Open Forum

Teaching Artist Spotlight: Suzanne Maguire

By Ginny Butsch posted 08-12-2020 08:53


We recently launched a new Community program called Teaching Artist Directory. This directory is an EdTA members-only benefit that helps you find skilled theatre professionals to lead workshops in your classroom or at an event.


Our latest featured teaching artist is Suzanne Maguire, the Associate Director of Tiger Drama at Lewis & Clark High School, Washington State Thespians board member, a member of Teaching Artist Alliance, and the owner/coach of SpokaneActing. Suzanne has taught a variety of workshops at EdTA events, helping students and directors expand their acting skills and confidence.


What is your favorite thing about being a teaching artist?


Watching students/teachers light up when they learn and/or apply a new concept is the best. The energy in a space changes during a workshop when concepts start to click for people. Creating original content that young artists find beneficial and relevant is very rewarding. In addition, as an educator with experience working as a College/Career Readiness Specialist, I appreciate the opportunity to empower students for their post-high school plans.


Do you teach workshops for students, teachers, or both?


My workshops are primarily directed towards students, but teachers participate as well and can gain helpful information. When I have teachers in attendance in any of my workshops, I adjust some of my instruction and gear elements to them. For example, with my “Auditions & Rejection: Preparing for Both” workshop, I’ve had parents and teachers attend and I will add examples or instructions for how they can apply some of the workshop content for themselves or the students with whom they work.


What kinds of workshops do you teach?


The workshops I teach focus on acting and auditioning with practical, applicable tips that students can incorporate into their lives as artists and students. Elements that range from effective acting techniques to social emotional learning make for relevant content that students can apply immediately to work in a production or in their daily life. I try to cover topics not often covered in a high school theatre classroom. For example, my “Move Like You Mean It: Laban Basics” workshop was the first workshop I developed to distill a complex movement theory down to its core and make it applicable to actors at any stage of their experience. My workshops are all designed to contain useful information I wish I would have had access to as a young actor in high school and college.


Why do you believe theatre is important?


Theatre, specifically educational theatre, can provide a safe and inclusive place for exploration and growth of an individual’s skills, talents, and strengths while working in a collaborative, ensemble environment. I firmly believe that there is no subject/extracurricular activity in school that better teaches life skills applicable to any situation or future endeavor. Whether it is a workshop/class I’m teaching or play I’m directing, I strive to remind all involved of the life skills they’re developing in the process.


Tell us about the best day of your career.


Honestly, the best day(s) of my career center around teaching workshops at the International Thespian Festival. When I’ve had students I’ve never met tell me that my workshop really helped them, it’s energizing and inspiring. If I can provide tips and tools for students and/or teachers that they will take with them and use, I am fulfilled as an artist and an educator. While those interactions might take place in a fleeting moment, the feeling of fulfillment lasts well beyond the festivals.


What is unique about your workshop(s)?


As is true for all teaching artists and their workshops, my teaching style is what makes my workshop(s) unique. I’ve been told by students and adults that my workshops are refreshing because of my humor, high energy, and candor. There are many teaching artists who have the knowledge and experience to teach what I do but what makes my workshops unique is the way I cover the topics. For example, students have commented that they appreciate that I’m very direct in my Auditions and Rejection workshop. My energy and personality may not be appealing to all attendees, but they are what makes my workshops unique.


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


My biggest failure as an actor was going into an audition with the wrong attitude. While I believed I was tackling a personal challenge by auditioning for a professional Shakespeare festival, I was ultimately wasting everyone’s time with my audition that was ill-prepared at best. I felt all kinds of horrible recognizing my arrogance and ignorance after the audition. I learned that every audition should be treated with a level of professionalism and preparation that brings your best self and honors everyone’s time and role in the process.


Suzanne would be a great resource for your classroom or event (be it virtual or in-person). She is also part of a Mentor Match program and willing to work 1:1 with fellow educators to help them achieve their professional goals.


Contact Suzanne here or explore the Teaching Artist Directory here.