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Developing a community of theater teachers

Whether you’re a new drama teacher or you’ve been at it for years, please don’t try to do it yourself. I have said many times on the Theaterfolk blog that theater is a collaborative effort. Even in a one-person show, you need others to help you. It is important to reach out and develop a community of people who share resources, tips and advice, support each other, and provide a place to reveal and celebrate. Creating these connections requires the desire to expose yourself there, but it’s worth so much. A large community of theater teachers is a circle of support and can even flourish into great friendships.

Here are some people you can add to your support circle!

1. Teachers at your school (but not just theater teachers)

If your school has other theater teachers, this is the obvious place to start. These people will be your closest collaborators and you will share resources and learning spaces with them every day. In addition, it is good to get to know teachers in similar art subjects, such as music, dance, visual arts, and language arts. These people can be great resources if you decide to put on a show with your students.

Of course, it is always in your best interest to have a good relationship with as many teachers as possible at your school. You never know who will have some nuggets of wisdom for you (everyone was a new teacher at one point) or who might have a surprising connection. Maybe the chemistry teacher at your school is a neighbor of the elementary school theater teacher in your district. Which leads us to the next group of people to contact us …

2. Other theater teachers in your city

These include theater teachers from other high schools, elementary schools, and even college or university instructors if your city has a post-secondary performing arts institution. Again, these people can share lesson plans and resources, such as costumes, props, and decor pieces, and are a great source of advice and camaraderie. It’s also a good idea to share your performance data and potential show titles with each other. This way, you can all avoid problems like three shows Beauty and the beast at three different schools on the same weekend.

3. Theater companies in your community

These may include both professional theater companies and community and youth theater groups. For example, London, Ontario is home to the Grand Theater. It also has a thriving community theater scene, including companies such as Palace Theater Arts Commons, London Youth Theater Education (LYTE), Musical Theater Productions, Original Kids Theater Company and more. Creating connections with people who are involved in other companies can create opportunities for field trips, workshops, guest speakers, rentals or costume and prop exchanges, and maybe even discounted theater tickets. You may be able to get in touch with theater specialists, such as fight choreographers or intimacy directors. Many professional theaters also offer educator clubs, discussions and professional development opportunities. Joining these groups can help you make all kinds of connections!

4. Online communities

Online communities are great resources, especially if you’re in a remote or rural area or if there aren’t many other theater teachers in your area. But even if there are a lot of “real life” people in your community of teachers theater, having an online support circle is so helpful. It’s great to hear how educators in other cities, provinces and countries run their programs and how their theater programs are similar and different from yours. The Theater Teachers Academy is one of those great communities. Not only is it full of lesson plans and professional development opportunities, but it has a private Facebook group full of educators who are eager to talk.

5. Other performing arts communities, such as choirs, dance studios, concert halls and venues

Look beyond drama and consider community connections in related areas. Choirs can introduce you to potential music directors for your musical future. Dance studios could lead potential choreographers, as well as hire costumes or loans for large ensembles. Concert halls and performance venues can be excellent resources for performance venues (especially if your school does not have its own performance space), as well as connections for sound and lighting equipment sources. What other connections are there? Think of second-hand shops, tailors, musicians and bands, make-up artists, videographers, historical experts and specialists in various fields. For example, you may be able to contact the local Jewish community if you make a production of The scripper on the roof or Anne Frank’s Diary. The opportunities are endless, and the connections you make are invaluable.

Click here for a free printable tip sheet.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage fighter from London, Ontario, Canada. She writes on the blog at www.kerryhishon.com.

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