From Teacher to Director

This semester, I crossed two artistic achievements off my bucket list. I wrote an original play and saw it performed, and I directed my second show. While I have been fascinated with playwriting since attending theatre workshops in high school, I have always been interested in directing.

I guess you can say I have been inspired by many of the directors I have worked with growing up as a young actor in middle and high school. Dale and Becki from Saltworks theatre studio were the two directors who got me started in theatre and inspired me to participate in all aspects of it since my first few Saltworks summers in middle school. After attending acting classes with my high school theatre director, I became fascinated with the idea of leading a cast to animating a production.

Working with these directors eventually inspired me to double major in education and theatre. This eventually resulted in me taking theatre and education classes for the last two and a half years.

Last spring, I had my chance during Fringe Fest Erie when I was in charge of directing an original student written, directed, designed, and performed sketch comedy show. While it was a successful show, I did not feel satisfied because I was acting in the show as well. This semester, I had to chance to direct a play I had written titled “An Apartment With Grayson.” The play tells the story of two high school best friends, Arthur and Grayson, who are sharing an sharing an apartment. Grayson has changed for the worst and ruined his roommate’s life.

When rehearsals began, I started planning activities to help my cast perfect their character quirks, backstories, walks, and every other aspect of their characters. For a few rehearsals, the cast worked on character development. Once we made it to full runs of the play, none of the actors were simply “saying their lines.”

During one of the character development rehearsals, one of the actresses in the cast noted that it was fairly obvious that I was a teacher when leading the cast.

Was it really that obvious that I was a teacher? Well, I would start rehearsal with something to grab the cast’s attention just like I would grab a class’s attention with an anticipatory set. I was that democratic yet in-charge force driving the artistic journey… just like the acting teachers I worked with growing up. Oh great! My teacher qualities really were showing.

I suppose it feels awkward being referred to a teacher by my own classmates since I typically work with middle school children, but I am a teacher so I couldn’t be more proud. My cast was starting to bring the play to life so whatever strategies I used were working.

Now that I think about it, my directing professor Fr. Shawn Clerkin said that I have some natural leadership qualities that come from my experiences in the classroom. It wasn’t until that rehearsal I realized what he meant.

Once the cast was off-book, the actors were able to portray the characters almost exactly as I envisioned them in my head.

Arthur (the spineless one) became this passive-aggressive young man with an inability to stand up to his nasty roommate. Grayson (the nightmare roommate) became this terrifying, self-centered, aggressive roommate which completely freaked me out (keep in mind, I created this character). Elizabeth (Arthur’s sister) turned into this older sister figure who was constantly forced to stand up for her coward of a brother, and Fithlemore (Arthur’s boss) became this quirky, clueless lady who had no idea how twisted Grayson could be.

These characters turned into people who were almost exactly how I envisioned them when I wrote this script without me having to physically show the actors how to play their characters.

After both performances, the audiences absolutely loved Grayson. I think it is safe to say that I have reached one of my greatest artistic achievements. Eventually, I am going to be placed in charge of directing school plays, so it is nice to say I am finally ready to meet my destiny.