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 Christina Vincent, troupe director of Troupe 8975 and Director of Theatre at The Woodhall School in Bethlehem, Connecticut. Christina is a positive and encouraging presence in our online Community, offering helpful feedback and asking thoughtful questions.
What was the first play you ever saw?
I remember seeing a high school production of The Sound of Music in the first or second grade. As much as I loved the movie, the only thing I remember from the show was my profound confusion as to why people wearing all black were moving furniture around in the dark and why it was taking them so long. All these years later, I still like a speedy scene change!
Tell us about the moments that made you decide to get involved in theatre. What was the first role you ever played?
I grew up in a family that was dedicated to reading books and telling stories. I was always creating imaginary worlds and directing my sisters and friends in make-believe. Though I had very little exposure to professional theatre growing up, I was profoundly impacted by classic movie musicals and performing in church and high school musicals. I started college as an organ performance major but was serendipitously drawn to study theatre at a school over 6 hours away. My first role in a non-musical and as a theatre major in college was Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy. This role was such an honor to be trusted with and proved formative for my growth as an actor, teacher, and director.
Have you always known you would be a theatre teacher? What led you to this career?
I was not planning to study theatre education, but after working at a summer theatre camp I was hooked. I had never experienced such a sense of calling and purpose and the connection with the students and their growth was electrifying. I have had the extreme pleasure of teaching theatre and the arts to students from infants to senior citizens in every capacity, from Shakespeare teaching artist to full-time public school theatre teacher.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given to you?
As an actor (and human), I will always hold to advice from a college professor: “make your scene partner look better than yourself.” As a teacher and director, I still hold to advice from my first administrator who was an incredible mentor for a new theatre teacher: “this classroom is your house and these students are guests in your house: you set the environment and host them well.”
What is the resource you most recommend to others in your profession?
I would highly recommend starting an ITS troupe and delving into all of EdTA’s resources-especially the Forum. I have learned so much from the organization and fellow theatre educators.
Tell us about the best day of your career.
One of the hardest and best days of my theatre teaching career was getting off of the bus in Lido di Savio in Italy, finding my way to the beach, and setting up to teach an English through Acting class for children. I was in Italy for the summer to study Commedia dell’Arte and I designed English through Acting classes to teach at various locations around the country. My Italian was very limited as was the students’ English, but through theatre games and improvisation we built an incredible environment to increase vocabulary and create stories.
Do you have any special training or skills?
I really enjoy learning and honing my skills as a teacher, director, and an actor. I especially love discovering tools that will enrich mine and my student’s lives and craft. Several years ago, I discovered Alba Emoting and began taking workshops. Understanding the body’s physical patterns, facial expressions, and breath patterns for the universal emotions was life changing. I began to have more dynamic performances as an actor and better understand the emotions I and others were communicating. My goal is to reach a level of certification in this work to train others.
What is unique about your program?
It is truly an honor to direct the theatre program (The Woodhall Players) at The Woodhall School. We are a small independent boarding school for boys in grades 9-12. The school's approach is very unique and focuses on the unconventional learner by utilizing individualized approaches to all areas of instruction. It is a joy to live and work with these gentlemen who are deep thinkers, effective communicators, and creative theatre makers. Follow along on Instagram @TheWoodhallSchool.
Christina directing The Woodhall Players
What is the weirdest stage food you’ve ever made or eaten?
In a recent production I directed of The Servant of Two Masters with The Woodhall Players, we served all of the courses mentioned in the dining scene. We had a lot of fun making substitutions such as microwave dinners for several of the courses, a veggie burger in place of the roast beef for a vegetarian actor, and the contents of a pudding cup for Truffaldino’s highly delectable “english pudding.” It actually smelled pretty good and was fun for the actors and audience.
What was the most difficult element of a production you’ve ever had to manage?
Like most schools over the last couple of months, our routine was drastically altered due to the pandemic. Our students returned to homes around the country and switched to virtual instruction. We had just cast our school’s first musical The Old Man and The Old Moon and decided to continue it as a virtual production. There were so many difficult elements to manage as students rehearsed songs individually on Zoom, filmed their scenes with family members as readers, created animation, and edited tons of footage. This process proved to be highly rewarding as we were able to feature over 20 members of our school community in cameos throughout the film and reach so many audience members who had previously never been able to attend our live productions. We were so delighted to be featured in a Dramatics article about our experiences (under “finding hope”): https://dramatics.org/going-the-distance/
Screenshot from The Woodhall School’s virtual production of The Old Man and the Old Moon
Everyone has at least one good theatre story. Tell us yours!
I met my husband through the theatre. We played husband and wife in the debut of a new play. I was cast a month into the project and his prior performance commitment meant he wasn’t available during the second month of rehearsals so we didn’t even meet till tech week! On opening night, I accidentally held the curtain for 20 minutes doing an extra long personal warm-up inaccessible to the stage manager (an embarrassing lesson I always impart to my students). We are now expecting our first child in October and are so thankful for God bringing us together through theatre.
How do you relax after a busy day?
Even though we work together and live where we work, boarding school schedules can be pretty intense, so my husband and I have to be intentional about spending time together. We really enjoy cooking, singing and playing piano, dancing to Gospel music, and watching episodes of Living Big in a Tiny House.
Christina and now real-life husband Vince playing husband and wife in a 2014 production of The Prodigal by Kara Shelton
If you enjoyed Christina’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.