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 Annie Rice, the theatre teacher and troupe director at Summit High School in Spring Hill, Tennessee, home to Thespian Troupe 7830. Annie has been guiding fellow Community members and seeking advice of her own for several years now. Annie’s adventurous attitude and positive outlook gives her theatre students plenty of new opportunities and a safe environment to learn and grow.
Why do you believe theatre is important?
I was the kid who literally had her life changed because of my involvement in theatre. Growing up, I was painfully shy; my mom would order for me at restaurants, my younger sister would introduce me to people, etc. But my freshman year in high school, my guidance counselor signed me up for theater (against my better wishes) for my fine arts credit. That was 1997. I have been involved ever since. Theatre brought with it new friendships, new opportunities, my future career, and an astronomical confidence boost. So especially at the high school level, theatre is important simply because it encourages, builds, and creates confidence in yourself.
Do you have any tips for new theatre teachers?
Trust yourself, but don't be afraid to ask for help. Especially if you start teaching young (I was 22), your students are going to question you. That's ok. Let them; but show them that you know what you're doing or you know where or how to find the answer. At the same time though, realize that your students are sometimes more creative or know more than you in a particular area. Use them! There have been dozens of times on stage when a scene has come together better than I ever thought possible because they had better ideas than I did.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
"If you don't try, you'll never know." Build that gigantic set; start a brand-new program; branch out to your community; teach a really difficult unit in class; choreograph a show with no dance experience. Try it all! Sometimes you will most certainly fail; but other times, you will find that you're more capable than you think you are, you have more people supporting you than you think you did, and there's always a little bit of a rush trying something new. Regardless of success or failure, you've learned something in the process.
Tell us about the moment that you decided to get involved in theatre.
I was already taking my high school's Intro to Theatre class, but I decided to really step out of my comfort zone and audition for our fall play, The Diary of Anne Frank. My audition wasn't good; I didn't make the show. But my teacher came up to me in class the next day, told me I did a good job, and that I should keep trying. It was a 30 second conversation, something to her-I'm sure-was just part of her everyday routine. But to me, that was my hook. And now, that 30 second conversation is one that I purposely have with so many of my students because I know what it can mean.
Everyone has a good theatre story. What’s yours?
It's technically not one story, it's four all within the same show. We just did Mary Poppins this spring. We ran four shows, but we had "disasters" every night. Opening night, part of our set fell down during the show, narrowly missing one of our dancers. Second night, our main curtain broke, so one of our lighting guys was on a 25-foot ladder fixing it five minutes before we opened the house. Third night, we had to shelter a sold-out crowd of 500 and a cast/crew of 100 for 30 minutes during an active tornado warning. Then closing night, one of my actors locked himself out of his car, wasn't answering any of our phone calls, and showed up seven minutes before we opened the show. We already had another actor getting dressed in the costume as a precaution! It was a phenomenal run, but I just wanted one performance without a mishap!
What's unique about the theatre program at your school?
I don't know if my program is necessarily unique-we do a fall show, a holiday show, a spring musical, and then a whole slate of student directed one acts (many of which are student written)-but I am in a unique situation in which my sister is our school's choir teacher! She's my classroom neighbor, most of our students take both of our classes, and we direct our musicals together. We always get asked what it's like to teach with your sister; we tell people it's incredibly easy since we've spent our whole lives getting to know each other, learning how to communicate just using our eyes, and fighting and making up. For us, it's a piece of cake!
If you enjoyed Annie’s interview as much as we did, 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.