Philosophy of Teaching

Skills can be taught in a semester, but artistry must be learned over a lifetime. In the classroom, whether it is a practical performance-oriented course or a seminar on aesthetic theory, the teacher must collaborate with the students to create an environment in which learning may occur. The learning outcomes will organize the kinds of experiences necessary for the material to be assimilated, but the experiences will be continually adapted to students’ needs and evolve from the teacher’s deepening understanding of the material. The teacher’s job, then, is to develop a process through which the material unfolds clearly and coherently, enabling students to come to the work and participate fully in learning. Herbert Kohl says, “Teaching is no simple matter. It is hard work, part craft, part art, part technique, part politics, and takes time to develop ease within such a complex role”(On Teaching). Like the theatre, teaching is a life’s work.

Teaching Acting

Great acting is compelling—commanding attention. Great actors create compelling performances through bold, imaginative choices, and through the intimate connection they generate to each other, the text, and an audience. The goal of actor training is to develop a technique that will result in a compelling performance every night when the curtain goes up or every time a director calls “action!” I have trained in a variation of the Meisner technique, studied the major methods in New York and have a strong classical background. However, I believe there is no single way or method to develop as an actor. Although it is imperative that training is grounded in a clearly articulated philosophy of performance, any approach, no matter its foundation, must nurture and adapt to the individual’s talents. Each student has unique challenges to face, and unique talents and abilities. My goal is to guide the process of discovery, and to give the students freedom to explore, make mistakes, and find joy in the work.

The primary objectives of a performing artist are to serve and convey theatrical material through the articulation of the actor’s tools—the voice, body, imagination, and emotions. Full command of the actor’s tools enables the performer to respond freely to external stimuli—other actors, the audience, the scenic environment—and to impulses from within. The free actor will be “in the moment” and deeply connected to his/her fellow actors and the dramatic material. The actor articulate in the use of the tools will fulfill the demands of the material, and realize the choices of the director and his/her own choices, too. Focused work on the body and voice must go hand-in-hand with work in the acting studio, where all the actor’s tools come into play. I use many exercises to develop the voice, body, and imagination, and establish a routine for their fullest articulation. Emotions are a by-product, or result, of action and ought not be the focus of training. However, fostering an emotional connection to the material is important and ought not to be assumed or taken for granted, particularly in the young actor. To aid the development of emotional facility in the actor I use simple, straightforward and positive means. After exploring and strengthening the actor’s tools, the student-actor is ready to cultivate an understanding and command of the acting process.

Although every theatrical event has its unique demands, acting is essentially the application of energy to a task—performing actions—doing something, toward some end, within some set of circumstances. This is the business of the actor and the main focus of my work: playing actions, transforming material/text into playable actions, connecting to the action and to fellow actors, and finally structuring those actions into a performance. The theatrical event is like a game, and the text is a description of the game. The actor’s job is to discern the rules of playing from the description of the game. Text is a result of action, and therefore the actor must discover the underlying actions and play them fully while responding freely to the energy of the scene partner, audience, and environment. Text and character analysis are both important parts of the actor’s technique. However, analysis must free and excite, not hinder, the actor’s imagination.

The basic questions any theatre program must pose are whom are we training, for what, and why? Answers to these questions will vary; methods and even the medium may change. New technologies, advances in our understanding of human behavior, and the political-social-economic changes in the world are only just beginning to alter how we will define theatre in this century. Theatre education ought ultimately to focus on nurturing individual artistry and expanding the range of human expression. An original artistic vision, supported by a full range of physical, emotional, and intellectual expressiveness will enrich the artist’s life and the lives of those touched by the artistry. The liberally educated, unique individual has the best chance to find lifelong satisfaction whatever career path she or he may follow.

Goals of Actor Training

  1. To expand/enhance the range of expressiveness and creativity via the unique tools of the performer, including vocal, physical, imaginative and emotional expressiveness
    (work on the self)
  2. To develop an understanding of and skills in the process of human interaction
    (work with others)
  3. To facilitate choice-making as performing artist, thinker, and producer
    (application of knowledge toward end results)
  4. To explore human interactions through a set of value systems, life experiences and/or life circumstances different from one’s own.

Teaching Experience

Dean, College of Visual & Performing Arts, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL

  • HON 300--Evolution of Art
  • UNIV 101--First Year Experience
  • THEA 300--Script Analysis

Aug. 2004 – 2016
State University of New York at New Paltz, New Paltz, NY

Professor of Theatre Arts in the School of Fine and Performing Arts
Direct productions; perform in mainstage productions; coach student actors; supervise directing projects; recruit students; teach acting (all levels), play analysis, senior capstone; advise students; serve on Departmental, College, and University Committees.

Major Accomplishments
  • Promoted to Full Professor July 2013.
  • Artistic Associate. Half Moon Theatre Company. Direct and perform in productions, facilitate monthly play reading series, develop guidelines and policy for company. 2010-present.
  • Professional Theatre.  Directing–five AEA productions.  Acting–four AEA guest artist appearances.
  • Acting: An Introduction to the Art and Craft of Acting. Allyn & Bacon. Boston. April 2006.
  • The Players’ Journal. Managing Editor. 2005-2013. Website: theplayersjournal.org

Aug. 1998 – July 2004
Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY

Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts in the College of Arts and Sciences
Direct mainstage productions; coach student actors; recruit students; teach acting (all levels), stage movement, graduate seminar in acting theory; advise students; serve on Departmental, College, and University committees.
2000-2003. Director of Undergraduate Studies—Responsible for recruitment and retention, advising, course scheduling, website maintenance; represent Department at College meetings.

Major Accomplishments
  • Founded Asylum Theatre Company, a performing ensemble of Equity actors committed to creating and developing theatrical work that is responsive to the needs and concerns of, and the significant events that occur to, individuals and groups within the community.
  • Worked with Provost on Undergraduate College initiative; worked closely with architects on re-design and re-purposing former dining facility into the Tabler Center for Arts, Culture and Humanities.
  • Revised and redefined undergraduate mission and curriculum, focusing on collaboration, group learning, and creativity.

Aug. 1993 – May 1998
Bradley University, Peoria, IL

Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts in the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts
Head of Acting Program; direct mainstage productions; perform in mainstage productions; coach student actors; supervise directing projects; recruit students; teach acting (all levels), stage movement, voice for the actor, senior seminar in performance studies, theatre appreciation (summer/interim sessions); advise students; serve on Departmental, College, and University Committees.

Major Accomplishments
  • Revised curriculum, created new courses, re-developed Performance Concentration, and redesigned the Senior Seminar as a pre-graduate course in performance studies and career planning.
  • Redesigned and developed recruiting program, implemented database management program, more than doubling enrollment of incoming classes in two years.
  • Adapted, directed, and produced tour for The Shakespeare Company, created to introduce Shakespeare to junior and high school students.

Sept. 1991 – June 1993
The Anglo-American International School, New York, NY

Director of Drama/Creative Wing Chair
Teach International Baccalaureate Theatre Arts, improvisation and theatre games; direct/design productions; develop curriculum.

Major Accomplishments
  • Rebuilt entire theatre program, created curriculum, developed production program, participated in design and building of dedicated studio theatre facility.
  • Participated in pilot program for the International Baccalaureate Theatre Arts program, developing curriculum and generating assessment criteria.

Past courses

SUNY New Paltz

THE 231: Acting I

THE 271: Page to Stage: Dramatic Text Analysis

THE 332: Acting II

THE 337: Introduction to Dance/Movement

THE 362: Improvisation and Performance

THE 305: Musical Theatre Workshop

THE 363: Scene Study,

  • Performing Epic Theatre
  • Performing Classical Drama
  • Performing Chekov
  • Performing Comedy

THE 371: Page to Stage: Dramatic Text Analysis

THE 432: Acting 4
Professional guests: Austin Pendleton, Stephane Klapper (CSA), Michael Cassara (CSA), Todd Thaler (CSA), Michael Kirsten (Harden-Curtis Associates), Lisa Loosemore (Viking Talent Management), Angelina Fiordellisi (AD–Cherry Lane Theatre), Brendan Burke (AD-Shadowland Theatre), Christopher Edwards (Assoc. AD-Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival), Molly Meador (Assoc. AD-Theatreworks, USA), Ellen Parks (film), Carol Nadell (industrials), Kathryn Grody (acting), Patrick Tucker (Shakespeare), John Basil (acting for the camera), Matt Bennett (Silent Crow Productions), Jennifer Prescott (AEA, SAG, AFTRA)

THE 465: Theatre 4—Senior Seminar

SUNY Stony Brook

THR 100: Performing and Performance

THR 105: Acting I

THR 230: Voice for the Actor

THR 264: Movement for the Actor

THR 322: Acting III

THR 333: Directing I

THR 487: Performance Workshop: Swallow This

THR 560: The Theory and Practice of Acting

Bradley University

HON 100: Producing Shakespeare

THE 115: Fundamentals of Acting

THE 121: The Creative Process

THE 131: Introduction to Theatre

THE 201: Voice for the Actor

THE 203: Movement for the Actor

THE 216: Acting III—Advanced Acting & Scene Study

THE 315: Acting IV—Performing Shakespeare

THE 316: Fundamentals of Directing (guest lecturer)

THE 317: Advanced Directing (faculty supervisor)

THE 410: Senior Seminar

THE 415: Acting V—Thesis Performance

THE 498: The Shakespeare Company  

Professional Studio, New York City

Scene Study

Playing Shakespeare: The First Folio Technique