Sean’s teaching philosophy centers on a belief that everyone brings valid and interesting insights to bear on the study of theatre. If the arts are a conversation about what it means to be human, then even the beginning student comes to that conversation with a wealth of knowledge, in the form of their experience. In the desert of our current data-driven, business-modeled educational system, learning that refuses simple answers and embraces instead a complex, experience-oriented, holistic approach can serve as an oasis for the thirsty mind. In teaching theatre and the arts, Sean believes that it is essential to ask students (and teachers) to bring all of themselves – body, mind, and spirit – to their learning.
Of course, teaching involves material, not just philosophy. Sean covers the subject matter of his courses and workshops in a thorough and engaging manner, taking every opportunity to invite his students to interact with the material in an active and critical way. For example, in teaching about Brecht, after reading and discussing relevant theoretical or script materials, Sean will ask his students to try to achieve the A-Effect in small groups in front of the class. The practical application of theory in this way offers students more opportunity to establish a real relationship to the material, ultimately increasing the probability of retention and future development.
Similarly, whenever appropriate, Sean prefers to teach in a discussion format, encouraging students to bring their thoughts, questions, and opinions to the table in the hopes of starting a lively conversation. An intense discussion that brings students into interaction with each other and the material is preferable to a boring discussion that covers what the instructor thinks is relevant – Sean tries to practice a kind of ‘pedagogical Aikido,’ using the momentum generated by students’ feelings and opinions to guide them toward the course’s learning objectives.
In his training of actors, directors, and designers, Sean places tremendous emphasis on trial-and-error experimentation. He believes that it is crucial to build a safe space in the studio or classroom, so that students can learn to enjoy the process of getting up, falling down, and getting up again (sometimes literally, in the case of movement classes!). Sean’s approach to acting and directing training is purposefully eclectic, integrating ideas from diverse fields (Music, Philosophy, Psychology, Consciousness Studies, Poetry) with approaches from a variety of performance perspectives such as Contact Improvisation, Clowning, Viewpoints, Skinner/Open-Source Releasing, Lecoq, Stanislavski, Fitzmaurice, and Grotowski.
Making art is hard work – unbelievably, back-breakingly, delightfully hard work – Sean’s aim as a teacher is to provide students with the tools and rigor they will need to make a life of doing the work that calls to them.
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