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  • Writer's pictureKaren Pauley

Broadway Teachers Workshop: Day 4

Jenn Colella opened the day with a brilliant example of how you should coach singers online. She was incredibly positive and kind. There are teachers who are very tough on their students but Colella believes that the students will be hard enough of themselves and that the world is tough enough without their teachers also being like that. She was warm and welcoming to both of the students that she worked with. She provided positive praise and showed demonstrably that she was on the side of the student.

If any negative thought should pop into your head. Acknowledge it and replace it immediately with something kind.

Singers perform so much better without tension and as teachers we need to make sure that we are not an additional cause of the tension that a student feels when they get up to perform. Creating a safe space to perform is not always easy and online can feel very distant and cold, but Colella was a master at connecting through this medium.

This was followed by a workshop from Nicole Brewer on anti-racist theatre training that gave us insight into how we can do better as teachers and theatre makers. Living in Japan I often hear concerns about racism being dismissed as a solely American issue but that really isn't the case. We all come with our prejudices and the biases.

There’s also the required study of white playwrights, with minimal attention given to playwrights of color, and the suppression of cultural markers held in language by teaching a “General American” dialect as the acceptable standard. -- Nicole Brewer, Training With a Difference

I took a look at the plays I own. You won't be shocked to read that most of them were written by white men. Sure I have quite a few written by women, but I deliberately look for those, and as for plays written by people who aren't white, hardly any at all. I grew up in Ireland, so it's not surprising that I have a fondness for Irish playwrights, but I have access to a whole world of theatre, I don't need to keep falling back on the things I was taught in my youth. And this is just one example of the many issues.

The Come From Away dance class with Josh Breckenridge was a lot of fun, even though I struggle with dance. The day ended with Jono Hustis teaching about the importance of being flexible, patient, creative, and humble as a teacher. The talk was focused towards middle school teachers, who I believe teach students between the ages of 11-13. (I teach theatre to this age group, but I am not that familiar with the American school system.) This started with a practical example of an exercise that can be done virtually, and other examples were handed out as part of the resources.

Middle school theatre is about the kids all the time, not about the teachers. It should be a space where the kids can be themselves and a place where they can be part of an ensemble with like-minded people. He has two rules in his class - he doesn't allow any mean words at all and he doesn't allow talking when people are up on the stage working. Adults can cope with people talking about them, but a twelve year-old should not have to deal with this. I loved his focus on ensemble, and letting the children know that they are there for each other, and that if one falls, they all fall.

Our job as teachers it to lift the children up as much as we can, and it should never be about us.

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