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Dec. 11, 2019

2.14 A Conversation with Rachel Harry

2.14 A Conversation with Rachel Harry

This week Jimmy speaks with the 2017 Excellence in Theatre Education Tony Award winner Rachel Harry!  She shares some of her favorite stories from her career, the importance of being a lifelong learner, taking risks and breaking rules, and her experience with the Tony Awards!


 

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Transcript

Speaker 1:

Hello everyone and welcome to Ted talks. I'm Jimmy Chrisman , your host. Each week we bring you stories and interviews from experienced K-12 theater teachers, current theater education majors, and professors of theater education that will warm your heart, renew your faith in teaching, and provide resources to better your practice in your theater classroom. This is season two, episode 14 of the podcast. Thanks for checking us out and thanks for sticking with us.

Speaker 2:

Those of you who've been here since the beginning, I am very grateful to you. Uh, I have a great interview for you. This week is a lot of fun. When I had this conversation back in the summer , uh, when I was able to finally coordinate schedules with Rachel Harry and , uh, we had a lovely talk. Um, I loved when she engaged with me in the interview and was asking me questions. She kind of flipped the script at one point and , uh, I really enjoyed that and , uh, I really hope you enjoy what she has to say. Rachel Harry was the 2017 excellence in theater education, Tony award winner. And , uh , I think you're really gonna enjoy this interview and her very no nonsense, very candid,

Speaker 1:

fun conversation. So hope you get a lot out of it. And this is my conversation with Rachel Harry

Speaker 3:

[inaudible] .

Speaker 4:

Thank you. Bye . Uh, acknowledging my work. You honor all theater teachers and you elevate the art form in the schools. And I thank you for this , uh, because we work so hard. Theater teachers labor so hard for the students because they care. Thank you. Carnegie Mellon university, the American theater wing of the Broadway league because you demonstrate you care about the work. We do, the passion and the drive we share with our students for this amazing thing called theater. The theater. It is inclusive. It celebrates the unique and the different and it embraces diversity even when, especially when the rest of the world does not. We need the arts students in need. The arts, we all need

Speaker 3:

theater. [inaudible] I need

Speaker 4:

to thank my students at HRV. They're watching tonight. I want to thank also my daughter and my son Tay and Duncan, my school and my community because honestly, without their support, their love and an awful lot of understanding, I would not be here tonight. Thank you,

Speaker 2:

Rachel. Harry, welcome the fed talks. Thank you for joining me. I appreciate you working out or your schedule so that we can meet. Tell us a little bit about yourself, a little bit about your program and a , um, kind of what brought you to where we are now and we'll definitely get into talking about the Tony award later on. But , uh, just introduce yourself and tell us a bit about yourself.

Speaker 4:

Uh, my name's Rachel Harris and I am the theater teacher at the hood river Valley high school in hood river, Oregon. And I teach , uh , a full four year theater program at the high school.

Speaker 2:

And how many kids do you have in your program?

Speaker 4:

Uh, it's hard to do an accurate head count simply because , um, I have kids that will take more than one class with me. Um, but I average about on some of my classes have the, the class that's been designated for that time slot, like safe theater one which will have about 34 kids in it. And then I'll have anywhere from two to five more kids in there that are upperclassmen, that are like theater tech kids that are working, you know, so I'm kind of juggling both, both groups , um, which is crazy sometimes. Um, but it's, it's the only way we can get it done. But I w you know, it's four classes a day and there's about, let's say 30, so it's 120. It's about 240 and probably 40 of those are repeaters, you know what I mean? Like they're in more than one class. It's what, 200?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And how many, how many productions do you do a year with your kids?

Speaker 4:

Uh, I have a musical and I have a, what we call the winter play. And then I also have the student directed one act festival. Um , and so it's basically those three big ones. But then I also have , uh , Oh, it just depends on what we're doing. Like , uh, this year and my three, four class, we did a device theater and we spent a good month and a half just working on that. And it was a new, I mean, device theater is something that I think we do already. If we work in an ensemble group , uh, which I also have an ensemble group that's a class. Um, but , uh , I've never really formally taught devised theater , um, with a capital D and a capital T. and so it was new for me as well. And I did a lot of research and then I told the kids where this is new, so you're my first group, we're going to explore this and decide if it's something we want to keep in the curriculum. And then they had a huge performance of that , uh, in January. So there's probably a, a fourth thing that I do with my students that might be the device theater one year. I don't know. It, it floats. I, I keep changing things. Um, when start to get, I feel like I'm dragging. Like, I'm getting bored or it's getting stale. Um, I have to, let's, let's try something new. And there's always stuff happening in theater. You know, it's, it's constantly growing and changing and like I add more , uh, I do more acting theory that would be more useful for film and TV now than I used to because , uh , there's so much more opportunity in that area these days. And so I have to, I have to do research and I have to study that. And if I can take a class, I mean I'm out in the middle of nowhere. This is a little rural town. Um, I do what I can. Um, I spent two years studying improv with the improv theater in Portland. And then I worked as an improv actors for like two or three years, just, you know, learning and you learn so much just by doing. And so just so I could improve my improv classes by those things that I teach when I teach in my classes. And , um, I also feel like that's more productive for film work. And how is being able to improv , um, on the spot? So,

Speaker 2:

well, I think that's important, that , that you're constantly learning something new and , and, and adding more things to your tool belt, even , uh, even though, I mean, how long have you been teaching?

Speaker 4:

33 years.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Even, I mean, you've had a very long, wonderful career and you're still learning and still adding to and keeping things fresh and exciting for yourself. And I think that's important for theater teachers to know that and to keep doing that.

Speaker 4:

I think for everybody. I mean, that's 33 years here. I've been teaching before that, so I guess I've been teaching longer, but I'm not going to try to think about that. I'm not going to add the years up . It's been a long time, but I like , I love to learn. I mean, that's, that's, it's so exciting to still learn something new and , um, Internet's been a great thing for that. You know, you can just like, Oh, well let's study this ancient, you know, Hindu dance form. Okay, I can find it. You know, and I, I'll sit there and look and do research on that and it's, it's fascinating. So yeah, you gotta keep learning if you're gonna stay current with, with your students for sure.

Speaker 2:

Well, I know devising theater is a, is kind of a huge thing right now in what we do. Um, I , I just, I don't know if, you know, I taught for 17 years in the, in the classroom and then I , uh , just two years ago moved to Illinois state to head up their theater education program. Um, in this past year I got to teach a whole class on devising theater. So it was exciting for me to learn about that and , and, and teach that to my students. Um, and I know through my research of it and working with it that there's really no one way to do it and there's no real dead set process. Um, but can you share a little bit about what you do with your kids with that?

Speaker 4:

First, I want to ask you , uh, did they, how, how did your students feel about having create an, almost a vacuum in a way? Do you know what I mean? Like, like my high school kids struggled with coming up with what are, what are we going to do and how is this going to work? Because they didn't want to trust the process. They felt like they had to, you know what I mean? So did your students have the same kind of reaction?

Speaker 2:

They did. They did struggle with that. Um, we did , uh, we did several exercises leading up to me turning them loose to work on their own thing like me giving them some different stimuli and different things to get them going. And, and we talked a lot about how anything can be a inspiration for something that you want to do and, but it needs to be something that you're passionate about and that you are willing and able to stick with for a while . Cause we're going to be with it for awhile . But once they finally quit fighting with themselves and themselves, like with them, their personal self of things, that would be what , what's a good stimulus? What's something that's going to get us going that we really, really want to be doing? Once they got past that part, they had a ball with it and they , they really, they really enjoyed it. But that first part, that was a struggle for them.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, it's, it's hard. I found, I was pulling in like , well I did some research with some groups over in the UK, like frantic assembly and stuff. There's some really good books out there. And I also found , um, some fabulous , uh, like strings of exercises to do and kind of take it through that frantic assembly had taught. So I, I definitely was using that. But then I found, you know, we use, I call it my bag of tricks. We pull from other stuff, cause you're , you , you teach from, you're standing on your feet, you know, you go in, you think, Oh, we're going to do this and this and this, and then the dynamics in the class change . So you have to change with them . So you teach, you teach on your feet. Is is the only way I can describe it? So I'd be watching the script. I go, okay. Okay. Liz , that limit, you're getting stuck right here. Let's try. Um, uh, like , uh, Augustus Bowles , you know, theater , the pressed kind of let's try some of these strategies here. And so you're pulling things from, from, you know, 20 years ago that's still, that might resonate right now with these kids in this, this particular moment. And then you , you know, then they start to click and then you go, okay, so now let's go in this direction. And so there was a lot of that just sort of like walking through a room without lights on and just sorta going, okay, okay this looks like a passageway here. Let's, let's go this way. And the biggest thing I think as a teacher is getting that trust, you know, that they trust you to go, okay, even though we don't know what the heck you're talking about, you know, we're, we're gonna follow you teacher. Cause cause you know, you've led us in some interesting places before, so we'll try this. And they were terrified and, and the only thing I could do to get them to move ultimately was I said, okay, we're going to have a performance date. It's on this day, January 28th. Okay. And they, that, that , uh , kind of threw them into a co, you know, second year , but it was still kind of , uh , until I said, Oh, you know what I think I've got about , I've been advertising, I have about 80 people that are going to be there. And that was like, ah, and so we got up to about 140 and I sat the audience on the stage on the actual stage, and then the kids were out kind of between the stage and the auditorium or the house. And so it completely flipped how the audience sits. And I thought that would kind of shake everything up. Um, and it was powerful. That performance they did was powerful. It was amazing. I was just blown away with what they ended up coming up with. Um , and they hit some heavy punches. There was some , uh, uh, spousal abuse. There was this amazing dance piece that was a husband and wife hitting each other, but it was a D , it was all very style. It was just, I was like, where did this come from? You guys like three weeks ago were saying, we're not gonna , this is going to be so horrible. And then they do this beautiful thing, which is why I still teach cause they keep surprisingly

Speaker 2:

well. Looking back over your career, what's , uh , what's some of your favorite stories , uh, in your experiences with your kids? They can be funny moments, horror stories, most impactful moments for you.

Speaker 4:

Oh my gosh. Okay .

Speaker 2:

I know you have a ton and it's just narrowing it down, isn't it?

Speaker 4:

Um, you know, kids will say, what's your favorite play that you've ever done or what's your, and I go, I don't have any, I don't have any like best, I don't have any favorite. I have things that I remember fondly and it just sorta depends on what mood I'm in or where I'm at during the day. And it happens so often. I think it's, it's just like those moments when those kids will come up with something that's so beautiful that you're weeping. You know, you're literally weeping, you're standing in the wings and you're going, Oh my God, this is the most amazing thing. And they know it afterwards or , or here's a beautiful one. Um, uh, I had done, I have this history with this prior teacher and my whole teaching experience, but I've like, I don't know if this is okay, so this is not awesome. This is like bad and horrible. So I got hired to be the theater teacher at this high school in the 1886 . And um, they said you're going to be teaching there, there'll be a theater class that you can teach like one in the English program and you'll be directing the shows after school. And I walked through the theater and it's a little auditorium and it's got enough there. I can make it work right. A week before I start teaching someone, someone in the district calls me up and says, we're going to give the the theater thing to this man. Okay. So this is 86 and it's pretty, you know, misogyny is pretty rampant, you know, it just is. And I think there was some concern that I wouldn't be able to direct the shows now. They gave it to a truly lovely man. He was a sweet man, never done theater on his own. He was in one college play. And this is, did you, I don't know if you, you heard my TEDx talk, but I get to this where I go, there's so little respect for the theater in the schools that they will give that directing assignment to just anybody. If they've had, if they'd been in a high school play. Oh good. You're directing the show. I mean, you , uh, you did some college theater. Okay . You're teaching the theater class and that's precisely what they did. And , um, and sometimes it's amazing and I don't want to diss those people that step up and direct plays and they've had very little experience. I don't want to put that down, but I just feel like sometimes here I am, this kid who had been in theater her entire life , uh, has a degree in English and theater from the university of Utah. Like, here I am, I'm ready to go. And they're going, we better give it to this man. You know, it was that kind of a thing. And , uh, at the time I went with it, I was like, Oh, okay . He , he must have way more experienced than me. I can learn from this guy. This is awesome. And I quickly found that wasn't the case. Um, so I had that happening and then this other teacher kind of took over the musical for 27 years. I did not direct the musical. I finally got the play and this, this the first guy that they gave the play to, he left after a couple of years. And so I just kept building my program until I got this nice big four year program with a performance troop . And , um, and I was directing a play for a number of years, but it wasn't until this other teacher left that I got to teach or direct the musical. So, so the first year was grease and then the second year was this musical that I'm going to talk to you about. Um, catch me if you can, which is a very difficult show to do. Um, the dancing's pretty high powered. The music itself is incredibly difficult to play. I had this brand new music teacher and that's why I did Greece the first year. I thought, well sell out on that. And we did, we were turning people away after the first performance, but it's not as difficult to do musically. And I wanted to try out this new music teacher and um, he's awesome. This guy that I'm working with now, I love I, I DOR this map. Okay . So for the second year I actually want to do West side story, but I had someone else say, Oh, we're doing it. You can't do it. So I went, okay, we won't do it. And I looked at, catch me if you can , because that's also less like West side story. Very difficult to do musically. He did brilliantly this, this music, new music director's name's Dan. I love this man. Okay . So he's, he did a fabulous job. The musicians were just, they came in and thanked me for doing the show because they said this was the most fun to do. It was terribly hard, but we love it. But this is what I'm leading up to. This is one of those magical moments with kids. And I had worked this a , this was a huge undertaking. The costuming was just like unbelievable. They had so many changes. Um , and any house , so this is one of my favorite moments and I , I truly relish this. I sit in the back, I don't, once the show starts I don't, you know, I sit in the back sometimes I get up and I pace around . I just don't want to , I can't sit still. So I come out at the end of the show, I come out of the back of the theater and I walk around to the side to the hallway and the kids are coming streaming out from down at the other end of the hallway too . Cause they always come out and talk to their family and stuff out in the cafeteria, which is just outside the theater. But as I opened that door, I can see them streaming up. I've got almost 40 kids, the biggest grins on their faces. They are ecstatic because they know this is a great show. I mean you can just, you see it. And I just walked down that hallway as they're streaming past me to go talk to their family and stuff and I'm trying to get away from family and stuff. I just want to go back into the costume and hide out or go on stage and start cleaning up. Like just get me away from people and they're just running past me, high fiving me , leaping, laughing. It was joyous and that's, that's like my, one of my favorite moments is just that kind of feeling when you, when the show is over and the kids are streaming past you and they are just thrilled. And I think catch me, I singled that out because that was me proving that , um, to whoever it was that decided I couldn't correct those shows back in 86 it was like I've had successful run of plays for, you know, I don't know, 20 years now I'm doing the musicals too . Like hello. You know, I finally felt like I was proving myself, but it took a long time. Yeah. So I don't know, that's a long winded.

Speaker 2:

No, it's fantastic. I guess. I guess that's, that was, I totally get how that , that could be a favorite thing. Cause I, I did the same thing. I would hang out at the back of the theater. Um, I would stay out of the booth unless something horribly was going wrong. I was, and I would pace and I'd be all around. And um, when it was over, I would stay at the back of the theater. I wouldn't go out into the main area where people were greeting each other. I wouldn't run up to the front where they may be meeting at the front of the stage. I, I stayed at the bat. Um, and I , I didn't cause this was about them, this was about them. This was their time. And uh, but when they would come up to me and give me that look of kind of how did I do? And I'm like, you were fantastic. And they were just give me the biggest hug and their parents were there and they were crying. I'm like, I'm so proud. So yeah, that, that's a great feeling. I think it's also awesome cause when I, when I started at my second school , um, my last school that I taught at Greece was our first show as well. Um , and we only had freshmen and sophomores and each year after that we added a new grade level. So we had all four grades. And , uh , that was our very show at that school or our first musical at that school. And we had a live band with just freshmen and sophomores playing the music. Um, and it was a , it was our only sellout show too. And like, we could not sell out the house after that, but that when we did

Speaker 4:

that show, it's like, you know, and it , uh, it's an, I think it's an interesting , uh , musical because a lot of people kind of go, Oh, well, you know, it's, it's, it's Greece , it's, everybody does it. And it's, you know, it's like quote unquote dumb. But that show , uh , was pivotal if you do the research right. It was pivotal, pivotal. It changed how a lot of musicals were done after that. And it's about a time in our culture where kids were going. We're not Sandra Dee and all that kind of glossy. We don't buy into it. And I feel it's very current now. Oh , you know, it , it's, it's powerful. So , um, but yeah, we still, that we have been, you know, we do pretty good here. The musical really does clean up and uh, it's been a good thing to have feeding my little coffers in my program cause I'm able to get a lot more equipment now , um, for just the whole program. So , uh, yeah, we do. We do. Okay . Fiddler, we did fit . It's funny, it's those old ones that really sell out Fiddler. We were, we were selling out every single show, didn't , if it could be the matinee and it was, and people were coming back three times or four times and they, and here's, you'll love this. They didn't have kids in the show. Well that's fine . They're still coming back. Yeah, I know, right? Like what ? But like I said, we're a small town. Um, and for a long time we were like the only, it was the high school and there was a , a community theater group that does awesome stuff. And so for a long time that was what was going on. Now we've got, there's theater everywhere. We've got, we're our biggest problem now is there might be four or five shows running at the same time in our area. So it's selling out. I don't know if I'm going to be doing that much anymore. Just too much competition. But that's a good thing. So it's all right.

Speaker 2:

I agree. What do you see right now is the greatest need in your students? Um, and that what we can do as theater teachers to help them with that.

Speaker 4:

Oh, you know, some things never change and then there's a lot, then the other things do change a lot. Um, I think there's more instability in their lives, you know, and then their future, their future is a lot more scary looking to them now than it used to be. I don't know how much of that is just social media and just awareness of what's going on. Cause the kids that would graduate in the eighties and nineties, it was a little bit scary for them while they were in high school, but they had like, they could look at the future and go, Oh, going to be great. And then they come up to me later and go, this is a , you know, no one told me about this. And now the kids know like that it's pretty scary out there. And , um , they're not getting, we're not helping them cope with how rapidly the S, the , the social milieu is changing for them. And we have to stay on top of that and it's, it's hard. Um, and I don't think parents, I think parents are really caught up in that as well. Um, and so I either get parents that are, you know, the helicopter parents, I think there's a new name that I'm not remembering. There's those that you get the extremes, the ones that really don't care what's going on and then the ones that care and , um, they're doing too much for their kids. So , um, it's, it's not easy to be in a parent . I'm a parent. I don't know if you are, but, but it's not easy. Um, so I, I can empathize with them, but , uh, we all need to step up our game and support these kids in , uh, and how they look at their future. I think that's it. Cause I really look at high school is as, it's not the end all be all. It's just what am I doing to get them ready for their future. Um, and what's, what's important. I think they're figuring that out though, that they don't have to have the fanciest car and the , they're , they're starting to realize that I'm definitely getting that coming back in.

Speaker 5:

Mmm .

Speaker 4:

But there's more important things out there, so that's good. But yeah, it's that it's, ah , it's hard. There's, but there's a lot of really good things that have been happening just with acceptance of , um, kids that are different. You know, it's, it is different kids that don't fit the , the normal paradigm that was established in the forties and 50s. You know, that, that we're accepting everybody. And theater's always been that way. But I think now the school in general is doing a better job of , uh, just saying you don't have to dress and look like everybody else to , to be loved in the school. Um, so, and that's social media too . You know,

Speaker 2:

I want to shift gears a little bit , uh, because a few years ago , uh, in 2017, you won the third Tony for the excellence and, and theater education. Um, talk to us a little bit about what that experience was like for you, the whole, how you found out and then the, the night of and leading up to it. Um, cause I've heard lots of stories so far from, from three of the other winners and they just have the funnest and most random stories that you wouldn't expect. So I'd love to hear kind of how your experience was. Okay. So

Speaker 4:

I need to preface this with, I won , I was an honorable mention. I actually got acknowledged by the Tony , uh , group the year before. Um, and my, so my students , uh, and when I got that email, they'll, they'd send you the, the committee sends you this email in the fall that says you've been nominated Lala da , and is there any reason why you shouldn't be nominated? I think they're like, have you done any hay and us things? And I just went, no, I , yeah, sure, fine. I haven't done anything wrong. And then I thought, well, that'll never happen. Right. So I get the honorable mention that year, then the next fall I get another notification that I'd been nominated again. And I went, Oh , this, I don't know what's going on here. Maybe like the ne , I don't know , wires were crossed or something. There's a lot of people that get nominated. So I just went, no, it's fine. And I just, I immediately forgot about it cause I re it just didn't, it didn't sink in. I just thought it was a mistake. But evidently the kids had decided, well, they had told them, they said, we've , you know, nominator again is what they said, told my students. And so they decided let's do it again. Um, so I, so definitely through me until , uh, June that year , um, 2017, right? Yeah, yeah. Um, Joe Long from CBS called me and said , uh , you're one of the finalists and , uh, we have some questions we want to ask him. What we're going to do is we're going to go out and , uh, we're gonna do a tape segment of all three finalists. And then , uh, whoever wins, we'll play that on that CBS morning show. And I'm like, Oh, okay . Finalists . Well, that's pretty cool. But my problem with that was when you get finalist , which should be really exciting, you're thinking about winning so final , all of a sudden it doesn't become such a big deal. So, and that's where my head was bad. And so I just remember the morning that they were going to tape. Oh. So I kind of jumped back. Okay. So , um, the night before, so I think it was a Sunday or something. It was , I don't know, it was one of the days of the week. My daughter who's working down in Austin , uh, she shows up at my door. She's working in Austin, Texas. And all of a sudden she's up in Oregon and I'm like, she just walks up the steps. I'm quick. I lost it. I was like, what are you doing here? And she says, they flew me up, they want to use me in , in the segment that they're taping for the CVS for the show. And I'm like, get outta here. How did you get here? They had a , you know, they had a , a car she'd got, they drove her through the Gorge in a limo and it was all very excited. And I'm going, Oh, at this point I looked at and I said, I don't hear what happens at this point, whether I win or am I finalist, it doesn't matter. Let's just enjoy the ride. And that was my mantra for the rest of it. Um, and so , uh, the next day, and I had the care kids prepped and my students are, some of them, like I have one girl, she made sure she was in every single shot she was wearing bright red. She totally, no , you know, theater kid , she knew what to do. She was, she was in every single shot and then they ended up not using any of the shots she was in. So , um, but I, I showed up and my kids were already there waiting for me. And , uh, we had cleaned the theater and we were ready. Good to go. We talked , uh, Jamie, the Jamie watt , who's the , uh, one of the broadcasters for the show. He's this awesome guy. And we sit and talk. I still had no clue. You know, they evidently, they knew all along that I had one , but they weren't living on, they wanted to announce it in front of all my students. And I think it was because in the, they said it was really clear the students are okay. I, so I sometimes cry. I'm gonna cry right now if they said it's really clear your students are a big part of your life. And so we want it announced . We wanted to announce it in front of all of them. And so that's fantastic. So that's what they did. And , uh, the local newspaper person who does all my shows, stories about my shows and stuff. She was there. Um, and the principal, my principal who this lovely man, rich pokinghorn , he didn't know until like five minutes before he was just gonna announce it . I'd been , uh, I'm a finalist, so he announces it. I like lose it. Um, all these kids come forward with all these bouquets of flowers. I was like this ticker tape parade kind of thing. Yes. Right. Um, and then they stayed in and interviewed kids all afternoon. Um, and uh, it was, it was just really pretty cool. And then my daughter left. She was just there overnight. Um, but what Jamie said was this , he said, we swapped out our first class tickets and we have to stop in a land before we head back to New York because we, to get her to come , they had to give up some of their tickets is what he told some of their, I don't know what it is, but they felt it was really important that, that the kids were there and that my daughter was there. So , um, yeah, it was pretty cool. The , um, I normally dress in like jeans and a tee shirt, and they said, don't worry about clothes. We've got a $2,000 credit at Nordstrom and a stylist. So I was like, okay, let's just go for this one. My son flies home. He's , uh , he had just graduated from Ithaca , uh , college. He's a , a composer. So he came home , uh, I think I spent more of that money on his tuxedo than on my dress. Um, that's OK . and then , uh, you're supposed to just be allowed to have one person come with you. And I said, if this is going to be Sophie's choice for me, don't make me choose between my son or my daughter. I will pay for the flight. I don't care. Um, get them a ticket if you can. And I guess a Broadway league, there's like, there's Carnegie Mellon , there's Broadway league, and then there's the ponies. The, those people, they all , um, they, they all argued amongst themselves. And I guess the Broadway league really fought hard for it. They said she needs to have her son and her daughter. They're like, just do it. So , um, we all got to go and it was a blast. Um, and you do feel like queen of the day , queen for the day, which is this old TV show where they just, you know, all these things happen. Um, and uh, it was just an amazing experience. I, and I think, you know, people said, were you nervous about, you know , talking to cause you're rubbing elbows with like John legend and, and Oh, who was the guy that was honored? Oh , Oh , Oh, he played , um, he was in star Wars. What was his name? Can't think of his name. He ha he received the honorary G uh, Tony that year for lifetime achievement. He played Darth Vader. What was his name? Let's see Hector's name. It's gonna drive me crazy now. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I should know this. Anyhow, he's in the wings. I'm hanging out in the wings with this guy. Um, but the thing is, is that, and you know this, it's our tribe, right? Like there's people were Sarah Jessica Parker's like just talking to me at the party afterwards. Cause there's this huge gal of that, you know, about my speech and all this stuff and I'm, I'm just like, yeah, this is really cool. But they're , they're actors, you know, they're performers. It's there. It's like a family reunion. You're just, you're back there hanging with all these great people and they have the same look of glee on their face and joy as your kids that are walking off the stage after that great performance. You know, just that high energy hugs. Everybody's loving everybody and loving life. It's, it was amazing. I have any special crazy stories. I don't really know. It was just all, it was all amazing. What , um , since since your , when , what doors has that opened for you? Oh , um, well , uh, I've had a couple of job offers, but I, one wasn't even just standing in the line waiting to get into the big gala event after the Tony's . They have this huge after-party . Um, but I won't leave my job here. I've, I, I've built this program. I've built the theater literally. Um, we have so many nice new lights and I've even added circuits to what the already existing , uh, board. And I've got a new sound board and I've got new sound system and I like just all stay. Like I'm constantly getting new things for it. Um, so I'm not going to leave that, but the job offers were nice. Um, but with , but me aside , uh, there's two new scholarships for the students in the performing arts just for my high school, for kids that are in music for theater. And those, those scholarships are now starting to come in. And , um, I have people that are going, do you need anything, any new equipment or something? And I'll go, well, as a matter of fact, you know, I always have about three or four different projects I'm trying to raise money for. Um, so I'm able to get more things for the program. Uh, more support people are , um, there was a jump , I don't know if it was a gentleman or a woman, but , uh , our lady, but they, they paid for 50 of my students to go see a show in Portland, Oregon. Uh, at Portland center stage. Um, they'll just, you know, that kind of stuff. They'll just call it and say, we want to do this for your students. And so , um, that's been wonderful. This is a small school that is in this small town in the Northwest and they're getting all of these wonderful things. And so , uh, that's been probably the, the coolest thing that has happened has been what the opportunities for my students.

Speaker 2:

That's awesome. That's really cool. Yeah . Uh, cause some of the others I've talked to, I mean , there've been speaking engagements and really interesting things that they've done, but I , I really appreciate you , you , uh, you sharing what, what, what it's done for your kids. Cause that's for me, for me, if, if I were to win and it's , you know , uh , you know, high , big, huge hypothetical, but you know , if I, if I were to win that, I would, that's what I would want to see happen with that. Is that what , what, what did it do for my kids in my program and that, you know,

Speaker 4:

yeah, I've done some speaking engagements. I've gotten some like, you know, Singlish alumni awards and stuff like that. Uh, my daughter and I both have agreed that I should not do speaking in Cape . Um, it's just not a good, I'm terrified of doing that. I can do interviews like this. Um, cause I know you can edit out the bad stuff, but I'm just like, I'm a mess. I'm just a hot mess. Um, so that I'm not so keen on, but , uh, I have gotten offers to do things like , uh, like someone just recently wants me to get involved with a community conflict resolution using some theater, the oppressed kind of strategies and stuff. And I have done some, I've gone to some workshops like back in the 90s , uh, with some people. And so I, I'm kind of excited about that, seeing how we can incorporate that into the community. But I love teaching, like teaching opportunities. I'm all for that. I love doing that. But the speaking stuff, no, we're done. It's done. But definitely done with that. Um, and while it's nice and you know , it does make you feel kind of ho , um, that's, you're right. It's not, it's not really what makes me happy. What makes me happy is working with my students and um, being able to offer them opportunities. Like I had kids who had never seen a , uh , legit play in Portland, Oregon, like outside of the town. They had never seen anything like that. Um, and that's a Lord theater, you know, I mean it's like they're, they're seeing a very professionally done production and they were just, wow, this is so cool. So that to me is, I'm in , that's why we teach.

Speaker 2:

That's one of the coolest experiences I've seen their eyes light up when they see something like that for the first time.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's, that's what it's all about. I'm teaching like I'm teaching this dance, so we're doing Newsies in the fall, right. So I'll go ahead. I don't want to have broken legs and pulled ankles and tend them. We're, so we're teaching this dance class and um, there's another woman who used to be a dance teacher and so she's doing the tap segment cause there's a tap number Newsies and I'm, I'm old ballet dancer. So I'm doing sort of this mishmash of musical theater kind of style dance , and we're teaching that and we're not charging them. We're just like, it's free and it's just for the kids and we're having a blast. That's what we, that's what we're here for. So we certainly don't do it for the money. I've got a roof over my head. I, I know I can afford food and I can kind of afford my healthcare . Um, and so that's all I really need. Right. And then everything else is just that joy. I love teaching that. That to me brings such joy and these kids want to live and dance and most of them can't afford dance lessons. We have a great dance studio in town, but it can add up. And , um, so I've got kids in there that are just at a bunch of boys that really want to dance. Um, and the look on their faces, you know, that sparkle and those big smiles, you just go. Yeah. That's why I do it for sure.

Speaker 2:

How do you [inaudible] such a long, wonderful career. How do you take care of yourself?

Speaker 4:

I've been having that conversation with myself lately. Um, I , uh, let's see, I got a dog that requires a minimum amount of exercise cause I'm , my kids are gone, they're all grown up and they're like off doing their own thing. So the dog is how I take care of myself. It keeps me , uh, out there moving. Um, and I also just recently decided I'm 63 or 62, I'm going to be 63 and another month I'm going to , I'm going to allow myself to work until I'm 70, maybe more. I don't know. And so as soon as I, I gave myself permission to do that because there's this pressure to retire at 65 or maybe I just think there is, I don't know. Anyhow, as soon as I told myself I can go to your 70, Rachel, it's okay . What do you , what do you like, what are you going to do when you retire? Um, uh , I got so happy, but I also realized I need to take better care of myself. So , um, uh, you know, good food, the right food, lots of vegetables , uh, no alcohol except for special occasions, no sugar and a dog. And that's, that's how I do it. Um, uh, and like my, my dance class, Oh, this is really embarrassing. I have destroyed my ankles and so I can't really jump. So when I teach any kind of combination that requires jumping, I have to lay on the floor to demonstrate the movements and I'm looking up at these kids and I just wrote this , uh, on my Facebook page. I said, I'm, I , and I was one of those kids that like in dance class I would dance with my group, do the combination on the floor, then I'd run back and go with the second group and then I'd run back and go with the men and the men. When they, when you get to the men, when the men are doing the combination, they slow the music down because they jump higher. So I would go back and jump with them when I should be the most exhausted , I'm going as harder. If not, you know, I've been going as hard if not harder with them. And so I was a jumper. That's, that's if you looked at me, you would go that , that she's a jumper. It's the way my legs were built, everything. And here I am laying on the floor looking up at them and say , okay, lift this leg. Now when you're in the air, I want you to go like that and go to 180 degree split. And I'm looking at him and I'm thinking, you all know how to fly. And when did my wings fall off? No, when did that happen? In my life. So my , my goal is to get my wings back so I can at least jump a little bit. So , um, yeah, exercise. Got to do it.

Speaker 2:

What is a , what's a resource that you currently use or have used in the past that is a must have for new teachers or even teachers looking to kind of freshen up what they're doing in their classroom.

Speaker 4:

Get your masters . I, I , I , I'm , I'm convinced. I got my master's and it was just, that's what really helped me shape my four year program. Um, and I'll have theater people that are teaching theater, but they're not theater teachers either. They didn't get a degree in theater, but they're theater and they're going , um, you know, where first semester is gone and the kids are, they're so bored with doing improv. Do you have any other suggestions on what we should be doing next? And I always say is get your master's . Would you go get your master's ? Would you go back and study some more? Because you can't just pull it out of nowhere. So that's my first thing is, is if you're running out of steam, if you need to go back to school in a good program. Um, and I, the one I chose was theater production. I have a master's in theater production, which is everything that's involved in putting on a show. And that was really awesome for me. Um, but then also like go study with a professional group. Like I studied with the Brody theater in Portland. Um, and I would love, and I'm thinking about doing this, is going to uh , the UK and seeing if I can spend the summer work with frantic assembly and , and learning what they're doing and device theater. Like you have to, you have to go and theaters experiential, right. You have to as a teacher experience it as well. I think if you're going to teach it. Um, so yeah, get your masters and keep studying. That's the best way.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. That , that for me, when I, when I went back and got my master's , I I was able to tailor a lot of the courses I took to kind of fill in the gaps that I knew I was missing from my undergrad. Um, cause I was, I had a great undergrad program but I was greatly lacking in , in some technical things , um, in the tech theater aspects. And I was able to take lots of classes with my masters that help fill those gaps. So totally reinvented what I did in my classroom when I was finished with that , even as I was doing it . I mean over the course of me doing it and taking new things back to my class every year after the work in the summer that I did. So I , I agree with you. Where did you get your masters ?

Speaker 4:

Central Washington university. Okay . Um, they just had a, just a great program. Um, uh, that helped me shape my, my four year program. Um, I modeled it after some of the classes that I had there. So like my first year class is , is all physical movement because you know, they come in as freshmen and they're like talking heads and they don't understand how to connect with their body. So we do. And I , I studied classical mind when I was a dancer with a couple of really amazing teachers. So , um, they learn not only pantomime but classical mind, like the very stylized, the walk and everything and pull and push and combat. I just get them moving, they learn dance. And then second year is we , we just studied classical acting, whether , and this is all stuff that I learned up there at central Washington in Ellensburg or with West vantassle, like just how to break down the script, how to move as a classical actor, the movement FX are different. Um, and uh, then we get into modern acting and then three, four is a combination class. So I've got juniors and seniors in there and so it's a rotating two year curriculum and uh, S some of that stuff is what I learned up there, but then it's , it's then it's other things that I have acquired, but that masters program really shaped the order and addressed things that I might not have really focused on. And then again, I was like you, I was, I was a performer and so I really needed to boost my tech , uh, technical training. And I, I got that with, when I saw it , I took, went up there for a couple of classes and , and when I can really learn something here. And , um, so then I looked at their program, their master's program. It was, it was so evenly balanced between being out front and being backstage that I went, this is perfect for me. This will really cement it. So,

Speaker 2:

well, Rachel , what are your parting words of wisdom for new teachers who are just entering this field or even veteran teachers who just might need a word of inspiration?

Speaker 4:

Okay, that's going to get me in trouble. Maybe. Um, uh, why not? So central Washington asked me to come back up and talk and they, and I said, what do you want me to talk about? This is where I get into the trouble. Right? And they said how you got from a to B. And I thought about it and I thought, okay , so there's, there's a reason why I'm telling you all this. My students will tell you I like go off on tangents all the time, but there's really a reason why I go these directions. Um, so I have this little hobby and it is to sneak backstage of theaters. Like I go back there all the time and I know, and I've been all over, I've been in England and I've, I've snuck in the back of some theater that was dark. No one was there. I just want to walk around on their stage, feel the acoustics, kind of look and see what kind of equipment they're wearing . I'm not doing anything. I'm not like stealing anything. I'm just looking and um, there's always a door that's not quite clicked shut. There's always some way of just walking in. And so , um, and, and I , I usually try to approach getting on backstage a legit way, like walking up to the stage manager, that guy out there on the techies, you don't go to the actors and I don't talk to them after show , I go and talk to the text to find out like how they got that special effect or all that. And then they're usually so excited, right. But if there's no one there, then I go around the back way and I , I have to tell you, I did get into the globe in London. I couldn't afford the tour ticket. So I walked around behind it and there was a door open and I walked out on the stage in the globe theater and just stood on the stage for a couple of seconds and then a tour group was coming in and I could hear them talking. So I just sorta went back out. So I'm telling you this because if you are a new teacher or if you're trying to get a program built, you're going to have to go in the back way . You're going to have to try windows if the door is locked. And I have done so many things to add classes to my program. It started out when I first started teaching there, there was a semester long freshman drama class and I built it into a four year program where I'm sometimes teaching two groups, the actors and the texts . I have an intro to tech class, I have a performance troop . Some of these classes get college credit because they're dual enrollment. But I had to literally do all kinds of things and manipulate how people look at things to get there so that my students could have four years of theater training and I got my master's . I mean, I did everything I could to make that program something that I could be proud of. And that's what you have to do. If you're going to be a teacher , you've got to go if, if the front door is locked or if they're saying no, you go around to the back and you find a door that's moods, someone , there's always something and you can find your way in. So that would be my, and that's what I told him up at central Washington and I saw eyebrows just going right up into their hair. They were like, don't tell that to our college students. So I don't think I'll ever be invited back there. And that's my Alma mater and I feel horrible. But, but it's true. You're going to have to break rules if you're going to get , uh , if you're doing something you really believe in . I think if you're, if you're doing it for the right reasons, break the rules.

Speaker 2:

And I know my listeners cannot see, like I can right now. Um , and you were, you've been wonderful and I , I love watch , I love, I love seeing the faces that I'm talking to when I'm recording these. Um, yeah. But , uh , for my listeners, as she got into that story, she sat up and she was right in the camera and I, I wish you could just see the passion in her face and her body as she was talking to me about that. But I , I know they're gonna be able to hear it. And Rachel, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and , uh, I know you're busy and so I know us finding this time was, was difficult, but I am very grateful for it. And , uh , I just thank you for your words of wisdom.

Speaker 4:

Well, thanks for inviting me on because I like to talk about this stuff. The only thing I like to talk about.

Speaker 2:

Well, all the best to you and your students rest of the summer and then into the fall and I wish you all the best. Thank you so much. All right , thank you. And that was 2017 Tony award winner. Rachel Harry , thank you so much for chatting with me. I hope you enjoyed the conversation and I hope you got a lot out of that and picked up some things that you can take back, a little points of inspiration as well as things that you can use in your classroom. Um, thank you so much for listening. Please check out our website, www.tedtalks.com where you can find all of our past shows in the archives with all of the teacher theater teacher resources and uh , other, other points of interest for you on that website. Find us on all your favorite podcast providers, Apple podcasts, iTunes, Google podcast, Google play, Spotify, Stitcher, any pot , and tune in. Go on any of those podcast providers. Subscribe to the show, rate us, review us, and share the podcast with this theater educators in your life. Who you think could benefit from what we're doing here. Thank you so much for , for checking us out. Please interact with us on Facebook, on fed talks on Twitter at theater ed talks, tumbler fed talks.tumblr.com on Instagram fed talks podcast and of course our website www.fedtalks.com. You can always email me@fedtalkspodcastatgmail.com if you would like to be a guest on the show, please reach out to me if you have topic ideas for what you'd like to hear on the show. I would love to hear from you or if you just have some feedback for me and how I can keep making the show better, please let me know that as well. Thank you Joel Hamlin and Joshua Schusterman for the use of your original music magnetizing and flip the record that we use here on the show. I am grateful to you guys and I am very grateful to you for listening, so if you have not caught up on all the past episodes, you can do that on your favorite podcast providers. You can do that through the [inaudible]

Speaker 1:

website. Just go back, check through and listen to anything you haven't listened to yet. I would appreciate that. I wish you all the best. I know we're all busy and we're wrapping up. We're coming to the end of our , uh, our year together in December, and you're gearing up for winter break, a much needed and deserved winter break theater teachers. So please make sure you find time, make some plans to the , to take care of you, to see some friends and family, just to relax a little bit. So thank you for all that you do and I hope you have a wonderful week .