Open Forum

Community Spotlight: Joel King

By Ginny Butsch posted 03-05-2019 13:06


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 Joel King, a technical theatre teacher at North Springs High School in Atlanta, Georgia, home to Thespian troupe 4389. Joel is a bronze level contributor who has been adding advice and resources to the Community for over a year, the most recent of which was a handy intro project for a technical theatre class.


Why do you believe theatre is important?

I believe theatre is important because it investigates and highlights the human condition. Theatre is imagination, imitation, visual art, music, dance/movement, architecture, math, physics, sociology, psychology, history, present, past, & future all melded together to tell a story.


What is your greatest challenge?

My greatest challenge is managing time while staying thoughtful and present in my work. I often find myself, as most theatre educators do, juggling many things at once. I tend to be spread thin. As a life-long learner, I am constantly looking for ways to better my instruction while trying to be appreciative of where I’m at.


What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for me starts at 5:45 AM when I get ready for work. I drive in early so I can try to get some clear planning done for the day. My first classes are sophomore acting classes where I teach techniques and scene study. After that, I teach a general elective called Fundamentals of Theatre, where we give non theatre students a taste of everything theatre. Then I go to my Technical Theatre 1 class, where I train students for every aspect of production and design, using projects and hands-on activities. I have a planning period which is usually consumed by making supply runs or adjusting plans that didn’t work or need more time. My final two periods are Technical 2-4 students who work in a practicum style class where they are designing and executing every technical component for our after school productions. If I’m directing a show, we have rehearsals from 3:45 PM to 7 PM most days. Then I go home, spend some time with my wife and my dogs so I can be refreshed to get up and do it all again the next day.


Tell us about the best day of your career.

This is a tie. So far I have two days that are equally special. First, there was a week that was particularly tough for me. Somehow my students knew that I need a pick me up so they put together a video telling me how much they appreciate me and how I’ve changed their lives. Second, I have a couple of students who are very dear to me, who got superiors on their Thespian IEs. Seeing the joy on their faces after all the hard work they put in made me extremely proud.


What is the resource you most recommend to others in your profession?

BYU Drama Lesson Plans


Do you have any tips for new theatre teachers?

Include your students in your development of lessons. I always talk to my students about what they would be interested in and start there.  Also, start looking at the BYU Drama Lesson Plans. I found plenty of ideas that I could adapt and work from.


What is the best advice anyone has ever given to you?

Don’t take it personally.


What is the weirdest stage food you’ve ever made or eaten?

Once at a summer Shakespeare festival, I had to drink cold beef bouillon broth while playing a soldier in All’s Well That Ends Well. They gave us pieces of bread to dip in it. It was tough to get used to.


What is your favorite musical (or play)? What makes it so special?

The Seagull by Anton Chekhov. Everything about it is perfect. Something about watching characters struggle with the inability to move on is fascinating and beautiful.


What was the first play you ever saw?

I saw a community theatre production of The Wizard of Oz in second grade.


What was the first role you ever played?

I played “Spring” in a short play about the seasons in kindergarten. If you want to count first time to actually memorized lines, I played Mr. Dussel in The Diary of Anne Frank in high school.


What inspired you to become a teacher?

Seeing my teachers have an impact on students.


What playwright would you love to have lunch with? Tell us a question you’d ask them.

I would love to have lunch with Bertolt Brecht. This may be the nerdiest thing about me. I love his style. I would ask him questions about his process for drawing inspiration from eastern influences and why he focused on the elements he did.


Tell us about the moment that made you decide to get involved in theatre.

I saw a production of patriotic play at my high school when I was in 8th grade and everyone looked like they were having a blast. I went home and told my mom that I wanted to sign up for drama.


What is unique about your program?

Many of our surrounding schools have one or two technical theatre classes that are combined grades. We have individual classes that allow me to train students from the ground up in design and production, without having to multitask in order to get a production ready during that class. We have student who yearn to be part of the show both onstage and off. Many of our designs are created by students who are always cast in the shows.


What was the most difficult element of a production you’ve ever had to manage?

Trying to make a raining elevator for Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl that was both aesthetically pleasing and mobile for competition events.


What would you consider your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?

Managing and creating a set for my first musical as a high school teacher. The design of the set was clunky and boxed the show in too much. Our scene transitions took a minute or two every time. I learned that a minute long scene change can really kill momentum.


Everyone has at least one good theatre story. Tell us yours!

We rigged up a bucket with a lever above the stage for Into the Woods so Cinderella’s dress could fall from the sky. On opening night, the dress wasn’t bundled properly so the bucket got stuck and wouldn’t turn over. Cinderella waited for about thirty seconds and the dress never came. An extra fun addition to the story is that a student accidentally pushed the activate button for our auditorium projector screen during the same production on closing night, so in the middle of the intro to Act II we had a giant projector screen slide down in the Baker’s house.


Name something on your bucket list.

Spend a summer in Europe.


If you could have a different career, what would you choose?

Aerospace engineer. When I was young, I wanted to work for NASA.


How do you relax after a busy day?

Watch Netflix with my wife and play with my dogs.


What is your proudest accomplishment?

I was the first person in my family to attend graduate school and receive an advanced degree.


Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of theatre?

I love baseball, playing PS4, and watching movies with my wife.


What is something we would be surprised to learn about you?

I was in show choir in middle school because the drama class was full.


What is your favorite part of the day?

My tech class because I have senior class leaders who lead the class so I can observe and move around to help when needed. I also love getting home to my wife and dogs!


If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Florence, Italy because it’s the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to, or anywhere in Ireland because the people are incredibly nice and the landscapes are beautiful.


What toy do you most remember from your childhood?

I had a Talkboy that I used to try to trick people like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone 2. 


If you enjoyed Joel’s interview as much as we did, add him as a contact in the Community. You can learn more about Joel’s program on their website (that he designed!),, or follow them on Instagram @northspringstheatre.


Do you know someone who deserves a moment in the Spotlight? Tell me their name and why at Want to read more Community Spotlights? You can find them here.