by Ian Mairs

One of my teaching mentors had a memorable sign up in her room as you entered: “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

At the start of every semester, we take an inventory of the performers in our midst.

The list of skills culled from each class is vast and impressive.

Every one of our classes thrives as a learning community in which we all agree the knowledge source in the room is not the teacher of record. It’s the whole group.

At some point in the semester, every student in the class takes a moment to “school me.”   Sometimes it’s an issue with my iPhone. Or a problem I’m having understanding the context of a song. Or a student offers up a personal anecdote which triggers a revelation about my own challenges with the artistic process.

Currently, I’m in the midst of the second draft of the new play I am writing with the senior acting company.  The play, Toothless, is an homage to the beloved John Hughes films of the 1980s, peopled with very chatty teenagers. We have our routine: I bring in new pages and we read them aloud a couple of times.   After we read a scene, there’s a time for questions and discoveries.  Once in a while, a student will say “that is not the way a teenager would say that. ” I will make the adjustment and move on.

These exchanges are at the core of what we do at the studio. Listening and responding.

With the barrage of images and words dancing across our media devices hourly, there’s a lot to be said for gathering with other human beings in the same room to exchange information. In real time.