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From Deb’s Desk: From Imp To Education Director

As one of the newest members of the QCT family, I am excited to share some of my thoughts with you about who I am and why I love what I do.

Theatre and performing have been life-long passions of mine, and when I discovered the joy of engaging young people in discovering the magic of theatre for themselves, I was hooked. It happened in college – Cal State University, of all places – where I was pursuing my BA in acting and directing. I auditioned for and was cast in the “Imagination Players” (or “Imps” for short), an actual class that spent one semester building an original touring show and the second semester taking that show on the road to schools, libraries, youth centers, day cares – you name it: If there were kids there, so were we.

Now, at this point in my life, I was a serious actor. You know the type: laser-focused on honing my ‘craft’ in the hallowed rehearsal and performance spaces of the theatre building with a hungry fervor and lack of sleep that was designed to prove my ability to suffer for my art. Fostering in myself the belief that unless I was exhausted, nit-picked by critique from bitter professors and classmates alike, constantly on the precipice of leaping off the Cliffs of Insanity,* and generally acting like I was grateful for the opportunity to be harangued into some form of method entailing emotional recall (aka: reliving your worst real moments in front of a ‘guiding’ professor to achieve some sort of twisted, psycho connection to a fictional character)… yes, unless I was biting into that whole enchilada, I was not at all serious and should immediately buy all-black clothing and hang out on the catwalk for an eternity marked by keeping the spotlight on the real actors, thank-you-very-much… But, I digress. Back to Imps! So there I was, in a troupe of eight fellow theatre students, all of us dressed in – you guessed it – white overalls and brightly colored t-shirts, acting and singing and dancing our guts out as various woodland animals, wild things, fairy tale princes and princesses, goats, ogres, trolls and the like for hundreds of K-5 kids every week. As Imps, we were the “low hanging fruit” of the theatre department, the weirdos who would debase themselves by veering away from Shakespeare and Sondheim and into the worlds of Sendak, Dahl and (gasp!) Seuss.

I vividly remember the day I was forever changed as a theatre person. Dressed in my overalls with my fellow drama outcasts, on a bright pink acting block, I was channeling my best Sneetch for the approximately 300 kiddos gathered in a typical Southern California gym-a-cafe-torium – you know the kind, where sports games ruled, lunch tables crowding half the space, the stage unusable as it had long-ago been relegated to a storage unit for all broken things, and the not-so-faint aroma of over-steamed broccoli and sour milk hanging in the air. There I was, about to take my turn in Sylvester.

McMonkey McBean’s Star-On machine, when a lone voice from the front of the audience squeaked, “Don’t do it!” This was met with an enthusiastic, truly worried, chorus of the of kindergarteners joining in, “Don’t! Don’t Do it!” And I looked out at the audience for the first time (Thou Shalt Not break the fourth wall! What had I done??) and saw a sea of wide-eyed, truly transfixed, emotionally-engaged young people who had forgotten they were in a crummy gym, had left the classroom behind, and were right there on that Sneetch beach with us. In that moment, we were all transported and transformed by the magic of theatre, of storytelling, of make-believe … and the alchemy of who I was as a theatre person was forever changed. I knew this was how I wanted to make others feel: alive, invested, joyfully swept away by their own imaginations and so immersed in the moment they can’t help but participate – on stage or back stage or in the audience. I knew I was going to be a theatre educator.

Did I give up serious acting? No. The rebel in me still needed to prove to my smug professors and catty classmates that I could and would earn my stripes (and my living) as a professional actor, which I did for plenty of years in between racking up mountains of student loan debt getting letters after my name… But, my soul has always been most at home when I am working with young people to awaken in them the joyful discovery that they contain worlds within themselves, talents beyond what they ever imagined, and an infinite supply of creative resiliency. That’s what theatre does for me, and I am in constant, grateful awe that I get to do it every day, in such an incredible community, and as part of the miraculous, one-of-a-kind organization that is QCT. Thank you for welcoming me in!

*Kudos and comradery to anyone who gets the reference

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