I remember the moment that I decided I didn’t want to be a professional actor. It was during the second semester of my sophomore year of college. AU Players, our student theater troupe, hosted a DC-area actor and playwright to come talk to us about the business of theater. A small group of students sat in a circle and listened to him about the ups and downs of the business, and then he said something that brought it all into perspective for me. He said something to the effect of, “When you’re an actor, your job isn’t really acting- it’s auditioning.” Suddenly, an alarm went off in my brain: DANGER! DANGER! THIS WOULD BE A MISERABLE LIFE FOR YOU!
If you had been inside my head that day, you would be as impressed as I am that I didn’t run screaming out of the Katzen Arts Center never to return. Once the freak-out had subsided, I decided to stick with the performance track within my theatre degree that I had always intended to pursue. If I was going to be a stage manager, director, teaching artist, or some combination thereof, I was going to need these skills. And there was the fact that I was (and still am) passionate about acting. So I stuck with it, even though I was devoid of any desire to pursue a career in performance.
For someone who didn’t want to be an actor, I play scores of characters, use different voices, experiment with movement, wear fabulous costumes, and do a lot of improvisation. Teaching has given me a way to keep all of the elements of play and fun that originally attracted me to acting.
Strangely enough, my decision to pursue arts education is less clear in my mind than the crystallizing realization that I didn’t want to be an actor. Maybe that’s because teaching felt so natural. I just knew I would lead a joyful life immersed in the arts surrounded by young people.
My work as a teaching artist relies on the stage manager’s organization and planning skills, the director’s capacities to build an ensemble and develop a creative vision, and the actor’s in-the-moment thrill of performing for a the most honest, responsive audience I’ve ever encountered. I got everything I wanted and more.
Putting it together, bit by bit…