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 Rebecca Black, a theatre teacher and Thespian troupe director at Wayland Union High School in Wayland, Michigan, home to Troupe 8664. Rebecca has been providing sage advice to fellow community members on topics like community service projects, script selection, building school improv troupes and more.
Why do you believe theatre is important?
I believe that theatre is important for so many reasons. As theatre participants, I feel my students learn how to innovate and problem solve, work as a team, and accept others. I know that many of my students find their place in the theatre, and I am so fortunate to be a part of that.
Have you always known you would be a theatre teacher? Or what led you to this career?
I started out as a chemistry major! I was always enamored with the stage, but I never thought that being a full-time theatre teacher was possible. The perfect position opened up, and I've been a happy English and Theatre teacher for 16 years! Now I direct 3 shows a year and run an improv team. I'm so lucky to be able to do this!
What is your greatest challenge?
Time management. I am busy from the moment I wake up until bedtime. I take on a lot of responsibilities, and often forget to take that self-care time. I sometimes have to step back and evaluate which of "my" kids I am devoting more time to. In the end, the two that I birthed need to get more of my attention.
Do you have any tips for new theatre teachers?
Don't let anyone tell you that you can't. If you want to do something, make it happen. Also, don't expect perfection, you cannot control every aspect of a production. You serve the kids best by letting them problem solve, get creative, and take responsibility for the product that they will put forth. They will almost always exceed your expectations.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given to you?
What is the weirdest stage food you’ve ever made or eaten?
I really went for realism when I directed Holes. I made my actors eat actual onions onstage. The audience could smell them!
What is your favorite musical (or play)? What makes it so special?
I'll always have a special place in my heart for Hair. That was the last show that I was part of in college. It was a great celebration of the love that I had for that space and the people there. I believe the show is about growing up in a lot of ways, and I was in it at a point in time where I was about to take a big life leap.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
Teaching is an adventure every day! I love the variety and unpredictability of teaching. I also thrive on the energy that teenagers have.
Is there one student you will always remember? Why?
So many students have influenced me. It's been wonderful to be a small part of so many lives. Recently, a former student of mine wrote an original play for my current students. That was a really cool project, and it was surreal working with that "kid" in a different capacity.
Everyone has at least one good theatre story. Tell us yours!
In a community production of A Christmas Carol, one of the kids in the ensemble threw up onstage during the last part of the show. It took place at Thunder Bay Theatre (a tiny professional theatre in Northern Lower Michigan) and the small stage was packed with cast members. I had assumed one of those kids had brought a water balloon onstage, because that was the sound. In this theatre, the venue is so small that our accompanist was backstage, and couldn't see what was happening (this was before monitors.) The pacing for the end of the show was that the entire cast joined the Cratchits onstage to sing 3 songs, take a bow, and then sing, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Well, the pianist kept playing, and the cast kept on singing... The puke was enormous. And the audience was so close to the tiny stage that we saw their reactions the whole time. Sheer horror morphed to raucous laughter. It was quite the show.
Name something on your bucket list.
I'd like to go to Denmark to hang out with one of my best friends who is from there.
If you could have a different career, what would you choose?
Camp Counselor. Or non-profit work with at-risk youth.
How do you relax after a busy day?
The Office and $3 Aldi wine.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
My two kids. They are the best things I have ever created.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of theatre?
I love going to concerts, hiking, and karaoke.
If you enjoyed Rebecca’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.