est. 1981

Building Sets, Building Students

In Life, School on April 1, 2011 at 8:14 pm

This is my site essay from my grad school interview that just ended.

I entered college about a week behind all of my classmates. I was at an event that my high school had been invited to over the summer, and wound up missing the first week of school. When I arrived, I realized that not only had I missed a couple classes, but I had also missed all of the orientation elements of our theatre program, managing to inadvertently become the outsider that no one knew anything about.

During the first few weeks of getting acclimated, I attempted to stake a claim to what I thought should be my place in the program: I was the kid who had attended an arts school, and thus knew everything. After realizing that a large majority of my classmates had also had copious amounts of theatrical education in high school, I floundered. I became desperate to find my place, and eventually landed in what I hoped would be my safe haven: Tech.

I lived to build sets, and the scene shop became my home away from home. Our professor quickly realized that I was ahead of most of my classmates, and soon began offering me new opportunities and responsibilities. All students were required to spend one afternoon per week in the shop, taking basic orders and doing whatever work they were capable of. I began working in the same fashion, but was soon given students of my own to supervise, and what began as a weekly class session became a part time job.

Eventually, the afternoons when I was officially a student were no different from the afternoons when I was being paid as a carpenter, and I began to learn how to teach them. My skills grew on all fronts. I learned how to instruct students on their work, building respect and kinship. I learned to not just show them how to do something, but to guide and critique while they attempted it on their own. I learned to keep them confident and safe, while still making sure that the job got done.

I spent four years working in that scene shop. During that time, even after I was no longer in a class but simply working with the students, I slowly constructed my desire to teach theatre. I continued to learn about the different methods of construction that were available, but I also learned different methods for working with young people. I found that I got more joy and pleasure out of teaching someone how to build a flat or rip a sheet of plywood than I ever would have gotten from doing it myself. Meanwhile, my confidence in my own abilities grew as increasing levels of responsibility were given to me. Entire crews of students were given to me for completing a task, and it was my job to get them to learn how to do it by the end of the day.

Working in the scene shop, above all other experiences in my life, taught me who I want to be. Building sets, creating worlds, and teaching others how to do it with me, showed me the value of theatre, but also the value of having a good teacher. What started as a fun way to earn my work study allotment became a part of my life that has led me to pursue a degree in Educational Theatre. I hope to someday have a chance to work with students again, to show them how to build things, and to build that passion within them as well.

  1. I rellay couldn’t ask for more from this article.

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