Those who can, do AND teach

The old adage, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach” has been eating away at me for a while now. Several years, actually.

But it has been most relevant as I make my way through my last semester of college, and begin to understand the multiple ways in which I can have what one of my professors calls “a life in the arts.” There are lots of ways to accomplish this, and this life is going to mean something different for everyone.

I chose to stick with the performance track of the theatre major in our department because those were the courses I enjoyed the most. I like getting up on my feet, and I wanted to continue to connect the experiential learning with the development of my analytical, critical thinking skills. But this semester, I found myself surrounded with my fellow theatre performance majors, and in classes that have become more and more geared towards preparing students for the professional acting world, I began to feel like a fish out of water. Here I was, surrounded by my friends who are dead set on being professional actors and soaking up every ounce of wisdom about the crazy inner workings of “the business” (as they should be), whereas I would much rather be teaching drama to a class full of rowdy second graders than learning how to audition.

But then I reminded myself why I chose the performance major: I can only teach what I have experienced. Every performance class I take directly prepares me for my career as a teaching artist. As for this audition class, that got off to a rocky start this semester, I have since realized that going through this myself will give me the tools and vocabulary to better prepare future students of mine for auditions. The acting skill set is so much more versatile than it gets credit for (but that’s a whole separate blog post… one that is forthcoming, I promise) and if I don’t start giving it credit for giving me the necessary preparation to be a teaching artist, then who will?

“Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach.” These two things do not have to be so mutually exclusive. It seems to me that the relationship between doing and teaching should be just the opposite. Where does this pressure to do one or the other come from? We need to connect these two worlds to foster a collaborative relationship between the individuals who have made great advances and accomplishments in a field (not just the arts) and the individuals responsible for training the next generation.

One of my favorite things about how the arts world works is the amount of overlap… actors teach, directors design, teachers direct… the list of combinations is infinite. In our field, we are lucky to have this flexibility. It’s important to bridge the divide that still exists between the perception of the who the do-ers and the teachers are. In theatre, teachers and actors are all do-ers, and they can join forces to teach.


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