Lindsay: Hello! Hello everybody! Lindsay Price here for our Google Hangout and, well, I am incredibly excited If you were here with us last month, you know that we had, let’s call them “The Troubles” and this month we are cooking with gas, we’re ready to go, everybody’s on board We have Craig Mason Hello, Craig! Craig: Hello, Craig! Lindsay: Hello, Craig, and he is going to be our question-getter extraordinaire Our topic, of course, is what I wish I knew when I first started teaching drama If you have any stories you want to share, or questions, we have We also have the little chat which should be on the right-hand side of your screen and I am uber-thrilled to introduce our guest for today’s podcast — not podcast! Google Hangout! I’m going into Pavlov’s dog here But it’s Christian Kiley Hello, Christian! Christian: Hi, Lindsay! Hi, Craig! Lindsay: And Christian is, not only is he one of our wonderful Theatrefolk playwrights — latest play, Chemo Girl, a wonderful, wonderful collection of plays that all have to do with teenagers dealing with cancer — but he’s also a drama teacher And how long have you been a drama teacher, Christian? Christian: Fifteen years Lindsay: Fifteen years! And where are you in the world? Let everybody know Christian: I am in Rancho Cucamonga which is very near the Ontario Airport Lindsay: Ah! Christian: Etiwanda High School is where I teach Lindsay: Awesome! And so, you have been teaching for fifteen years which must mean that you like it Christian: I do It has its ups and downs, but it is a rollercoaster, yes Lindsay: Awesome But it must be for everybody that you have that notion of what I wish I knew when I first What I wish I knew then, now — wait — if I could use what I know now back then, or something like that, right? Christian: Absolutely I would like to have a time machine and go back and advise myself fifteen years ago Lindsay: What was it like when you first started? Christian: Well, scary Teaching as an adjunct college professor, a lot of times, when you need something, you just ask for it And, as a high school teacher — theatre teacher, drama teacher — you need a mirror because that’s the person who’s going to give you the answer or solve the problem I remember my interview for this job and the principal — and I hit it off really well with her — walked me into our performance facility and said, “Here it is,” and she saw my face drop and she said, “Oh, no,” and I think we knew that it was going to be a wonderful challenge and it certainly has turned out to be that Lindsay: What was your performance space? Christian: Well, we work in a multi-purpose room which I know others do as well and there are just a lot of challenges with the space We particularly don’t have wings and we don’t have a lot of area to store things But, you know what, it’s caused us to be very creative here and I’m grateful for that Lindsay: You know, sometimes the best experiences are the ones that are brought on by our challenges, right? Like, when you have no wing space, when you don’t have the ability to create what is stereotypically known as theatre, you do other things, right? Christian: Oh, absolutely Absolutely, and I learned that it’s the students that are the greatest resource Lindsay: Oh, absolutely Now, before we get going, we have some questions which are really awesome — really good questions — but you must have one or two horror stories about those first days of teaching Christian: Well, my first week, I locked myself in the storage closet and I had a class coming in so we have seven-minute passing periods and I locked myself in and I had to text another teacher to come and get me out of the closet It was peculiar because, after that, there was no issue with anyone being locked in so I wondered if it was just my own stress and paranoia that caused me to be locked in because it was impossible for anyone to get locked in after that We tried to create the experience again and no one was able to do it So, I think I was just so panic-stricken that I locked myself in my mind’s closet It wasn’t really a locked closet Lindsay: Ugh! I have been in those situations where, you know, it can only happen to you But why do you think you were panic-stricken? Like, what is it about that starting out? Christian: Well, teaching theatre, teaching drama in particular, I feel like our personalities are exposed so much It’s really you It’s like stand-up comedy where you’re expected to have a moral to the story as well Lindsay: And a teaching lesson and a graph

Christian: Right No, exactly So, I just wanted to do so well and I think that, as I’ve moved on, I’ve relaxed a little bit more into who I am and that’s a lot of our strength as artists is to just trust who we are Lindsay: Right You don’t have to go in and I’ve heard other drama teachers sort of talk about it is a stage that you’re on, right? Christian: Oh, absolutely Lindsay: Where you have to engage But, if you are the performing monkey 24/7, you will burn out before you get anywhere, and that’s not what students really want to see, right? They want to engage with you and it’s a situation that happens in no other class, isn’t it? Christian: Oh, absolutely I think it’s about being a catalyst because, once the year goes on, hopefully they’re the ones that are doing the heavy lifting and you’re kind of a happy spectator and side coach Lindsay: Absolutely Okay So, Craig, let’s start with question number one that came in Craig: All right Just give me one second Lindsay: Because we have slides We’re like, we’re so on top of things — all right, I’ve got to stop saying that because then something’s Craig: Yeah, don’t say that Lindsay: Ah! And so, we’re going to go with the youngsters into drama, right? Craig: Right Lindsay: Shy, we’re going with shy because shy was and we wanted to hit this one first because it was something that came up in a number of emails This is something that people really wanted to know How do I deal with shy and students who need some motivation? Craig: I’ve got it here It’s Lisa Kassoff sent this in She said, “Can Christian share with us how he got youngsters into drama that were shy and needed some motivation?” Lindsay: Perfect Okay, Christian So, what do you think? How do you deal with shy students? Christian: Well, I have an example right now of a young lady We were working on one-acts in the Drama 1 classes and she has this great line where she says, “Here I am,” and it’s such a victory for me just for her to deliver that line the way that she is, and it takes a while to get there So, some of the exercises that I like are walk-arounds where it’s full participation, and administrators like this too because our campus leadership walks in and they see full engagement and they love it as well So, you’re hitting a lot of different success points at the same time So, to have them walk around and give them the opportunity to play a tree or a rock or whatever they want So, that works very well, the walk-around And, also, work in a circle where they can watch other people and simply mimic what they’re doing Sort of a more physical game of telephone where each person has a turn and they say the same thing so the requirements are very easy to participate in — you’re simple stepping forward and doing the same thing that others have done And, I think, to pair these students up with stronger students as well is another things works — as scene partners in short activities — and I’ve seen great results just in the blossoming and I think people are surprised how much they enjoy it Lindsay: That would be the thing that I would say, too, is that I think the outreach with shy students should come from other students, you know, for a lot of the time You know, use your stronger students to act as mentors or even just good peers, you know, that they can probably bring out the shyness, leech out the shyness more than you can sort of trying to control or trying to get them to stand up Do you ever work with students in small groups that maybe sometimes that when they perform in front of a small group instead of the larger group that that sort of helps them build some confidence? Christian: Oh, absolutely, yeah We’re currently — in all three of my Drama 1 classes — we are in two or three groups instead of as a full body of the class and I have co-teachers who I’ve worked with that are students and were able to work in those smaller groups and that helps a lot As soon as you eliminate any factors that typically create anxiety, you’re going to get people to, I think, have a more optimal performance experience I mean, it’s pretty well-known that the number one fear that most people have is public speaking And so, what we’re trying to do is we’re just trying to help out in any way we can to have soothing circumstances, environment, and surroundings for that Lindsay: Just before we move on to the next question, I have my own question Did you feel that when you first started teaching that you were prepared? Christian: Oh, no, no, no

Lindsay: And why do you think that is? Christian: Well, in California, there’s not a theatre credential and I really feel like someone slings a backpack on your back with a bunch of random stuff in it and they say, “Go in a forest and just good luck,” and that’s what it feels like and you just have to survive and they won’t even come out Lindsay: Here’s a trap Cut down a tree Teach a drama class, you know? Christian: Right, and at the end of the year, show me a cosmopolitan city that you built, you know, with your can-opener or whatever Lindsay: With your can-opener and your one match You get one match And so, what would you — because I think there are a lot of teachers out there who kind of in that same boat — what professional development would you say to them? How do you improve? Is it just you go in and you just try things? Do you look for things online? What did you do to get rid of that feeling or unpreparedness? Christian: I think the first thing you have to do is just it’s like a home remodel project You just have to take one thing at a time You say, “I’m going to do showerheads today.” And so, I started with just trying to work on single-page assignments I like So, I have this assignment called mini-monologue and it’s just four lines It’s on one sheet The students circle which one they want and now I felt very relieved I had my first week planned and it’s an easy hand-out, it’s all public domain because it’s the work of Shakespeare, and it’s easy to do, and the students like it But there’s some text there too so the English teachers immediately like you and they like your program because you’re doing that So, I think it’s just a bit by bit approach Lindsay: Always Don’t tackle the mountain, you know? Just always start on the foothills, right? Christian: Absolutely, yeah Lindsay: Okay Numero two, Craig Craig: Are you seeing this? Lindsay: I am Craig: Okay “Can you suggest some FUN warm-up games?” and that’s capital F-U-N so they’re looking for really, really fun warm-up games Lindsay: Emphasis on the fun Okay So, I’m assuming, Christian, you use warm-up games in your classroom Christian: I do, yes, and like most programs, I’m sure, out there, we have a comedy improv team as well So, there’s some crossover there with that But one that I like, and the students like it too, is called the place exercise where you just assume that the entire room is a Chuck E. Cheese or a park or a beach or whatever and then the students can be anything they want in that And, if you do this in a sort of long form format, it can last eight or ten minutes And you just set a few rules You say, “You must stay in character Whatever you are, if you’re a beach umbrella, you’re the beach umbrella the whole time.” And then, afterwards, there’s some neat discussions afterwards and some nifty things happen in terms of compliments going in the direction of people that maybe normally don’t get them Someone will say, “Boy, I’m really impressed You were the best beach umbrella I’ve ever seen and I sensed you had pink polka dots,” or whatever So, there’s a lot of good things that can come out of that so I like the place exercise I also like any sort of mimicry you can do in a circle and I mentioned that before Walk-arounds work really well where you call out numbers and the actors can walk at different speeds and with different emotions — one being a sort of mild sort of sadness or anger or happiness and a ten being really intense — and you can do the same thing with leading centers where the actor can lead with their forehead or their heart and this works well, too And you can do this in smaller groups also so that there’s less anxiety and then some can watch and others can participate Lindsay: Why warm-ups? Why are warm-ups necessary for the drama classroom? Christian: I think it’s like athletics It’s become such an important part of my life I warm-up before I do anything and I just feel like it just seems like a prerequisite part of what we do — the voice and the body have to be ready for this endeavour It also lets the students know — the young actors — that we’re serious about this That we prepare for what we do as well and that there’s preparation involved in every life activity so it’s transcendent that way Lindsay: Do you think the types of warm-ups you’ve used has changed over the years? Christian: Oh, absolutely Lindsay: Yeah? Tell me why Christian: At first, when I was first teaching, I, I think, wrongly wanted to get laughter myself I’m worried about the gimmick a little too much and so some of the warm-ups I would use wrongly set the tone that the whole class was going to be open mic at the improv and I think a little bit of that goes a long way, but I think it’s important that you have equal parts discipline and humour in what you’re doing

That’s why I think it’s less important what you do whether it’s a walk-around or circle or place exercise I think it’s more important that you have three or four rules that exhibit the discipline involved in theatre Craig: Do you choose different warm-ups based on what it is you’re going to do in class that day? Christian: Oh, absolutely, yes We just did one the other day where I had the high status speaker centerstage and the whole ensemble got out in the audience and, the more compelling their line delivery was, the closer the group would move based on individual choices to the stage, and the less compelling or less interesting they felt it was, they would move further away, and then you would rotate and get another speaker up on stage So, that was based on I wasn’t feeling the high stakes so I wanted the stakes to be higher in the classroom Craig: Something just physical and basically in-your-face That’s really neat That’s a neat exercise Christian: Yeah, the athletes love it, too The student athletes love that Lindsay: Why do they love it? Christian: I mean, because, to me, there are two types of students that are overlooked in our programs — the athletes and the troublemakers If someone can really be a PhD level jerk, you can convert them to be a great actor Lindsay: Now, have you ever had that in your class where you’ve had — I’m sure you have — where you have students who are just not interested and then you’ve sort of won them over by the end of the year? Christian: Absolutely I have a young man who just performed a scene with a grumpy, sarcastic, passive-aggressive waiter and it was amazing It was funny He had the class in tears and he was ready to drop the class at the beginning I think those are the things that keep up loading up the lunch pail and coming back to work Lindsay: That you can make those transformations Christian: Absolutely Lindsay: I have always said, it was always a mistake for me to think of the student and the high school and the middle school environment as second best to other types of performance and production because, what I’ve come to learn is that, in the school environment, that’s where you can change lives with shows and just the act of being in a show can turn a corner in somebody’s life and to be a part of that is a pretty remarkable experience — my two cents Christian: Absolutely Lindsay: Okay Craig, we’re going to go to the next question because it’s a perfect sort of segue in when you were talking about trying to be the comedian and trying to get laughs and that having students feel that drama is a sort of a yuck fest Awesome “We have students often have a preconceived notion that theatre will be fun and games because of improv They don’t understand that there are other things to learn and it becomes a battle trying to develops units that are interesting and engaging to middle schoolers but, I think, to any schoolers So, how do we deal with this? How do we deal with the laugh fest?” So, what did you do when you realized that being a jokester was a short-term solution? Christian: Well, I mean — and I think we all know this, this is a very basic sort of building block of what we do — staying in character and we all have to do this Anyone who has any job and you’re waiting tables and you have a customer who’s being a jerk and you want to keep your job and you have to stay in character And so, when you use that as the baseline, as the foundation for everything you do, it works I have an exercise that I like inspired by Lady Gaga’s Pokerface where the students stand as statues and then you can take this and sort of let it evolve and become more advanced But, one character, without touching the students which is important — this is a rule — that they try to get the other character to break and have a reaction and you just have Actor A have a fixed focal point and look at that and the other actor tries to antagonize them, get them to break, and you just do it for thirty seconds And then, you really applaud the students if they were able to stay focused, and they feel good about it because they feel like they’ve thwarted off an enemy And then, you can start to add an activity to it and this isn’t my idea, it’s Sanford Meisner Add an activity, try to get someone to come in and interrupt them And now, you can really get people out of their introverted states and you can say, “What’s something you like to do?” and maybe they’re very good at push-ups or they can juggle, now have them do that and the other person tries to come and interrupt them, and they’re taking this seriously If they’re going through a martial arts warm-up or some push-ups or whatever, this is important to them, they’re not going to break And so, now you’ve established that you can stay in character — number one — and, number two, you can stay in character doing something that you care about — an activity, a physical

objective being achieved Lindsay: Ah, I think that’s the goal to this question, that’s the key element to this question If you’re trying to engage students — be them middle school or high school — you have to find out what they want to do You have to find out what they’re thinking about You have to find out what their issues are You have to find out what’s going on in their mind And that’s where you start from so that your exercises are coming from their world and their environment that, if you’re going to use scene work, that it’s coming from their world, their environment Get them to write their own scenes and, in that way, that’s where the engagement comes from and moving away from improv Christian: Let me add to this too because it’s such a good question I think having students teach each other is critical So, if you have someone and I don’t juggle but, if I am the low status person in an exercise and my assignment simply is, “Hey guys, tomorrow bring something in that you can teach someone else,” that can take off and go a number of different directions And then, as the coach, as the drama teacher, I can tweak the exercise as it goes on But, right away, you’ve got all these tiers and levels of learning going on because you have people building ensemble, they’re teaching each other, and this is something that will carry through to the rest of their life, I think Craig: Do you do an activity like that early in the year? Christian: You can It really depends on the group I try to get a read on the group The groups have such different personalities I have one period right now that is amazing and I have another one that I feel like I really have to sort of mildly shock them to get them to do — and I mean that metaphorically, of course Lindsay: So, if we see you going into class, you know, with your jumper cables, you know, it’s just a metaphor Craig: Metaphorical jumper cables Christian: Exactly Lindsay: But, also, with having them teach each other, then you’re getting into another level, another skill set level which is perception, right? Perception of who a person is by what you see on their outside and then actually finding out something that they know that they maybe don’t bring to the normal everyday class and that’s a huge skill for any of us to learn about — that how somebody looks on the outside is not necessarily who they are on the inside which is a fabulous segue into character building about how a character can look on the outside and yet feel something complete different on the inside, you know, using their own skills and their own world to get them into character development And then, I have one more thing on this one because it is such a great questions and I was looking at coming up with answers too Another segue is to use something that they love and that they know so well and they find so tangible and that’s technology You know, all of these kids, particularly middle school, they are on phones, they are on Instagram, they are on Snapchat, so use these apps, use these programs to segue into exercises One exercise I talk about all the time is Instagram self-reflection Have students take pictures of themselves, take selfies, put them on their Instagram one a day — maybe one at the beginning of drama class, one at the end of drama class At the end of the week, have them write a reflection and look back on what they look like By looking at their pictures, what do they see? Do they remember how they felt on Monday looking at a picture on Friday? You can do the same thing with peer reflection where they can look at a picture of somebody, one of their classmates, what do they think that that person is feeling just by looking at a picture, and are they right or are they wrong? If we’re going to have inroads, we need to find out about them, I think, is the bottom-line for that Awesome Okay Next question Craig: All right “Any tricks or ideas to help build camaraderie within a compulsory mixed class?” and she described that a little bit more — what she means by a mixed class, she means that some kids are there because they have to be there and other kids really want to be there so there’s a real mix of desires to be in the class Some people really want to learn, some people just want to endure the class and get on with their lives Lindsay: That’s got to be the hardest Do you have any of these classes, Christian? Christian: Yes, the three Drama 1 classes — and I’m sure this is a shared experience with others out there — we have mixed ages and ambition levels and experience levels and I feel like sometimes it’s tough You have a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old in the same classroom, and one of them wants to go on and study theatre at the collegiate level and the other one really just needs

it to graduate, and how do you design a lesson that’s going to be geared toward both of them and satisfy their needs at the same time So, that can be tough I like partner work It’s tough but I like partner work and I like that often they don’t get to pick their partner That, as you get to know the group, you start to match people, even for short day-long assignments, so that they can write and act together and learn from each other that way — I think that’s a very helpful thing to do I think also doing things as an entire class unit for ensemble building helps too I’ve done an exercise where you come in and pretend you’re a company one day and you hand everybody a slip of paper and they’re playing a different role and you just play it out a full class period where people are hired and fired and you have to stay in this character the whole time and it’s interesting to look at that and then, afterwards, say, “This really mirrors what’s going on in the classroom Some of you just want to get the pay check,” which is fine, we’ve all been there at different points in our lives and some of you have ambitions of doing in your mind what are great things and the parallel’s interesting, I think Lindsay: Do you find that to get students to feel comfortable opening up to each other that you have to open up? Because you can’t be their buddy but it’s important to be a human being Christian: Absolutely, and I think modelling is critical too We’re coming up on, it’ll be a couple of months away from the end of the year and I asked the students to engage in a mock audition where they perform a monologue and sing a song of have an alternate piece And so, I’ll demonstrate first I’ll say, “Here’s what it should look like,” and then they can ask questions and to give critical comment I think it’s important that they know — and this is the great thing about this subject — that we do this This is what we do And so, you can say, “I’m a playwright also I’m an actor also,” and I think that puts people at ease And, afterwards, I’ll say something like, “Boy, I had a line snag there Let’s talk about how I got through that,” that kind of thing Lindsay: That you are doing the same thing that they’re doing Christian: Absolutely Craig: Right, that you’re not coming from it as in the position of the expert who knows everything — that you’re a team member with them Christian: I’m just slightly more experienced because of age and lack of hair that, yes, I am more experienced Some of them are better at some things than I am and that’s actually a little humbling sometimes, but it’s also really cool because you can learn I mean, I don’t know — Craig, you probably feel this way too — as an actor, watching other performances is the best way to get better The smaller roles I’ve played watching veteran actors from the wings, that’s how you get better Craig: Oh, sure I’ve been in scenes with actors who I consider much better than myself and it’s really the greatest seat to watch a play from is two feet away, staring into their eyes It’s really very educational, actually Christian: Well, that’s the experience we’re trying to give them is just say, “Here, let’s set up a safe and hopefully somewhat structured way for us to have this organized and purposeful play together.” Lindsay: Christian, just looking back again on when you started, was there ever a point where you thought that you had made a mistake? That that image of teaching that had was not going to work out? Christian: Gosh You know, you have to be honest about it It’s a great question I think we all have that moment Usually, it’s about a week before the opening of a play and you start to think about how far could I run on one tank of gas, you know? I think it’s natural Doubt is natural and I think it’s important that you share it with your students so that they realize, “Oh, my goodness He’s going through the same thing I go through.” If you want to call it stage fright or whatever it is, there’s this kind of nebulous monster that’s out there that we have to overcome But, yes, I’ve gone through it and I think, battling through it, you build not only your character but the collective character of the program That you happen to have your hands on the wheel of that program Craig: So, you showed up at your job with no tools, no idea of what it was that you were going to do, and now, clearly, you’re here for the long haul At what point did you decide or realize, if any, that, “This is it I’m sticking with being a drama teacher”? Christian: Well, you always have this fear that the talent pool is going to run out I’ve thought that for a while that drought was coming And then, you look every year and there’s ample hydration, there’s ample water everywhere,

there’s ample talent, and you start to see the eyes of the younger students looking at the older students and seeing what they’re doing, and you say, “You know, there’s something productive here,” and there’s something that probably in most other jobs, I wouldn’t be able to have this much of myself — my artistic side, my personal side — invested in the work It’s painful sometimes It really is But the moments of pain are reciprocated by moments of joy, I think Lindsay: And do you think that’s why theatre teaching is for you? That challenge, that reward, that keeps you coming back? Christian: I think so, and similar to what you guys do, and very well, the test is when you try to walk away and you can’t I think you just reinvent yourself I say this to young actors all the time, someone wants to be a Romeo and you point out to them Mercutio is brilliant — in many ways, a much better role! It’s shorter life span in terms of the play, but a much better role, and look at yourself some time and be honest with the fact that you may be a Mercutio and there’s something so beautiful about that — that we’re not always going to be a classroom full of Romeos — and part of our job is to sort of go through and help students realize this, that a vibrant orange can be just as beautiful as any other color Lindsay: Awesome Love it So, now, this is a really good question for when you’re rehearsing a play and I know that there is a lot of teachers out there who they just kind of get thrown into the job and comes with the job, that you might put on a play This question is from Margaret Moran Craig, the next question? Craig: She wants to know — this is a really tough one, I think — “When rehearsing for a play, those students without major parts or roles behind the scenes are restless and need other things to do during rehearsal time Any suggestions?” My goodness Do you have any suggestions, Christian? This is, I think, a really tough question that I bet everybody struggles with Christian: Well, it’s a management issue, too, that we need to supervise students and you want them to be productive I think, a lot of times, having another group, if you have an assistant director, a student leader that you trust that can have an alternate group that’s working at the same time I tend to try to set rules It’s very hard to enforce this over, let’s say, a two-hour rehearsal But, in terms of, “Here are things that you can do,” and you give them a list of activities that they can do and you try to get them looking at their lines and walking on their feet with their lines in the background I love a rehearsal like that when you walk into a rehearsal, you’re a few minutes late and, somehow, by some miracle, the waters have parted and everybody is engaged in something It’s so great and you feel like you’re captain of the Starship Enterprise, you know, or something, and the seat has been kept warm for you and you’re ready to engage So, how do you get there? Having understudies, I think, is helpful because now you have people watching other people asking your actors to keep journals, especially for those who are going to be serious and, usually, the actors in productions have aspirations of moving on and being in productions in the future, and journals are amazing for that and have them right their character bios and they can even, the ones who have other talents, they can start collecting data for the program They can start building thing in the background I find that buzz of activity to be infectious and it actually helps the rehearsal process Lindsay: Well, if everyone’s got a job, if there’s a job that needs doing and everybody has something to do I mean, that’s going to make them feel, it makes them feel part of the community, doesn’t it? Instead of just sitting around and waiting to be on stage, they’re actually participating in the greater project, that it is not just the thing that happens on stage but it’s everything, you know, it’s working with other people and dealing that program and all that and everything that goes into a show Christian: Absolutely I think one of the best things ever — and I’m sure the other drama teachers agree — this is when a student will come to me and say, “Can I just? I want to hand out programs,,” or, “I just want to be a crew member,” and it’s kind of a Disneyland experience for them and I have a lot of appreciation for that because you need those people to keep your productions moving and they learn that way So, I like that a lot Craig: So, if you walk into your rehearsal hall and it’s not buzzing the way that you

imagine it, what kind of activities and things can you give to these kids who might only have one scene in the play but need to be there? Christian: Well, I think it’s important to be aware of the pulse rate of your rehearsal and, if you need to say, “Okay, everyone, pick a line and we’re going to walk around and we’re just going to deliver that one line and we’re going to walk around and interact Fourth wall up where you don’t or fourth wall down where you do.” Things like that can be great wake-up calls to the group I think, sometimes, obviously, you have conflicts Let’s say, your actor, we just produced Much Ado About Nothing, your actor playing Beatrice has an AP prop and then you allow one of the actors with a smaller role to step in and have that rehearsal and it’s a great opportunity I even get a chance, sometimes, to step in and play, you know, whatever — the porter or whatever the part is that happens to be — and that’s fun, too I maybe enjoy it too much, that part of it Lindsay: If you’re getting students to step in, it just means that everyone has to be kind of on top of their game because you have people who can step in and it’s not individuals It is actually a community Everybody is playing the part — playing their part I think that makes sense Christian: No, absolutely, and the goal, just like in sports, is to come home with the dirty uniform and we don’t really care how you do it We just want you to do stuff and that’s what’s so exciting And so, you know, when I approach someone that’s being disruptive in class, I’ll be very upfront with them I’ll pull them aside and I’ll say, “You know, you’re being disruptive right now This is a great energy, you have a great power here, what can be done with this?” and then you try to set your sails for that Lindsay: That’s a great way to turn it around You know, like that disruptive energy is actually a powerful energy Let’s use it for good Christian: Yes Lindsay: And, before we leave this question, I know this is something that comes up all the time What do you do to encourage students to learn their lines? What memorization techniques do you get your students to use? Christian: You know, that’s a great question because it’s so frustrating You can’t really start acting until you’re memorized, and a cold read to me, it’s like frozen TV dinner — nobody wants a frozen TV dinner popsicle And so, the lines have to be memorized, they have to be heated up I find that deadline in and of itself helps and you say, “Look, we’re going to be off-book with prompting on this day,” and then you have rehearsals where you just go back to table work and you run lines and you work on vocal emphasis rather than the blocking I think that helps I think you pair them off and you have the actors work on their lines that way But, honestly, I think our students want to achieve — all of us — and I typically don’t have problems with students getting off-book Speaking loudly enough and projecting and making big physical choices — that’s something that I think, as directors, it’s more of a challenge maybe than the off-book issue Lindsay: Okay So, what do you do? How do you get them to? I think, for me, it’s big physical choices That’s my hugest — not a pet peeve, but — it’s what I want I always want a student to get their elbows, un-attach them from their ribcage and actually get them to reach out and to get out of their skin How do we do that? Christian: You know, that’s a great question, and you’ve been doing quite a bit of adjudicating and you see this too and it must be frustrating and how do you write that down in a note without offending someone? I think, I will have entire rehearsals where we exaggerate it and then the students will think, “Oh, my gosh Thank goodness that’s over,” and then your note afterwards is, “Keep it that way I want you to keep it exactly that way — the way that it was exaggerated.” So, if you have two students performing a scene from The Importance of Being Earnest and you have them do it as if they’re getting ready for a boxing match and then now do it again with that energy underneath and I think that kind of stuff works really well And, also, to have them deliver each line with a full physical move — head to toe That works, too You can even do it like a machine and have them repeat, and each person in the cast can repeat one line and they have to have a repeated sound and movement like a machine and then they can all come together and it’s actually kind of scary and wonderful, too Lindsay: Scary and wonderful, that’s a good thing Okay So, now we go to, we’ve got a question from a first year drama teacher which is exactly what this whole thing is about, right? So, Craig, we have the next question there

Emily Evans Craig: Emily says: “I am a first year drama teacher working in a low income NYC middle school.” She said it was a Title 1 school “Some students don’t believe learning drama helps them at all I constantly tell them that this class is important and will make them happier, more successful people, but it hasn’t seemed to make a difference Any suggestions?” Lindsay: What a tough situation because there’s nothing worse than you’re right and you know you’re right and you know that it can help and you know it can make them happier and successful and yet it’s not landing, it’s not getting into their heads How do we get into their heads, Christian, that drama is important? Christian: Well, I’m going to pretend right now through role-playing that I’m talking to a student like this because I guess I’m fortunate because I usually don’t have entire groups that this is an issue but I will have small groups — I was going to say packs of students — small groups of students, an individual student who will have this issue And so, I think it goes back to asking: what’s something that’s important to you? And then, whatever their answer is, you’re going to be able to counter with something that we teach because theatre — and you guys have many articles and blogs and this is a theme, a thread, that we see over and over again in all of the stuff that Theatrefolk posts and that’s — the idea that idea that you can use drama and theatre and the acting lessons in everything that you do The other day, I was talking to my class about let people catch you doing something good and this is the idea And so, for Emily and for myself and for all the other teachers, part of it is just about showing up with your game face on and, over time, your sheer tenacity is going to break other people down And it’s actually so great to see It’s like a great thaw You know, it doesn’t happen right away, but I think you go to the students and you ask them as a whole group, in smaller groups, you pull one or two aside One thing that works really well for me is you find the sort of strongest personalities in the class and you get them as allies early on You pull them aside after class and you say, “Look, I’m really counting on you to help me with this,” or, “Let’s try this exercise, you and I,” and that the teacher and the student participate in a role-playing job interview exercise or something that immediately is applicable and practical in the real world Lindsay: Yeah, real world skills And, also, too, I think, because students are all about the now too, so instead of saying, “You’re going to be happier You’re going to be successful,” let’s focus in what’s happening right now We can give them a skill set where they can speak with confidence now We can give them a skill set where they can work with others now, you know, and then do exactly as you… then bring in those maybe all your scene work and your role-play world as in real-world situations You know, job interviews, you know, dealing with a difficult family member — all of that is very valuable We don’t have to go to the classics We don’t have to use exercises that aren’t applicable to our students’ lives You know what your situation is, you know what your scenario is, and you know who your students are Get your students to tell you who they are and use that as your base Christian: Absolutely, and to ask them what’s an uncomfortable situation that you’ve been in, let’s say, with family or whatever and let them set the table And then, start to attack that issue with role-playing in the class “So, you don’t want to visit grandma, you’d rather hang out with your friends at the mall How can we make your obligations fulfilled but you still have time to do what you want to do?” These are the real issues that can be answered with very good practical acting and it doesn’t have to be on the big screen which is this is the, I think, many people, when they find out what we teach, one of the first things they say is, “Oh, have fun,” like we’re knitting doilies all day with life-sized gummy bears or something Lindsay: Playing games Christian: Yeah So, one of the things I like to debunk right away is that there is a ferocity to this that is similar to top-level varsity athletics, and the kids want to buy into that, the students want to buy into that Lindsay: I think there are more parallels to the athlete world and athleticism world

that we are not picking up on You know, the whole notion of practice and performance, that is the athlete to the key — you have to practice before you can perform, right? Or there is no athlete who only performs or only practices You have to do both We do the exact same thing in the theatre world and playwriting We have to practice our craft before we can write the full-length play We have to practice speaking at full volume, being able to physicalize a character before we take it on to the stage, and I think that that is also a gateway in that because, particularly at the school level, the athlete is revered, and if we can make the parallels, if we can make theatre just as revered, you know? I have a friend, there is a trophy case specifically for drama, for just that reason — because it is a visual that shows, “Look, right up against the athlete trophy case,” you know, “Theatre, we are on the same playing field and we are of the same importance.” Christian: Mine’s right over there As you were saying that, I looked over The trophy case we have is right over there and I think it’s a very important visual, and new students who come in look at it with the sort of perplexed, twisted face “Why would you have that?” and I’ll go through and I’ll talk about the specific individuals who have graduated from the program and some of their accomplishments It’s kind of a neat moment Lindsay: Cool Okay We have just one more question Craig: Actually, I’m going to interject because we had question that was emailed in while we were speaking and I think it’s really good and Christian can speak, too It was someone looking for advice on dealing with burnout when you’re first starting out teaching How do you keep yourself from burning out right away? Did you burn out? When you started, did you experience these types of things? Christian: Right So, if you look at it, it’s this massive, made-at-home firework and sometimes you think it’s a dud and then you get closer and it starts to spark again and then it dies down again and then it comes up So, I think we all go through this It’s almost like seasons Part of what I would do is be a little selfish and say, “Okay, right now, I feel burned out I’m tired I want to take a 38-hour nap,” and so, what I’m going to do, I’m going to say, “What’s something I want to do in theatre that I can apply to my teaching that I want to do,” and you can make that happen This is what’s great about what we teach and it’s different than English or any other subject You can do that The door is open for that And so, that’s what I would do I would say, you like musical theatre, you want to do a lesson on musical theatre, that’s how you fell in love with theatre, bring that in That’s one of the reasons I recommend not planning too far ahead I know the ambitious side of me loves to plan the whole year ahead of time The problem with that is that you’ll come to the point where you say, “This group is different than last year’s group.” So, I would say the big thing is, to fight burnout, do something you want to do and that you love and I bet something will happen — the kids will love it, too Lindsay: Well, because you bring your natural energy and passion to something that you love that reads Craig: And you were saying, Christian, too before we started, before we went live with this, you were talking about the drama standards and how vague some of them are and you’re right You really could do things that you’re passionate about and still fulfil the teaching standards Christian: Oh, absolutely, and it’s a great feeling All the drama teachers out there know this When someone walks into your room — an administrator or anyone — you feel like you’re on this sort of ethereal plane because no one really knows what’s going on It looks cool What we do looks cool It’s almost like walking into a surgery or something and you’re a medical student and you say, “I wonder what that is,” and it’s a great compliment You’ll have people just come in and watch Administrators will just come in and watch because they want to see something cool and that’s the neat part of what we do It is a show Lindsay: And then, if you can go, “And we’re fulfilling blah blah blah,” you know, then you can tick those boxes off too Okay So, Craig, we are going to wrap this up, yes? Craig: Yes, I think so Okay We’re at our 40 We’ve gone past 45 Lindsay: We’ve got past our time and so wonderful I hope that those of you listening were able to get some answers and those of you who are just starting out, you know, you’re not alone and all you need to do is reach out, keep your passion alive, remember why you’re doing this, and that, if you feel like giving up, you know, there’s people out here who are in the exact same boat and you’re not alone

Just before we go, I just want to make sure that I mention So, Christian Kiley, our wonderful guest with wonderful answers for today’s questions If you’re looking for really interesting one-acts, my favorite thing about Christian’s plays is that he combines real-world with absurd world and I mean that it’s just the left of center — The Art of Rejection, Chaired, Virtual Family which was our play of the week just recently I love that one What am I missing? Discovering Rogue is a fantastic competition piece Am I missing anything? I talked about Chemo Girl What do you think, Christian? Christian: That’s it I think you’ve got it You’ve got the answer key Lindsay: That’s it All right It’s all in here, right? It’s all jumbled somewhere Thank you very much, everyone who has chimed in with your questions Thank you, everyone who is watching and we’ll catch you next month Bye! Christian: Bye! Thanks!