From Angela: Right now, I teach 90 eighth graders in a low-income community down in Jackson, MS. The average reading level of these children is fourth grade, and they normally say they hate reading. Sometimes, though, literature and grammar comes alive in my classroom. We learn gerunds and participles through playing the theatre warm-up game Pterodactyl. The theatre game “Zip, Zap, Zop” becomes, “In, Under, Out” to memorize prepositions. There is no theatre program at my school, and the kids jump at the chance to get out of their seats (literally). I can make grammar come alive for these kids because of my experience with theatre at Regis University; I explored myself and my world through performance during my four years here.
After having no arts program at my middle school, I truly see what a vibrant, beautiful arts community Regis possesses. Students and professors are willing to donate hours and personal funds to sustain dreams of performance. As a student in the Honors program, I completed a 90-page academic thesis about one of my favorite works of literature. I also wanted to enact the literature, embodying its themes in a modern context. I was able to actually do this, constructing my own set with the help of other students. Dr. Janna Goodwin and Dr. Daryl Palmer provided support and constructive criticism for my piece. The strong alliance between faculty and students over the arts was empowering for me.
On a windy April afternoon, I donned a white Victorian gown and explored the interactions between gender, literature, and the gaze through my performance. I was able to delve into what it meant to be a female in this world, and in the process of this performance, I grew as a scholar and a human being. Indeed, this performance was only one instance through which I was able to grow; I helped to found OutRegis!, the improv troupe, and served as its president for two years. I discovered my passion for teaching and students through this group; without the leadership experiences it provided, I most likely would not be teaching in the Mississippi Delta through Teach for America.
However, theatre at Regis sometimes appears analogous to the educational circumstances of my middle school. It is like having a room of kids ready to learn and eager to read The Hunger Games, but having only books in the library from the 1950s about needlepoint. If further resources and support were given, the possibilities for life and social change could be endless. Theatre changed my life and could, slowly, be changing the life of my 90 kids—imagine if 10 more Regis students a year could explore the world through theatre.