"Before a student actor ever steps foot onto the stage, awash in lights; clad in a stranger’s clothes; standing amid set pieces and before a silent, dark audience, the student must first step into a classroom. The tragedy is that so many theatre classrooms are treated as ancillary to the stage, the view being that theatre takes place on a traditional stage in a building built for that purpose. In The Empty Space, however, Peter Brook (1968) states plainly: “I can take an empty space and call it a bare stage.”
We believe that the theatre classroom is that empty space, ripe for artistic incubation; collaborative exploration; and creative development. Whereas the traditional stage is home to a product, created through expected means and presented in a familiar way, the theatre classroom is a space for innovation and daring. In the same way that theatre artists do not begin their career on Broadway, so, too, should theatre students begin their journey away from the product-oriented mainstage, developing their own skills and aesthetic considerations before being asked to present a finished product to an audience.
Overall, we believe that the product-oriented teaching of theatre robs the students of the ability to explore the wonderful possibilities of the theatre due to the demand of “polish;” it serves to elevate actors to stars and diminish the role of technicians, designs and crew in the creation of original theatrical work; and in doing so serves to foster individual achievement rather than fruitful collaboration.
We believe that every student is an artist, because we believe the arts are not about creating a product but are the primal expression of our most basic humanity. In this way, the arts challenge us to confront the external world with our deepest, most profound beliefs and, in that friction, ignite the spark of change. The beauty of the theatre arts, which makes it unique among all other art forms, is the breadth of possibility for individuals to find their own mode of self-expression – be it through design, performance, directing, management, construction, movement, or writing – and come together with other like-minded artists to create something bigger than any one individual. The theatre serves to teach more than artistry or skill, but, through the very collaborative nature of the art, serves to build better people."
- Joshua Hill
Former student and Summer Instructor
BFA Theatre and Dance, UT Austin
MFA Playwriting, Columbia University