B.F.A. Drama Education: University of Texas, Austin
M.F.A. Acting: University of Nebraska, Lincoln
I grew up in Houston, Texas. After graduate school my husband (who is also an acting professor here) and I moved to New York City and did the whole “let’s be actors in New York City” thing,
but we had day jobs in the corporate world. I got a job teaching acting and performing at Cornell University for a year, but I was in Ithaca and my husband was still in Manhattan. My husband and I have had several instances where we have not lived in the same city. We did some Off-Off Broadway stuff in New York—directing and acting. Then I got a job teaching acting at the University of North Carolina. While I was there, my husband was teaching in Atlanta—so we weren’t even in the same state. I eventually moved there and taught, then my husband got a job teaching at UIS, so we moved here and I taught part time at several central Illinois schools until another position teaching acting became available at UIS and I landed the job. This is our seventh state in 14 years of marriage, and we’ve been here the longest. I think that says something about UIS.
I’ve always known that I was a teacher. I actually taught high school theater for a couple of years before I did my graduate work. I love to direct and I love to act and I love to teach. Whatever I’m currently doing is my favorite.
When people ask me what my hobby is—I have to say “my hobby is my job.” It really is. I like theater, I like to go to shows, but I also like to read and to travel. I’m a real geek. I have one older sister and two younger half sisters. My husband and I have one child who is now seven. I always say that she is our most notable production—and a production she is.
I like to look at the pedagogy of acting. That is, different approaches to teaching acting. I have an interest in voice work as well. I do some dialect coaching and I hope to soon teach a voice and movement class. I also have an interest in gender issues, women in theater, and Shakespeare. I like theater that pushes the envelope, that challenges us and the way we look at the world. The shows can also be funny or touching or moving, but they have to affect the audience and make the audience think. Students dancing in a UIS Theater production. (Photo by Nathan Bennett)
Even in my Oral Communication class, I have students stand up, stretch, do vocal exercises, and whatever it takes to wake them up and get them involved. In traditional lecture-style classes, I try to get students involved with each other. We do a lot of small group work. In performance-based classes we are extremely active. We now have our own large acting classroom/studio to use for classes and for doing exercises and performing.
Campus and Community connections:
UIS Theater sort of evolves into a student organization every time we do a production. I am also a Safe Ally. I feel very strongly about GLBTQ issues and want students to know that nothing is taboo—as far as I’m concerned we can talk about anything. I’ve also done some community theater in Springfield.
Advice for prospective students:
Also, the maternal part of me has to say, take care of yourselves. Eat well. Don’t eat fried this and fried that all the time—eat some vegetables on occasion. The PAC has a salad bar. Just grab a salad. Get your sleep and take care of yourself. Sometimes new freshmen turn into walking Petri dishes. If you pace yourself and take care of yourself, you’ll be able to handle the work load. With the new freedom you get as a freshman comes the responsibility to take care of yourself. It sounds corny, but one apple a day folks, remember that.
Best thing about UIS:
I have to say, as a teacher, I love the small class sizes. I taught Intro to Theater at a larger institution and I really tried to get to know the students’ names, but by the time I got to the 98th student, it was hard. By week fifteen, I might have known everyone’s name.
Another thing, while we have a very clear sense of hierarchy, for lack of a better word, there’s also a very nice informality among students and faculty, and faculty and administrators at UIS. We all have a level of respect for each person in their given role.