I have 15 + years experience teaching acting and performance. In addition to having a rigorous knowledge of techniques for teaching realism and method ( Stanislavski, Meisner, Adler), I am also an acclaimed specialist at teaching physical approaches to acting (mime, clown, mask, comedia del’arte) and have a dozen years experience as professional performance artist fluent in the languages of drag, burlesque and queer failure. I have worked with children, teens, college students, adults new to the field and continuing professionals. I have taught acting for auditions, acting as drama-therapy and have work with a variety of people with special needs. As a Queer, non-binary Arab Jew, I am also an expert in working with people from diverse backgrounds understand how they can harness their inner performer, even if they have never seen anyone like them in the limelight. My service stands out mostly because of the emphasis I put on empathy and the ethics of representation.
Body Based Workshops and Training
Looking to unlock your creative potential and have fun? Feeling the need to flex some improv muscles, practice emoting, and learn the performance skills needed to become a lip-synch master and TikTok star? Come SOUL-SYNCH with us! You arrive with a playlist of your favorite songs to jam out, and after exploring different genres (Anthems, Truth to Power, and more) you polish one and leave with a rehearsed performance number! SOUL-SYNCH combines elements from mime, clown, improv comedy, drag, burlesque, drama therapy, and diversity, equity, and inclusion training. This online training is made for people looking for rigorous, body-based training (including Viewpoints, Lecoq mime, and Michael Chekhov gesture) and for people who are simply looking for the chance to come out of their shell, express themselves, and be part of a community that fuels your soul.
Check it out: Soul-Synch workshop were recently featured in the New York Times!
Philosophy of Teaching
Successful teaching from a performance studies angle requires looking at life, even one’s own, as a piece of theatre. Like theatrical production itself, the performance of everyday life is not an autonomous concept, but is effected by a number of outside forces, (funding, pressure to live up to the expectations of a given social frame/audience/community). A critical performance studies pedagogy, especially one invested in questions of race, gender, sexuality, and class has the difficult task of simultaneously making clear the performative elements of these concepts while also taking seriously the ways in which the roles we play on a quotidian basis (boy/girl, son/daughter, black/white, gay/straight, rich/poor, religious/secular) are very real. As a teacher, I am invested in pedagogy as a mode of knowledge production, but I am also interested in destabilizing knowledge as scientific fact. Rather good teaching should be about opening students’ eyes to the politics of knowing, however complicated, exasperating and exhilarating.
My teaching philosophy has been informed by my years as a theatre director, performance artist, and acting instructor. Trained in both techniques of psychological realism and European corporeal methods (Jerzy Grotowski, Jacques LeCoq), I am particularly interested in a multivalent approach to actor training, stressing both “beat and objectives” and physical work on gesture and emotion. In my more practical coursework as an acting instructor and director of department sponsored productions, I tend to choose exercises and material that directly concern issues of race, sexuality, religion, and class while utilizing seemingly apolitical theatrical tools, such as cabaret, dance, and clown to engage with them in new ways. Present in all my teaching and directing is a commitment to the ethical, moral and political stakes inherent in all performance and cultural representation and a central question: How can we represent and empathize with the other while also being aware of the ways in which by empathizing, we are often inadvertently simplifying, reifying, stereo-typing, and essentializing the other into being just like us? It is during the process of trying to literally embody the other that students can test the limits of their own tolerance. Awareness to cultural sensitivity in the art making process can often bring out hidden, sometimes stereotypical assumptions about the other, for example when an improvised exercise turns casually homophobic or racist. I see these misunderstandings as teachable moments, as a chance to challenge and expand our collective notions of tolerance and understanding.
I believe that the classroom, like the acting studio, is a sacred space, one in which a community is formed, one that does not judge or threaten, but questions and supports especially when dealing with ethically tricky situations. Following Irwin Goffman, what keeps the social sphere stable is a “belief in the role one is playing.” What my teaching strives to do is make students aware of these social roles and try to investigate what gives them such power. For instance, in reading the first weeks’ assignment in my course on Performing Patriotism: Pride, Belonging and Dissent in American Culture, students were asked to write about what being a patriot meant to them. Almost unanimously, the class wrote that being a patriot meant steadfast, nearly blind devotion to ones’ nation.
After weeks of studying the writing of Thoreau, examining the Vietnam War, watching Forrest Gump critically and questioning American intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, students began to understand patriotism from a more nuanced perspective. This understanding became palatable to me during one class held outside in political alliance with the San Francisco/Oakland Occupy movement and a faculty and staff strike at UC Berkeley. While teaching Jasbir Puar and Amit Rai’s text “Monster/Terrorist/Fag: The War on Terror and the Production of Docile Patriots,” in an outside grotto surround by protestors, three students handed me a bumper sticker proclaiming “Dissent is Patriotic.” In this moment, it became clear that students understood not just the complex nature of nationalism but how it affects their everyday lives.
As a scholar with a theoretical focus on race, gender and sexuality, I am also invested in teaching students the ways in which these concepts are performed in both literary text and in their own lives. I accomplish this by creating a safe classroom environment in which pupils can relate theory to practical concerns, tapping into their personal interests and passions. For instance, during my research course on Performing Multiculturalism in the 1990’s, it was wonderful to see student’s spend a semester examining the construction of race, gender and queerness across a variety of objects to which I had little to no prior knowledge; excellent final papers were created on hip-hop, female driven cartoons, post-rock, and even Johnny Depp. During the course of each of these projects students found ways of making new arguments and understanding how concepts of race and gender were being wielded in a specific cultural context.
In all of my teaching I try to not discount the importance of things that are affectively known as opposed to understood quantifiably. My pedagogy stresses different forms of knowing that take class, ethnic, sexual and religious difference into account; How can something be “true” if it cannot be “known” but felt? What are the political stakes of claiming that something felt but less tangible is just as valid and real as something visibly true? What is the connection between these abstract concepts and their very real effects on people of different faiths, customs, classes, and sexual practices? And lastly, what can being acquainted with these different types of knowledge do to help us live a better world? Guiding students through the often-messy process of negotiating these different types of truth and knowledge is what I see as the most important role of a pedagogue