Lisa’s Question: Two of the cores values of your theater school are Respect and Commitment. Why is theater the ideal vehicle to teach those skills?

Autumn’s Answer: Many students (and parents) approach a theater education with the idea that it’s fun and easy. Put on a costume, memorize some lines and you’re an actor. We work hard to dispel this myth through the values of Respect and Commitment.

We communicate our expectations of Commitment to parents and students before they even register or audition for a program. Just like an athletic team, we require students to attend all classes and rehearsals and we expect them to be on time and prepared to work. We reinforce this expectation with continued communication including group discussion when a violation has occurred.

The value of respect is inherent in everything we do at TVCT. We treat our students, parents and peers with respect and we demand the same of anyone who works with us. When working with students, we talk about how we, as performers, need to build trust among our group through respectful action. We must respect the space we perform in. We respect the material created by the playwright. And, most importantly, we respect the journey of each individual character and the actor portraying that character. The saying, “there are no small parts, only small actors” is very true in the programs we produce. We recently confronted a situation where an ensemble actor was going to miss a performance. With the exception of severe illness or death, we do not allow missed performances. The young performer’s parent didn’t understand why we wouldn’t allow their child to miss a performance. They stated, “he’s just in the ensemble.” This attitude completely discounts the incredible work of the young person who created an authentic role, developed onstage relationships with other ensemble actors and who earned the trust of his fellow performers. Ensemble actors are often the most important individuals on our stage because they are critical to the authentic telling of the stories we produce. To miss a performance, regardless of the role an actor is playing, is to disappoint your entire cast, not honor your commitment and, ultimately, disrespect your own value and worth.

Our team used this situation to reinforce our values. With the young performer’s permission, we had a cast discussion about the situation. We asked the cast to help us find a solution to the possibility that one of their cast members would miss a performance. The discussion was powerful, honest and ultimately led to the decision that no one would miss a performance.

Lisa’s Question: What impact does theater training have in other areas of your students’ lives?

Autumn’s Answer: I believe all committed educators want their students to make connections with the curriculum and real world scenarios. We’re no different. We use reflection, journaling, group discussion and activities to help our students connect their performance experiences with real world opportunities. In our Young Performers programs, we facilitate budgeting, fundraising, marketing and scheduling activities. These activities are designed to help them understand the work that it takes to become an artist as well as make connections with the skills they will need in life, no matter what they decide to do.

Lisa’s Question: If you could say one thing to the Trump administration about the arts what would it be?

Autumn’s Answer: Only one thing? Artists are innovators. Artists are entrepreneurs. To dismiss an entire industry – an industry that represents 4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP—a larger share of the economy than transportation, tourism, and agriculture (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis) – will hurt the economy and have future ramifications we can’t even begin to fathom. There is absolutely no supporting evidence to demonstrate that the arts don’t matter. In fact, all of the evidence suggests that if we want to get ahead in the world – if we truly want to make America great – we need MORE arts in our schools, churches, businesses and government.
Wow thank you Autumn for sharing such great insights! I especially love your last answer about artists being entrepreneurs. That is a huge passion of mine and I can speak for hours about it – and I do if you get me going! To learn more about the great work happening at Treasure Valley please visit their website or drop by their school if you are in the area: