watched it for years who said, “Oh, you’re not going to modernize it, are you?” and I said, “Well, kind of,” because they get very defensive of that play for whatever reason. “You don’t touch that one,” you know, just that kind of reaction, but we got a very, very positive response. We actually did an in-school performance for our students for a very minimal amount. I think it was $2.00 a ticket. Now, given they did get out of class for two hours so that was a bonus for them. But we had a number of them that came up to me and told me that they were right in the middle of Macbeth when they came to see it and they really didn’t understand it until they saw it and then they could go back and the language made sense which that was what our goal was – to give them the opportunity to understand the story so then they can focus on the language without being so confused.
LINDSAY: Well, that sounds like a success to me. That sounds really great that they were able to connect one version to another.
DANIEL: Yeah. Financially, it was a success too because we were able to get a grant for it – an arts in education grant – and that covered all but about $80 of the production itself which was great. All of our backdrops were done with digital images. We had projections, built a platform, and it almost had the feel of the globe and how you have the platform and then some performance areas around it. That was kind of unintentional but it ended up really nice working that way, but it was one of the first plays… I’ve been at Pickens High School for three years and this is my third year there. Actually, before that, I did special education so it was a dramatic change but this is the first play that we’ve had any major income from because we don’t get a budget from year to year. Whatever we make is what we have for next year and there hasn’t been a whole lot to come in over the last actually probably ten years so it’s really nice that we have something to start with next year because this worked. It gave us a little bit of a buffer to be able to start some cool stuff next year.
LINDSAY: That’s awesome! So, what’s on the plate for next year?
DANIEL: Well, we’re going to do a couple of different things. We’re doing a one-act at Christmas which we don’t typically do because there’s so much going on at Christmas but I found one that I really like. We’re going to work on it and it takes place in World War II in a cabin in France. I think it’s called “Not On This Night” and it’s a young lady who is the only one left in her family in her house and, as she’s trying to put something together for Christmas, a German soldier comes in and she’s terrified of him but it ends up working out to where they get along and then an American soldier comes in and is trying to hide. It’s this “it’s Christmas, we’re not going to fight, but we’re enemies” kind of thing and it deals with that whole dynamic. It looks very interesting. Actually, for our spring production, we’re doing “Three Murders and It’s Only Monday!” – a very, very funny show. I was actually in it about five years ago at a local theatre and it takes place in a cemetery. I mean, it’s a spoof on the old film noir murder mystery kind of thing so dramatically different than what we did this year but I figured, after something as heavy as Macbeth, you need to kind of go the total opposite to get some levity in there – you know, get some comedy in there and have a change.
LINDSAY: Well, Daniel, it sounds like this challenge was wonderful and I think it’s really great to kind of put that stuff out there because I know we have listeners who are in the same boat who kind of go, “Well, I could never do that in my area,” or “my community would never accept it” or “my students would never accept it.” Maybe sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and take a chance.
DANIEL: Yeah, and I figured, even if it doesn’t work out perfect, you’ve gotten it out there and I think, you know, if you have any of your students that are going on to college or are professional, they’re going to be exposed to that classical theatre and, even if it’s not a huge success, they still need to know how to approach those classic Shakespearean or even, you know, Sophocles or any of that kind of stuff because they’re going to see it in college. If we’re not giving them an opportunity to see a little bit of it in high school, then we’re really kind of short-selling them. We’re short-changing them. We’re not giving them the full exposure to what theatre is. Even if that wasn’t the primary goal, I mean, my students, we had nineteen in the cast and they really enjoyed it. The young lady that I put in as Lady Macbeth, the last role she played was Lucy in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” So, it was a real challenge for her but it pushed her and she did an outstanding job. So, I think these Shakespearean roles can be such a challenge as an actor or actress and, if we don’t give them that opportunity, then were really kind of cheating our students a little bit by not letting them have a chance to do something like that.
LINDSAY: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Daniel.
DANIEL: Thank you very much.
LINDSAY: All right. Now, I am talking to Troy Taylor. Hello, Troy!
TROY: Hey! How are you?
LINDSAY: I am all right. How are you doing?
TROY: Doing well, doing well.
LINDSAY: Doing well, doing well. Busy as always, right?
TROY: Always. We never seem to stop nor do we ever have enough time in the day to get everything done.
LINDSAY: That’s every drama teacher I talk to. It’s just like, yeah, that treadmill, that time thing, when does that work out? But that’s kind of what we’re in the middle of talking about today. We’re talking about challenges and successes. Let’s talk about what’s been your big challenge this year?
TROY: I would have to say that our big challenge has been the size of our program. We started almost three years ago with about thirty kids and now we’re at 200.
TROY: Just trying to accommodate the rapid growth of our program as well as meet the needs of our students and just creating opportunity for them. That’s the best way to see a program succeed – to create opportunity for your students and just trying to keep up with all that.
LINDSAY: It’s the hardest thing, eh? That you want to grow and you want to have a large program but then there’s also the “well, what do we do with everybody?”
LINDSAY: So, how have you dealt with it?
TROY: Well, we’ve been very fortunate to have a couple of English teachers come in on the back-end of our program and, unfortunately, I had to take on the role of technical director completely because the people that are a part of our program now on the adult end don’t have that experience so they’ve been able to help me direct but, at the same time, trying to run the program and just make sure that we’re meeting the needs of every show, every kid, every competition – you know, financially as well as just time-wise. And so, you know, we’re not done yet. We’re still learning. It’s definitely some birthing pains for us but I would say the biggest challenge is just being able to make sure we’re covering every detail then it always seems like we leave a few to fall through the cracks at the end of every process.
LINDSAY: You do what you can, right?
TROY: Right, definitely.
LINDSAY: What has been your biggest success this year?
TROY: You know, I don’t know if this sounds strange or not, but I would say that our biggest success has been the challenges – the challenges that have been put before us – because most drama teachers usually have to do everything themselves no matter how big their program or how small their program. We’ve been very fortunate to not have to do that but, at the same time, it’s a huge learning process and I think that’s been one of the biggest successes because it’s teaching us – teaching me, especially, as the program director – that there’s still so many things to look for, to pay attention to, to make sure that our kids are getting from show opportunities to workshops to class instruction – you know, whatever the case may be. You know, our biggest challenge is still our biggest success because it forces us to learn with our kids.
LINDSAY: Well, I think that would be the mark of a great teacher is the one who never stops learning.
TROY: Well, I would like to think that I’m a constant learner. If I’m not, then I definitely need to get out of the business of education.
LINDSAY: I love that. Well, thank you so much for sharing that. I really think that, I’m doing a lot of talking to people about what have their challenges been and what have their successes been, I just think that’s a lovely way to wrap it all up – that the success is the fact that there are challenges to be had and that they need to be faced and dealt with successfully, not successfully – it’s all learning, right?
TROY: Right. Well, I mean, what are we doing if we’re not forcing ourselves to grow along with our kids?
LINDSAY: Awesome. I love that. Thank you so much, Troy.
TROY: You’re welcome. Thank you, Lindsay.
LINDSAY: Thank you, Troy, Julie, Daniel, Kristi, and Liz.
Thank you so much for taking the time and sharing your stories.
Before we go, let’s do some THEATREFOLK NEWS.
Okay. Is this you? Are you tearing your hair out at the thought of hearing the same monologue performed the same way for the hundredth time? Have no fear; Theatrefolk is here! Yeah, it rhymed. Woo-hoo!
We’ve got two new monologue books – Standalone Monologues for Girls and, in a separate book, Standalone Monologues for Guys. They offer up new monologues specifically written for teen performers all from published plays – our plays so they are all in a one-stop shop if you want to see the rest of the play that the monologue is from.
Each monologue comes with a synopsis, staging suggestions, and a description of the moment before to help your students perform their best and, hopefully, keep you from going bald.
The link is in the show notes – theatrefolk.com/episode138.
You can always go to theatrefolk.com. Check out sample pages. See what everything is about.
Finally, where, oh, where can you find this beautiful podcast? We post new episodes every second Tuesday at theatrefolk.com and on our Facebook page and Twitter. You can find us on youtube.com/theatrefolk and you can find us on the Stitcher app. You can subscribe to TFP on iTunes. All you have to do is search for the word “Theatrefolk.”
And that’s where we’re going to end. Take care, my friends. Take care.