"...the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing knowledge." --Albert Einstein

I watch everyday the slow death the imagination suffers. The "gift" we are born with is educated out of us. The necessity for "absorbing knowledge" is forced at us from when we are young until it becomes an obsessive habit within which we are scored, ranked and labeled, occasionally for life.

We have lost touch with the art of play. As a child we learn about the world by imitating and replaying it while stumbling onto ideas, thoughts and discoveries that excite us and provide fodder for further explorations and discoveries. As adults, however, we get caught up with the right and wrong ways to do things and seem more intent on collecting accomplishments than exploring them. We do not encourage each other to play, explore and discover. And, ironically, we slavishly memorize techniques to achieve these accomplishments; techniques that came about by the very process we ignore!

My goal in working with children, youth and adults is to crack open the knowledge center we call a brain and flood it with imaginative explorations. I believe that even arts education gets too bogged down with technique, putting each of us in the position of concentrating far too much on whether we got it right or not, ignoring the journey of getting there, which is by far the more important of the two.

A classroom situation needs to be a safe haven that allows for and encourages exploration and discovery, successes and failures, joy and disappointment. Each students should and must come to an understanding of their own process by being challenged to stretch themselves beyond what they feel they are capable of. Only then, in the frustration and celebration of wandering into the unknown, will a student truly discover their own way of both exploring their art and creating it. The student needs to be seen as the subject of his or her own learning rather than the object in an instructor's syllabus.

Each individual has a community and a culture that has contributed to their growth and development as a human being, and it is those experiences that can be and need to be drawn out through the various processes of art. To begin with basic improvisations in movement, music, sound and writing, theatre can be built up on foundations that reflect the very individuals that are involved in the explorations. To continue the explorations with art forms from other traditions and cultures begins to build a vocabulary of creative expression that the students can draw from to explore the issues and ideas that turn them on, upset them and challenge them to their very soul. This makes the work more immediate, meaningful and powerful. It creates a commitment not to theatre as a career or business, but as a multi-faceted tool for personal and communal expression and social change.

I offer techniques within a class or workshop only as beginning points for students' journeys. They must understand that they can not rely on a technique, as an actor should not simply rely on a playwright's words, but see it as a way to open themselves up to the multitudinous possibilities of the imagination and the spirit.

Techniques that I draw on include the standard canon of techniques; however, I prefer the opportunity to explore other art forms with students to break down expectations of what theatre should be--poetry in acting and directing classes, music and storytelling in writing classes. I add to my list performing arts traditions from other cultures as well. The physical demands of Asian theatre open a world of physical expression, and control, in ways that challenge the thinking process as well. Gestural/dance traditions of the Pacific offer training in simplicity of movement and enhance the understanding of the metaphoric and symbolic. Storytelling, chant, music and other vocal arts teach the basics of transporting an audience on an imaginative journey, a skill becoming lost in newer generations of artists as the theatre relies more and more on technical wizardry.

Breaking open the imagination makes us see the world much in the way of the child; reveling in the constant discoveries available to him or her and celebrating his or her gift of fantasy. If we can't really see the world, how can we celebrate it's richness and ridiculousness? The arts are key to understanding our world and ourselves. And without that understanding, how can the knowledge we absorb be of any use?

"I consider you one of the greatest teachers I've ever had. I honestly think I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if it wasn't for that performance art class you taught."

One time drama student, now film-maker