One of the main goals for our Theatre Education Community is to help theatre students and professionals from all over connect and identify with each other in order to build resources and support the theatre education field. We shine a spotlight on a different member every other week by conducting a simple interview.
Our next spotlight is Andrea Rassler, a theatre teacher and troupe director at North Cabarrus High School in Concord, North Carolina. Andrea is huge help to our Community when it comes to play selection and technical theatre, among other topics. When she isn’t teaching, she makes time to hone her craft by participating in local community theatre productions.
Why do you believe theatre is important?
More than ever, theatre is important because it teaches so many things that people need in this world. Collaboration, cooperation, positive problem-solving, dedication, empathy. Doesn’t matter WHAT play you do; ANY play teaches all of these things.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day begins at the 5am alarm. Stereotypical ‘getting ready for the day’ mom and teacher stuff, then off to 6:45 bus lot duty. I have planning at the first of my day, so the day is fine-tuned and prepared for. Then Theatre II, Theatre I, and Musical Theatre classes. Shortly after the last bell of the day, gather for play/musical rehearsal which typically lasts until 4:30pm. A quick drive home, then dinner (most of the time made by my awesome husband!) and homework (for me and my son) and either rehearsal for a community show or work on my playwriting at home. Bedtime at 11pm-ish. Wash, rinse, repeat!
Cast and crew of Kiss a Squid—original one-act. Advanced to the NC State One-Act Festival in 2014.
What is the resource you most recommend to others in your profession?
I don’t know that there’s a text, website, or book that is the best of recommendations. What I really recommend as a resource is to find other like-minded colleagues and network with them. Specifically in theatre teaching, seek out (Facebook, websites, etc.) people who have been doing what you’re doing (or trying to do) and openly talk about ideas, challenges and triumphs.
Do you have any tips for new theatre teachers?
Trust your gut, plan ahead, be flexible, remember your sense of humor, always put the student first, remember we’re all on a journey together—and reach out for help. Doing this all alone is not what theatre is all about!
What is your favorite musical (or play)? What makes it so special?
My favorite musical will always be Les Miserables. I read the novel (yes, the full version!) and listened to the soundtrack at the same time in college. I saw a touring version and was absolutely struck. Then, I took an enormous leap and chose to produce it at my school with the most amazingly talented group of students you could ever imagine. And it was transcending. It’s special for many, many reasons—but the compelling music and the unforgettable characters have engrained themselves in my heart and soul forever. The basic message of the Bishop (‘To love another person is to see the face of God.’) and the relentless pursuit of good in SO many of the people in the play—just speaks to me.
What was the first role you ever played?
My first step onto the stage was as Winthrop in The Music Man. I was in 4th or 5th grade—and looked very much like a little boy. I sang my little pants off and just RIPPED ‘Gary, Indiana!’ The world was never the same.
Andrea (right) with Chuck Riordan and Nick Asa in a 10-Minute Play Festival piece in 2015.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I had a series of very inspiring teachers in high school and college. I saw what impact their lives could have on others and I knew that if I could touch people like that—there would be no better way to spend my life. To know that lessons you teach may be passed down through generations—there is just a world of special about that.
What was the most difficult element of a production you’ve ever had to manage?
Little Shop of Horrors—puppets=nightmare. We have a tiny little stage at the middle of our school. We rented the puppets and nearly had to break down the school just to get them in the door. Once in the door, there was the challenge of getting the puppets in the actual theatre (thank you, weightlifting classes!). After they were in and settled, we realized that the people we had cast as puppeteers were not strong enough to manipulate the big puppets, so the strong, strapping guy we cast as the dentist had to get in the puppet after he dies and he did it. Headache from DAY 1.
If you could have a different career, what would you choose?
I can’t imagine my life without theatre, but I would love to see where a playwriting career would go. Getting on the other side of the stage to provide the actual material for entertainment is awesome and transcending. I’m actually hoping it’s my second career!
How do you relax after a busy day?
As corny as it sounds, I like to walk my basset hound and watch old game shows (Matchgame and Family Feud—but only with Richard Dawson hosting). I also will sometimes take a jog to get rid of the cobwebs or play some piano.
Cast and crew of Yellow Boat by David Saar. Advanced to NC State One-Act Festival in 2012.
What is something we would be surprised to learn about you?
When I am in a show as an actor, I still experience a great deal of performance anxiety. I would rather just rehearse a show—forever—than ever put it to performance.
If you enjoyed Andrea’s interview as much as we did, visit her website and add her as a contact in the Community.
Do you know someone who deserves a moment in the Spotlight? Tell me their name and why at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to read more Community Spotlights? You can find them here.