Keeping Students Inspired While Theatre Is On Hold
By Becky Curl
Teaching was never something I expected myself to pursue. As a wig and make-up designer, I always pictured myself working in one wig shop or another; I never imagined myself in the classroom. Once the opportunity presented itself, however, I fell in love with teaching. I discovered how gratifying and inspiring it was to see students pursue their dreams. Teaching others who are just as passionate about the subject matter that you love is a dream come true. I truly felt like I had the best job in the world.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic entered our world, I watched as everything I had worked for vanished. I lost my full-time job and all of my upcoming freelance work. The only work I had left was teaching. I had always been so thankful for my teaching jobs, and I know I am so lucky to have had those to fall back on. However, every time I work on a lesson for my students or begin a new class, I cannot help but wonder how I can sit there and teach about a career path that might not even exist in the same capacity it once did. How do I teach a subject that I’m not even sure will exist anymore? Will any of the lessons I am teaching them even be relevant once the theatre is back up and running? Is there even a point to any of this?
Staying inspired during such a dark time has been a constant struggle.
Watching other industries make their comebacks while theatre has to sit there, patiently waiting for its turn is just so painful. I question every day whether or not I should even keep pursuing this career path. It is so difficult not to feel like I made a huge mistake studying the arts; would this all be better if I had picked something more stable in the first place? I could probably spend every day questioning my path in life and still never be able to know if I made the right choice. This is exactly why I am so thankful for my students.
Their excitement and eagerness to learn are what have been keeping me inspired throughout this entire pandemic. Without them, I don’t know if I would want to be practicing my craft at all. Getting to work with them and seeing all of their ideas come to life has helped me keep pushing myself artistically, even on the days I feel drained of all of my creativity. We are all learning how to navigate virtual learning together, and I admire the drive my students have to continue pursuing their dreams during such an uncertain time. If they can see promise in a career field that they haven’t even become a part of yet, then surely, I can allow myself to see the future with that same optimism. To pursue what you love, despite all of the setbacks is so admirable. The way that they allow themselves to believe in a world that none of us can truly see right now helps remind me that hope is alive and well, even in our darkest moments.
They look to us for reassurance. They look to us for guidance during this unsettling time. They look to us to help keep their hope alive. If you cannot believe in the future of theatre for yourself, then believe in it for them. Believe in it for all of the young theatre artists who are ready to take on a broken world and make it better than it ever was.
They will have their days when their passion will falter. They will question themselves and every choice that brought them to where they are in that moment, and when they come to you for guidance, listen. Take the time to really listen to them and to give them the space to voice their concerns. Allow them the space to be vulnerable. Allow them to be human. And allow yourself to be human, too. The best thing that any of us can do right now is admit when things are not going perfectly. Allow yourself to talk about the bad days when they happen and don’t get mad at your students when they have those bad days, too. Take care of them, and take care of yourself. Your students need you now more than ever, and I think that you need them, too. They need us to help them believe in and create their dreams, and we need them to show us that dreams are still possible.
Theatre might be changing, but these changes don’t mean that theatre has to end. Change is natural; the devastation is natural. It’s what you do once you hit those points that matters and shapes everything.