Teaching Philosophy

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Teaching and Artistic Practice

The classroom and the rehearsal room are collaborative spaces. I am the facilitator of the process, but I look forward to learning from my students even as I share my expertise with them and challenge them to think as deeply as possible about the issues we’re exploring. I am committed to designing curricula and leveraging a variety of pedagogical strategies through a liberatory and an anti-racist lens. I work to dismantle white supremacy behaviors in the classroom, engage with our own areas of resistance, and engage the students as colleagues on the learning journey.

I invite students to be active participants in their own education, and to join me on what both Paulo Freire and bell hooks might describe as a shared journey of learning. Whether I am teaching dramatic literature or a studio course, I invite students to join me in the circle, rather than in layered rows. With some assessments, I invite students to design the metrics collaboratively and publicly; I often offer a menu of assessment options among which students can choose.

At the beginning of the term, I ask the students what their expectations are, what they need me to know, where teachers have failed them in the past, what helps them to learn. I ask the class to create a contract with one another and with me around our stated expectations and shared agreements. I check-in with my students as a cohort and as individuals throughout the term. I continue to revise my syllabi to ensure that we are reading across differences, engaging with plays, playwrights, directors, and approaches to the work from authors of many different backgrounds, genders, races, and abilities.

I articulate my expectations. I expect students to do the reading, the writing, the rehearsing. I expect them to show respect to one another and to me. If they are struggling, I want them to know they can discuss it with me in as much or as little detail as they need.

I bring a strong infusion of kindness to my teaching strategy. It is important not to conflate this with a failure or an inability to hold my students to a rigorous standard. Exacting standards and kindness are not mutually exclusive. A life in the theatre, indeed, a life of any variety is filled with far too many moments of idle cruelty, indifference and disrespect. We can make theatre more effectively when we engage one another with mindfulness and respect, when we are buoyed by the work rather than weighed down.

My students have the right to try and to fail, as long as they are making a sincere attempt to engage with the material. They also have to grant that right to everyone else in the class.

I seek to call out asymmetrical power relationships and oppressive practices; I invite my students to explore issues of race, gender, sexuality, and differential abilities as we discuss dramatic texts, casting choices, theatrical marketing models and mission statements. I invite students to check-in at the beginning of class, whether it is a studio or a seminar format; everyone gets the opportunity to listen and everyone gets the opportunity to be heard. I employ oral, written, and visual components in every class.

In the middle of the semester or term, I ask the students how I am doing. I ask again if they need anything from me that they are not getting. I adjust accordingly, if it makes sense to me and is in line with the stated goals of the class. Together, we work to create the classroom that best serves their needs.

My students have written:

Students own the discoveries they make while working in a guided, supported environment more holistically than those they discern in a lecture or screed. I employ a combination of approaches in a literature or theory course (lecture, seminar-style discussion, experiential learning, occasionally a theatre game, and students teaching one another through facilitated conversations) which help students with all sorts of learning styles to engage with the material and refine their processes. Within a restorative justice-inspired framework, where we make space for each voice to be heard, I strive to foster a culture of inclusion in my classroom as I challenge my students to think critically and across disciplines.

  • “I’m certain I spent 97% of rehearsals outside my comfort zone and spent 100% of the time growing as an actress. Kate didn’t just tell us what to think or do; she had us analyze our characters and visualize the many layers and desires they held. She is a fountain of knowledge and she created a safe space for everyone to explore, make mistakes and look inside ourselves without judgment or criticism. With the little time that she had with us, Kate built us up and really encouraged my love for theater.”
    — Anthonia Adams, African American cis woman, University of Washington & Lee
  • “As a student with Kate, I’ve felt challenged in ways that made me want to grow and be open to new possibilities. And indeed, I saw my fellow classmates and myself grow as nuanced and risk-taking actors as well as generous people with Kate.
    “Beyond that, In the Next Room was the first play I worked on as an out, queer, transgender actor. I was incredibly lucky to have Kate as a director during this moment in my transition. Out of all my professors, she was without a doubt the most responsive and adaptive to this process. Kate held space for me as an artist and person as I grappled with a new way of walking in the world. I ended the play feeling empowered to build my own set of tools to do my work and be vulnerable, even in spaces that are often not built for marginalized bodies.”
    — Henry Ellen Sansone, Caucasian transgender man, University of Minnesota
  • “This was my favorite class at Carleton. Kate was the most understanding professor I’ve ever had and the most focused on how much I got out of the class. Thank you, Kate, for teaching me more than I learned in Theatre History 1 and 2, and helping me to have fun while doing it.” — Anonymous student evaluation, Carleton College
  • “My participation in the theatre class was the most constructive program I have ever participated in, in any jail or prison. Creativity, diligence, discretion, benevolence, humility, punctuality, responsibility, and, most importantly, accomplishment and joyfulness. A real sense of pride that I have never experienced before. The arts provide a balance to so much of the negativity of incarceration. It constructively demands thoughts and actions, crosses racial barriers, and breaks down stereotypes. We see that we are more than inmates.” — Incarcerated Latinx Actor, Minnesota Correctional Facility–Moose Lake

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You lie, in faith, for you are called plain Kate,
And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst;
But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom,
Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate,
For dainties are all Kates, and therefore, Kate,
Take this of me, Kate of my consolation…
--The Taming of the Shrew, Act II, scene i