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 Taylor Horne, the theatre teacher and troupe director at Episcopal School of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida, home to Thespian Troupe 1187. Taylor has been involved with theatre since she was a child and has never lost the passion to learn. She continues to pursue educational opportunities in order to better serve her students and hone her craft. As a bronze level contributor, Taylor has been adding exceptional advice and asking provocative questions for several years.
Why do you believe theatre is important?
I found theatre in middle school. It was an extremely tumultuous time in my life, as it is for so many. Theatre helped me discover the most loving and accepting community at my school. It also helped me find myself and stay true to that. I think theatre helps everyone on stage, behind the scenes, and in the audience uncover and/or discover things about themselves and their relationships with others. I truly believe it can save a person and I've seen it happen time and again.
What is your greatest challenge?
I spent my first ten years in theatre education at the middle school level. I just moved up to high school in the last year and a half. I am really surprising myself with how much I enjoy the challenge. I loved helping middle schoolers find their passion and their home away from home. Now, I love helping high schoolers foster their often new found interest and really dive into a script. Upper school comes with a lot more responsibility, like helping with college applications and much grander shows. I'm discovering so much about myself as an educator and director.
You Can’t Take It with You, Episcopal School of Jacksonville, February 2018
What does a typical day look like for you?
My husband and I just had our second child, a boy, in August. Our first, a girl, just turned four. Rehearsals for our spring show, Radium Girls, will be gearing up soon. I expect there's going to be some long days and even longer nights ahead.
Tell us about the best day of your career.
I have two. I will never forget the phone calls that solidified I got the middle school directing position and then high school position thirteen years later. The woman that hired me for both my middle school and high school positions was my high school theatre teacher. She is my greatest mentor and renowned throughout our community. I have never felt more proud of myself than when she hired me (twice). Her faith in my ability makes me feel like I can accomplish anything.
What is the resource you most recommend to others in your profession?
I'm heavily involved with my state organization, Florida Association for Theatre Education. The members and workshop presenters at our annual conference have nurtured my curriculum since my first year teaching.
I recently discovered and have really enjoyed the “High School Theatre Directors and Teachers” Facebook group. I am currently accruing professional development hours through the Drama Teacher Academy. I have been a devoted follower of the EdTA forum since it began. I wish I had all of these resources when I first started teaching. They've uncovered a wealth of knowledge for me in such a short time. I really enjoyed MTI's Broadway Teachers Workshop when I attended and hope to go back again soon. I'm also a proud member of Florida State University’s first graduating class in the Masters in Theatre Studies program. Those summer days hold some of my fondest memories.
The Wiz, Episcopal School of Jacksonville, November 2017
Do you have any tips for new theatre teachers?
- Make as many professional connections as you can.
- Use your summers to continue learning.
- There will be students that will miss a lot of rehearsals. You're there for the ones that show up.
- Be clear about your expectations up front. Put it in writing and get signatures from both students and parents.
- Find as many ways as possible to communicate when drama club activities are occurring. CC parents on all emails to students.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given to you?
Balance is key. My mentor taught me this. I had to learn to set boundaries early on in my career. I began teaching right after college and I quickly realized how all-consuming this career can be. I work very hard to prioritize my personal life and I think I'm a better teacher for it.
What is the weirdest stage food you’ve ever made or eaten?
I wish I could forget the store bought rotisserie chicken we used for the final dinner scene in You Can’t Take it With You. It ended up on a branch in the school courtyard during strike. Hopefully, the squirrels appreciated the offering.
What is your favorite musical (or play)? What makes it so special?
Cabaret was the first musical I was ever cast in. I attended a southern parochial school. It was very brave of my high school director to stage this production. Being a part of it showed me how magical and important theatre can be. Coincidentally, it was one of the first shows I ever saw on Broadway when it was revived on the Studio 54 stage. That was one of the coolest things I've ever gotten to see.
What was the first play you ever saw?
The Sound of Music. I was probably five years old. Afterwards, I made my dad play the cassette in the car and act out the parts with me.
What was the first role you ever played?
The ditzy character in Really Rosie. I was in eighth grade and originally cast as Rosie's mother. I was thrilled with my twelve lines of dialogue. I absolutely fell in love with the rehearsal process and my new found friends. I memorized the entire show. The girl originally cast as one of the core neighborhood kids had a conflict and I volunteered to cover her part. She was not able to stay in the show and I got to step in. It was one of the best days of my life.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
During my final semester in college, I went to see a show at my old high school. It was as if someone hit me over the head with a baseball bat as I sat in the audience and realized this was what I was meant to do with my life. I wanted to give kids the community I had been so blessed with. It must have been fate, because I got a call a few weeks later that the middle school position at my alma mater was opening up.
What playwright would you love to have lunch with? Tell us a question you’d ask them.
I wish I could have had lunch with Wendy Wasserstein. Her work meant the world to me when I was in my twenty's. I would ask if she thinks it's possible for women to have it all. But, I'm afraid I wouldn't like her answer.
Tell us about the moment that made you decide to get involved in theatre.
A touring high school visited my elementary school and performed the play, Once Upon a Playground. I absolutely loved it. I made up my mind right then that I would go to that high school and be in the theatre program. And that's exactly what I did. Now, I teach there and the lead from that show is my boss.
What is unique about your program?
Our school emphasizes the importance of a well-rounded student. Our Thespians are also varsity athletes and at the top of their classes academically. Planning a rehearsal schedule can be tough because of all their commitments. But, I believe much of our program's success is due to our students having varied interests. They have a wealth of experience to tap into when they are creating a character. We also highly value our faith. The students are often reminded that their talents are a gift from God that is meant to be shared with our community.
What would you consider your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?
I had a student drop out of the show after she saw what part she got. I really overreacted and told her she couldn't audition in the future. I learned to carefully word both the audition form and the cast contract and get parent signatures. I also learned to not take things so personally. She was just a kid who was getting bad advice from other adults.
Everyone has at least one good theatre story. Tell us yours!
I was once in a show, The Rainmaker, where I was supposed to make a dramatic exit. I ended up slamming the door into my face and gave myself a bloody black eye. The good thing was the director had been asking for me to give him more tears. He definitely got them that night!
Name something on your bucket list.
I'd love to earn a Ph.D in Theatre Pedagogy or something similar. My wish is to teach future teachers.
If you could have a different career, what would you choose?
I'd love to even have the chance to audition for shows in New York. It's my retirement plan.
How do you relax after a busy day?
A walk around my neighborhood with my husband of eight years, our four-year-old daughter, our four-month-old son in his stroller, and our nine-year-old yellow lab.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I directed a cast of middle schoolers in I Never Saw Another Butterfly about five years ago. It was the first time the entire 6-12th grade school was required to see a play on our proscenium stage. I've never enjoyed the rehearsal process more. This particular group of students was incredibly mature and really rose to the challenge. We even had severe weather during our final dress rehearsal and had to cut it short. The cast persevered and our audience was in awe of the final performance.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of theatre?
I used to try to have hobbies. But I've recently decided I just need to immerse myself in all things theatre. Even my travels revolve around what shows I'll get to see. I really want to be as well-read as possible in my field. There is the occasional TV show binge though.
What is something we would be surprised to learn about you?
I sang Cher songs on CNN when I interned there in college. Playstation Karaoke had just come out.
What is your favorite part of the day?
Walking around campus and saying “hi” to my students as I pass them.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
New York City. I want to retire there and spend my days seeing shows and reading plays. Maybe even auditioning.
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