Don’t walk around like you are Shakespeare reincarnated and can teach them everything they need for a good performance. Why? Because this:
Are you an amazing Shakespearean actor, both in tragedy and comedy?
Can you juggle?
Can you do and teach light design, make up, sound design, and set design?
Can you krump, stomp, step, do ballet, break dance, and spit sick bars? Can you sing?
Can you do stage combat and sword fight?
Can you get reluctant painfully shy people confident enough to make fools of themselves in front of vast crowds while also projecting their voice? Can you get the spotlight hogger to actually work as a not crazy but supportive member of an ensemble?
Can you speak eight languages, play four instruments, write music, film good video and edit it?
Can you write a play? Something they’ll actually liiiikkkkeeeee
Can you get them to stop talking while you are?
Can you find a way to have everyone being an engaged angel even though every scene you’d like to rehearse doesn’t always have every one of your thirty students in so that when administration comes in they are not angry and disappointed with you even though they have no understanding or experience with the creative process?
Oh I forgot, can you make masks, Balinese shadow puppets, sew, and do the type of acrobatics where people hang from the ribbons that are somehow attached to the ceiling?
Oh, no? Not all of that. So be humble. But play to your strengths.
Here is good news: You have experts on many of those things in your room. Elevate them to the status of co-designer, collaborator, coexpert. They’ll rise to the occasion and you will not be let down.
Also, don’t be snobby. Sure, teach them Shakespeare and get them to love it, but a scene about a boyfriend and girlfriend breaking up or a student’s own spoken word poem in ALSO theatre. Start with the fun easy stuff. Get them to love theatre and then hit them with Shakespeare and Antigone and character analysis. They’ll be addicts at that point and they’ll be much more obliged to oblige you.
Start with being the director. Tell them what they are doing and give them a script. Assign the parts yourself and tell them all the blocking and why. Then give them the reins to create devised theatre. They will have more conceptual knowledge and you’ll get more out of them than strange looks.
If you are the only thing the program has, start out small. Scenes from a play rather than a whole play. A short one act, improv. If you are entering a place with a rich tradition and lots of support, go big, they’ll get swept up in the challenge and won’t feel like you’re dumbing things down for them.
If your friend starts a sentence with, hey my job is getting rid of a bunch of stuff… stop her right there. Ask her when you can come and get whatever it is. Props man! Costumes, man! Be a hoarder!
It’s ok to drink, to weap, to pitch a fit. Don’t do them in front of your students. Everyone thinks jobs teaching in the arts are easy and fun! They are not. Just let people be dumb. They always are.
Go big or go home, tell them theatre and all of the arts can be life changing, and have grand social impact, is worth every sacrifice imaginable. Tell them you will start small and let them lead the rest of the way. Tell them this course is only the beginning, but theatre is magic! It can take you to Hogwarts or Middle Earth or to Africa with Simba or wherever that cute little town in Gilmore Girls is. Theatre is amazing. Don’t down play that.
To be honest, these pearls of advice mostly come from my own screw ups this year. I’ll keep you updated on how well I take my own advice.