My brand of pedagogy combines a scholarly understanding of the field with the opportunity to engage with artistic praxis. I believe in the excitement of connecting historical context, theoretical frame, and artistic practice and strive to incorporate this triad in every class I teach—whether it is playwriting, a survey course on theater history, or a topics course such as queer theater or horror on stage.
I employ both discussion and artistic projects in every class I teach. Discussion allows students to build upon their own ideas and experiences, teaches collaboration, and organically creates connections between the material and the students’ work. In my experience, this pedagogical approach also assists in generating a class ensemble, which in turn builds camaraderie, allowing for artistically stronger and interpersonally more empathetic feedback environments for students.
I might begin the day by asking, “How would you build a haunted house?” I would offer prompts that would encourage the discovery of the connections between writing plays and designing haunted houses. I might refer to assigned readings of texts by Avery Gordon or Colin Dickey, since they illuminate America’s fascination with ghosts as they specifically address who is missing from the cis, hetero, white, male imagination of hauntings. I might suggest that students refer to Chisa Hutchinson’s play Whitelisted and ask them to analyze how she uses a haunting to tell a story about gentrification and racism. After discussion, I introduce an exercise focused on a haunting that interests that particular group of students, leading them through a battlefield of quick decisions and hidden staircases until they conclude their time in class with several pages of text, or an improvised scene ready to be put on its feet.
I encourage experimentation, exploration, and/or “clearing the pipes” until a student feels propelled toward a hefty, completed idea that is ready to receive feedback. At this point, a friendly and supportive feedback room closely examines what the artist created. I believe in nourishing the emerging artist and in guiding them to interrogate the artwork even and especially if that art is silly or bloody. And, I believe that critiquing artistic work is a rich learning opportunity, and not an exercise in cruelty.
I strive to connect what we do as artists to the larger world. I believe in illuminating for students that every piece of art reflects particular positionalities, and thus I do not encourage students to let tropes, politics, and comedy go unquestioned. That said, I am certain that laughter is an important element in one’s learning process and that it effectively supports close examination and successful revisions. When students learn to have a sense of humor, they grow into compassionate and engaged critics of their work and the work of their peers.
Students leave theater classes with a greater understanding of the world around them, and the world we are living in is undergoing deep changes. I highlight to my students that the arts are a powerful lens to dive into the ambiguity of the times they inhabit. If they understand that, students will leave my class armed with academic rigor, artistic courage, and the discipline to thoughtfully dismantle America’s arts institutions many failings and then to shape their art into its next iterations.
Throughout my career, it has been my goal as an educator to ensure students always feel heard and welcome, know the path to success, and understand that I respect that people learn differently. I employ the use of an anti-racist writing assessment practice outlined by Asao B. Inoue to encourage my students to value the labor and practice they put into a project, rather than become discouraged by graded work that does not reflect their effort. As a class, we revisit this grading contract several times over the course of the semester to ensure it’s being executed and followed fairly.
As a teacher, I want my courses to reflect a myriad of cultures, identities, and ideas. As such, I strive to include in my syllabi works by writers, scholars, and essayists who are predominantly queer, BIPOC, trans, and/or female. Complementary, I plan conversations early in the semester aimed at creating a classroom environment built on equity and inclusion. This session is a collaborative conversation between myself and the students about how we will agree to have disagreements in class in a way that furthers everyone’s education, but does not further harm. Like the grading contract, we revisit these guidelines as often as necessary to maintain a brave space for everyone.
I do not shy away from controversial topics in my syllabus or teaching style, especially because art is a great medium to challenge and dismantle social norms. And further, I find that students desperately want to have these conversations, but want to make sure they do not harm others in the process. It is my goal as a queer educator who continues to discover new ideas and tools, to lead them through those murky waters, while demonstrating how to learn, listen, and grow.
Horror Playwriting, Playwriting, Script Analysis, Contemporary Playwrights, Queer Theater, Feminist Theater, Horror Performance, Composition, Creative Nonficton, Essay Writing, Screenwriting, One-Hour Television Drama, among many others.
I’m always looking for new opportunities. I’m relocating to New York City in the summer of 2023.
I’m available for seminars, workshops, and semester-length courses as well as one-on-one dramaturgy through the Playwrights’ Center.