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Community Spotlight: Jessica Harms

By Ginny Butsch posted 02-23-2016 09:16


One of the main goals for our Theatre Education Community is to help theatre students and professionals from all over connect and identify with each other in order to build resources and support the theatre education field. We shine a spotlight on a different member every other week by conducting a simple interview.

Our latest Spotlight Member is Jessica Harms. Jessica is a high school theatre teacher for Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Acton, Massachusetts. Jessica has been a long-time contributor to the Community, perhaps most well-known for her thoughtfully written blogs on a variety of theatre topics. If you haven’t taken the time to read them yet, I promise you’ll be glad you did.

Ginny: What is the weirdest stage food you’ve ever  made or eaten?

Jessica: Not necessarily weird, but unusual... In our current production, we have a glass of champagne that has to turn black and scare the actor holding it.

Ginny: What does a typical day look like for you?

Jessica: My day starts at 6:30 with the alarm, and I am not a morning person! Why does high school have to start so early?! I typically roll into school just in time for our second period, which is my first class: Intro to Acting. Our class is forty-five minutes, then I have prep periods in my office. My office is a place where students can hang out and study. We have tons of fake pillar candles from our productions around the office, and some lamps from the props closet to make a relaxing ambience. Most days if you walk by, you’ll hear some show tunes (for the past month it’s been Hamilton). I teach two more classes, then finish the day with rehearsal from 2:30-5:30, or maybe a meeting with our student leadership board, who helps me run our theatre program.  

Ginny: Everyone has at least one good theatre story (a costume mishap, smoke alarms during performances, malfunctioning set pieces, etc.), tell us yours!

Jessica: I directed an eighth grade production of Guys and Dolls, where the student playing Nathan Detroit was just over four feet tall, and the student playing Big Jule was almost six feet tall. In one performance, Big Jule grabbed Nathan’s shirt to lift him up and the button down shirt ripped off of Nathan from under his jacket.

Ginny: What is your proudest accomplishment?

Jessica: When I first thought about this question, an answer quickly floated to the front. Last year, I conceived the idea of producing a completely silent show - that the actors would only have they physicality to tell their story. As a company, our high school created a silent version of Treasure Island. But when I really think about this question, the true answer has got to be a time I helped others believe in their own self-worth.

Ginny: What toy do you most remember from your childhood?

Jessica: If I wasn’t reading a “Nancy Drew,” I was probably playing a board game. I’d play games with my Grandmother and sisters every night over the summer, everything from Rummikub to Clue to Coco Crazy. I’m still a game fan... Scrabble or Ticket to Ride anyone?

Ginny: How do you relax after a busy day?

Jessica: I am a total foodie.  I love cooking (and eating!) with my husband and trying new things. We recently learned how to cook ropa vieja, a great Cuban dish. I was so excited about it that I shared it with my students in class, who all told me that it translates to “old clothes.”  Turns out it does, but for “old clothes” it sure is tasty.  But honestly, after a busy day, nothing is better than walking in the front door to the happy, wagging tail of my puppy.

Jessica’s creativity and generous nature are certainly treasured assets to the students at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School and the members of our Community. If you enjoyed Jessicas interview as much as I did, add her as a contact in the Community!

Do you know someone who deserves a moment in the Spotlight? Tell me their name and why at Want to read more Community Spotlights? You can find them here.

Photo of Ropa Vieja via Wikimedia Commons