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Article Five: Theatrical Compasses

“Love the art in yourself and not yourself in the art.”

-Stanislavski

When I think of my future as an educator, I always picture myself on a stage with my


script, my notes, looking at a stage full of eager artists reading to bring the words the page to life.
Balancing my knowledge of theater with what I am learning and evolving as an educator, it has
been really enlightening to see the multiple ways that English education and theater education
overlap and complement each other. I have also found that what I know as an actor, and director,
has been complicated by what I am learning as an educator. Ultimately, whether on the stage or
in the classroom, I want my students to heed Stanislavski’s advice and grow to appreciate the art
they find in themselves, rather than trying to fit into to an art or space that doesn’t seem to fit.
How do we help artists develop their theatrical literacy while honoring their talents and skills?
I believe that participating in any form of the arts is beneficial for students of all
backgrounds and ability levels. Arts are a great way to express yourself and connect with
students who enjoy similar activities. The arts also provide an opportunity for learning a literacy
specific to technique and style that are different than anywhere else. Specifically, students
participating in theater gain a whole new set of literacy skills based on the different aspects of
theatrical productions. The terminology used is specific to performance and production, but is
also familiar for students from their English courses. Besides learning the difference between
stage right and stage left, the goal of the artist is to tell a story based on the words provided by
the playwright. The elements of a story and the language surrounding storytelling are all
something we develop as literacy learners. In that sense, we are all artists, and the difference is
the stage lights. I believe that before students can have a successful production with all of the
bells and whistles, the story has to be concrete and solidified. Theater is only successful when a
story has been successfully communicated and that can be overlooked if we are only worried
about costumes and make-up. I believe that theater educators often overlook the importance of
the words on the page and forget to hold their artists accountable for honoring the playwright.
Along with the importance of storytelling, I believe the most important literacy artists’
gain through participating in theater is the literacy of collaboration. I spent countless hours
teaching and directing theater productions for youth programs, and I grew up participating in
theater from a young age. The directors I looked up to the most valued collaboration over
quality. I learned at a very young age that in order for our story to be successful, as artists, and as
humans, we needed to learn how to work well together and rely on each other to do the best work
possible. There is a reason that the actors and crew that make up the staff of a production are
often referred to as a ‘company’. When we think of the word company, we often think of a large
group of people working for a similar goal. That’s exactly what theater artists do each time they
turn on the stage lights, sweep the stage, and open the lobby doors. Theatre cannot be done
alone. That’s what I love about it the most. Students from all backgrounds come together and
create a company of friends that they know will have their back if they drop a line or forgot to
bring their prop onstage for the top of Act Two. The language surrounding this idea of
collaboration should also be familiar to students and hopefully they have experienced
collaboration in the traditional educational setting. Collaboration implies respect,
communication, and trust. Artists need to employ all of these elements in order to tell a
successful story.