Kristina Cummins: Theatre Educator – Theatre People
By Mitch Stark
Welcome back to TheatrePeople for another week! I am so happy to introduce you to theatre teacher Kristina Cummins. Kristina and I first met and began talking at national EdTA conferences, where it became evident right away that she lives and breathes theatre education. You would be hard pressed to find a kinder, more passionate theatre teacher. I loved her interview, and hope you enjoy her drama stories as much as I did!
Kristina Cummins, theatre teacher and Washington State EdTA Co-Chapter Director
What’s a show that inspires you? (explain away!)
The Theory of Relativity by Neil Bartram and Brian Hill has left an indelible impression on my life. I produced this show two years ago with my students. Its ensemble focus, beautiful music, and poignant themes left my audiences moved. In fact, so many students and patrons are still talking about this production. This show discusses how we are all interconnected and how we need one another. The most memorable moment in our production was in fact an acapella / percussion number that left us perplexed as to its purpose through most of the rehearsal process. Yet, when we opened the show, it became the turning point; the moment where these seemingly isolated characters found their common thread. I’d recommend this show to all High School teachers!
What’s one of your happiest moments in theatre?
It is virtually impossible to identify one “happiest” moment. But, I can say that my big “WHY” is the kids. The opportunity to share my love of theatre and to bring students together who may otherwise not meet. It is in our common efforts to produce theatre that we build incredible bonds and share our common humanity. When I see these kids take their bows at the end of a performance, when they come together and celebrate each other, and when they have found their own truth through their characters’ experiences; well, that is my “Tony Award.” That is when I know that I have a real purpose and what I do really matters. I’m fortunate to have these experiences often!
What’s the biggest ‘fail’ or goof you’ve seen on stage? (do tell the story)
Oh my goodness! My proudest moment as a director was when we produced Play On by Rick Abbot. So this is a play-within-a-play, similar to Noises Off. In this show, the third act is by far the moment everything falls about. Well, during one of our performances, one of my actors became violently ill. He made it to intermission, was vomiting in the bathroom and pale as a sheet. He swore he could keep going. Well, he couldn’t! SO, in the early part of Act III, he runs off stage. I went backstage (as I’m always in the audience), to see if everything was okay, and my students just said, “We’ve got this.” My actor playing the role of the “stage manager” grabbed a script and played his part, with the entire cast somewhat improvising the remainder of the show. The audience NEVER KNEW that this was not the way it was supposed to be, even individuals who came to a previous performance!
I was incredibly proud of the students’ ability to stay calm, problem solve, and keep the show moving forward. My ill student was fine for the next performance, he was just having a severe migraine (apparently this was something he experienced often).
Why do you love theatre?
Storytelling is my passion, whether it is from a book, staged production or film. I love to explore the human spirit and our commonalities, which I find best in stories. Theatre is special because it allows us to gather in one space and have a shared experience. Performing on stage is unique as it allows you to go through your character’s truth in real time as you perform. Film doesn’t allow for this!
Theatre is for…
When we reflect our humanity to the world, we can offer representation for those who are oppressed, explore our flaws and struggles, and then offer solutions to make a difference.
More about Kristina
This is Mrs. Cummins’ 11th year at CHS and her 20th year in education. She graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from California State University, Fullerton in 1995 and earned her Master’s in Teaching from Saint Martin’s University in 2001. She is also a National Board Certified Teacher in English Language Arts. In her free time she enjoys reading, watching movies, putting together puzzles, spending time with her family, and everything theatre. In addition to her involvement in Capital’s theatre program, she serves as Co-Chapter Director of the Washington State Thespian Board coordinating conferences and events for the theatre students and teachers throughout Washington State.