Sunday, December 23, 2012

5 Questions with Teaching Artist Tara Henderson

Tara Henderson has a long history with Playwrights Theatre both as a teaching artist and an actor. She's currently teaching a playwriting residency at Torey J. Sabatini Elementary School as part of the annual Madison Young Playwrights Program.

Young playwrights share the current drafts of their plays with Tara

We recently asked Tara 5 Questions about being a teaching artist, an actor/singer and what it's like to be a princess. Here's what she had to say:

1. How many years have you been a teaching artist? What do you love best about being a teaching artist?

I have been a teaching artist for 5 years. I love introducing and developing young people’s abilities in something that it is such an integral part of my own life. I also love watching my students’ growth and seeing the confidence that it instills in them.

2. What do you bring to the classroom from your own personal artistic experiences?

I use a lot of the same warm-ups, games and exercises that I myself have used as an actress and a singer throughout my many years of training and performing. As a performer first, I feel that it gives me a great sense of what works and enables me to teach my students on a more personal level.

3. You’ve performed as an actor for the MYPF and the NJYP Festival. Can you explain what kind of impact this has had on your teaching methods for the classroom?

Tara rehearses a NJ Young Playwrights Festival
script with fellow actors
 It has been a great help to me performing as an actor in these festivals prior to teaching the young playwrights program. Having in-depth experience with the program on a performance level prior to stepping in to the classroom has enabled me gain insights of how to structure my lesson plans and give better feedback to my students during the revision process. In addition, I was able to watch other teaching artists give feedback to the young playwrights during rehearsals. I was able to learn first hand what methods are effective in order to best help encourage and also develop their work.

4. Why do you enjoy performing the plays in the MYPF and NYP Festival? How is this different or the same as performing in an play that has been written by an adult?

It is a lot more fun! I get to play all kinds of characters that I would never get to play. Our young playwrights in some ways are much more imaginative than adult playwrights because they approach writing with a child’s creativity, imagination and enthusiasm. I also love doing plays where I get to play multiply characters within a piece and both play festivals often give me that opportunity.

5. We’ve heard that you are a Princess at Medieval Times. What can you tell us about that experience? Has it helped you in any way guide students that want to write fantasy plays?

Every girl dreams of being a princess, so in many ways I am living every girl’s dream. But in all seriousness I love performing in a role that so many young girls look up to; the look in their eyes when they first see me is so heartwarming! I love being a part of something that encourages audiences both young and old to embrace their imagination and child like sense of fantasy. Performing as the princess has enabled me to form a greater connection to my own imagination and sense of fantasy, which has definitely helped become more in tune with my students who long to explore fantasy writing. Having first hand experience with that type of world I feel gives me the opportunity to guide my students’ writing from an insider’s approach.

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