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Artists of tomorrow.

Ben Cameron's essay was well timed in the era of artistic downsizing and of the rising educational burden for groups outside the traditional teaching landscape. But I think his question as to whether a theatre's work is spread too thin financially and artistically by education is an unfair proposition.

After receiving my BFA in acting, the whole of my professional work has been in arts education. I had the luck and joy of finding a theatre that had an education department over two decades old, and whose mission was to reach and touch children through classical literature. Working with Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio, for the past four years has been a greater education for me than the entirety of my undergrad studies. I have learned the true meaning of concentration and focus while acting with six-year-olds; guerrilla theatre while performing scenes from Shakespeare in broom closets, gymnasium bleachers and even in band rehearsal storage lockers; communication skills I didn't know I possessed while teaching and interacting with first-through-twelfth-graders, and across every socioeconomic scale; and a true love and respect for the text, as I saw it interpreted and reinvented again and again in each unique group and setting.

At Great Lakes, the education department was consistently under-funded but high in profit expectation, something the "performing" side of the theatre could not always say for itself. By the end of my tenure there as an actor-teacher, I felt equal to anyone who walked the boards at night for paying customers.

Some artists indeed do not have the tools or love of teaching, and that is well and good. But if we as artists put education on a level below performing in the traditional sense, we have done a grave disservice to ourselves and to the children who will one day serve as our patrons. I believe that education in the arts is not, as Cameron says, a "burden" but rather a privilege.

Shalene Shimer

Education assistant

Hartford Stage Company

Hartford, Conn.

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Title Annotation:Letters to the Editor
Author:Shimer, Shalene
Publication:American Theatre
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Sep 1, 2004
Words:333
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