As a teacher, my task is to help students draw connections between their own experiences of the world and what's considered systemized knowledge: the theories, histories, data, and readings that make up a particular field. Teaching is a task of engaging all aspects of a student in the learning process — not just the head, but the heart and body as well. This sense of wholeness and integration is essential for students preparing to be ethically and critically engaged performers, theatre-makers and artists in the world, in this time of significant ecological and political change.
My teaching has been significantly influenced by the pedagogy of Brazilian social movements, including the theatre of Augusto Boal and the pedagogy of Paulo Freire. Practicing this critical and compassionate pedagogy, I ask questions at each step about what theatre practice informs us about our world and society — and how the current realities of our society shape and inform our theatre practice. This framework shapes my teaching, whether I am teaching in a university or community setting, and allows me to effectively work with students from a range of backgrounds. Influenced also by ongoing discourse on the politics of language within the context of colonization, I explore teaching methods that do not rely on the English language as a process to investigate ideas. Boal's Image Theatre, a process of creating a sculpture with one's body to express meaning, is one method I bring into classrooms as a way for students to first connect with their own direct experience of a text, theory, or idea, and then as a way to generate dialogue.
In one class with local high school students, I was asked to teach in a room that did not have enough space for students to move around. To support a sense of ensemble and build collaboration, and to underscore the idea that playwriting is not primarily about words on a page or even necessarily sitting at a desk and writing, I brought in a series of everyday objects: a wooden spoon, a paperclip, a rubber band, a potato. I had students select objects and take turns, silently, placing them on the desk in front of us, our "stage." As this silent drama unfolded, these object "characters" began to take on histories, desires, and agencies, image-by-image as the scene evolved. I was able to introduce ideas of character, conflict and relationship while also sensitizing students to the importance of composition and stage picture. Students returned to their desks to write character histories of a wooden spoon, and to imagine what conflict a paperclip might have with a potato, or what a rubber band might want from a wooden spoon. Here, student explorations in make-shift puppetry touch playfully on questions of materiality, performativity, and the agency of everyday objects, such as explored by Jane Bennett and new materialist thinkers.
Through interactive and playful methods of dialogue that draw on the various ways of being, knowing and doing that each student brings from their cultural, familial and personal experience, my teaching strives to support holistic and engaged learning, and prepares students to contribute meaningfully as artists in the world.