Statement of Teaching Philosophy
I entered École Jacques Lecoq as a young student with a passion for theatre but unsure where I belonged. I was a performer who had directed a few plays in college, and I was beginning to experiment with playwriting. My experiences had been valuable, but I did not yet have the confidence to call myself an actor or a writer or to launch myself into a theatrical career. After two years in Paris, I left the school with a conviction that I could create my own theatre, that it would be like no one else’s, and that my career would take its own, no doubt meandering, shape. Lecoq said, “I am nobody. I am a neutral point through which you must pass in order to better articulate your own theatrical voice. I am only there to place obstacles in your path, so that you can better find your way around them.” The teachers at the school embodied this principal, never telling us what to do or how to do it, instead offering us challenges, giving us tools to face those challenges, and letting us make our own mistakes and earn our own successes. By guiding me toward my own theatre, my teachers helped me become a strong, independent practitioner comfortable with my own quirks and ready to face the challenges of the real world.
My teaching, inspired by my time at Lecoq and my experiences in my own practice and in the classroom, trains students—actors, directors, writers, designers, scholars—to seek out and build their own creative and critical visions, and to engage their entire physical and mental beings in the pursuit. I ask students to assume themselves fully, to find their ideas and to push them to their ends, and to discover the parts of themselves they have not yet seen.
I put this into practice in the classroom by placing an emphasis on student-created work and positioning myself as a guide and a mentor for students’ self-discovery more than a source of knowledge. In practical courses this means offering just enough context at the beginning of a unit, through readings, lectures and discussions, to orient and inspire students, then guiding them through targeted exercises and allowing them the space to create scenes, direct projects or devise original work. Teaching physical theatre at Warwick, for instance, the students and I share and discuss inspiring examples before I guide them through movement and scene-building exercises. Then I assign a broad devising group project—“Create an atmosphere, tell a story”—and support independent work time with exercises to help their creative process. At each step, I ask students to reflect on their work, identifying their frustrations and achievements, and to look beyond the present moment toward their greater trajectory as thinking practitioners.
In academic courses, students expand their knowledge of the topic at hand through readings selected to unveil a theoretical juncture or historical dilemma. Lectures offer context and gentle guidance through the issues before giving way to discussion. I facilitate rather than lead discussions, offering questions and problems for us to work through as a group. I push students to be articulate and defend the points of view they care about. By the end of a good discussion, we all walk away with more questions, and a desire to push our ideas further. Hands-on projects and essays create the opportunity to flesh out our queries through research, analysis and creativity. Where possible, movement provides a helpful balance to intellectual rigor.
As a student of theatre who began with acting, gained experience directing, and became a writer, deviser and an academic along the way, I am deeply dedicated to the value of a liberal arts education that pushes students to become generous, able, well-rounded practitioners and thinkers comfortable performing on stage, working a sound board, fixing a costume in a shop, editing a script, debating the issues. Acting, at the heart of theatre, is particularly important. Actors are the ones who understand best what happens each night between the stage and the audience, and as such, I think performance is a great place to start a theatre education, regardless of the direction one takes afterwards.
As an artist, I use my work to understand the world better and to confront my own preconceptions. In the classroom, these values are doubly important. It is essential that I listen to my students and create a space that allows for honest dialogue, collaboration, and curiosity, and that I be ready to address both my own limitations and the challenges that arise in class. Theatre is, like college, a site of cultural, economic, and ideological encounter, and I believe that becoming a theatre artist or scholar must also mean working to be an sensitive and engaged member of society.
At Warwick and San Francisco State, I have had the opportunity to put my pedagogical ideas into practice in courses that were both practically focused and intellectually challenging. I have also supervised student projects. My Warwick students have said that I have a “gentle style of teaching and facilitation” that “allows a lot of breathing room for you to learn and explore” and inspires you to “go away and learn more.” I hope to continue to guide students toward their own discoveries, to help them create new theatres and better worlds.