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Community Spotlight: Jodi Disario

By Ginny Butsch posted 12-06-2016 11:20




 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 Jodi Disario, an EdTA professional member and the Director of Drama at Willow Glen High School in San Jose, California. Jodi is in her first year as a theatre teacher, but is no stranger to the stage. She quickly jumped into the Community, adding advice and asking thoughtful questions.  


Ginny: Why do you believe theatre is important? 


Jodi: Theatre gives people a chance to put away the person that, for whatever reason, they don’t want to be right now, and put on someone else for a little bit. In doing that, they can find the person they’re supposed to be.


Ginny: As a new theatre teacher, what do you need the most help with?


Jodi: DESIGN. I am an actress turned director. I came from a program where tech was done by two adults that were friends with our director. Kids helped out at the very end, but actors never touched anything. I know NOTHING about design, I have no skills in the imaginative part of the design process and I drive my students crazy because I am a visual learner and I don’t know something is wrong until I see it in front of me. It results in a lot of “No, no, no. That’s not right. Reset it and try it this way.” I almost drove two ASM’s over the edge this past play.


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


Jodi: Because I teach a 7th period class (play production), I do not have a 1st period. I have 2nd period prep, so I don’t actually have students until our tutorial period, which starts at 9:30. This would be wonderful, except that I’ve always been the teacher who gets to school at 5:00 in the morning because it’s the only time my mind is focused enough to get anything done. By 8:00, I’ve finished everything and am completely bored. I’m trying to talk them into adding a period for me next year and, if they’re not willing to pay me for it, increasing the drama budget.


Ginny: What is your favorite musical (or play)? What makes it so special?


Jodi: Rent. It tells the story of people who anyone, anywhere, would consider “misfits,” who find a community together through love. It’s what theatre is to me. That and I truly believe no musical since would exist without it. 


Ginny: What was the first play you ever saw? 


Jodi: Not counting ones I was in, my earliest memory is Cats on a choir field trip.


Ginny: What was the most difficult element of a production you’ve ever had to manage? 


Jodi: Convincing parents who have been working on various elements of the production for four or more years that just because we’ve “always done it that way” doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do something. That change can be good.


Ginny: Everyone has at least one good theatre story. Tell us yours! 


Jodi: Mine is as a high school senior. My final show, Bye, Bye Birdie, I was playing Mae Peterson and my boyfriend, a freshman (SCANDALOUS) was playing Mr. MacAfee. We were backstage between scenes and I wanted to go talk to him. I thought that the platforms backstage were pushed together, but they weren’t. I fell between them, spraining my ankle severely. I did the rest of the show on crutches, ad libbing reasons why, “See what happens when a MOTHER has to walk all the way from New York? I was going to take the bus, but I missed it when it ran over my foot."


Ginny: What is unique about your theatre program? 


Jodi: Tech is just as important, if not more so, than the students who are on the stage. Though we do not have a tech theatre class (yet - I’m still learning), our seniors have such strength in the skills and I’ve improved the recognition of their importance so that everybody sees how we all lean on each other. We even have two “Gypsy Robes,” one for actors and one for tech!


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


Jodi: I was 16, doing my first community theatre show, Grease. I was playing Frenchy and was one of the youngest in the cast. Closing night, I had a 102 degree fever and was severely dehydrated. We got to the slumber party scene and I was just dying to get my turn at the “wine” bottle, which was filled with water….so I thought. I took my giant swig, only to find out someone, who thought they were funny, had swapped it out for vodka.


Ginny: Name something on your bucket list.


Jodi: To attend the Tony Awards. Ideally, I’d be watching someone I love (my daughters or my students) accept an award, but I’d be happy just being in the audience… with Anthony Rapp as my date.


Ginny: If you could have a different career, what would you choose?


Jodi: It took me 20 years to find this one. I’m not going anywhere.


Ginny: How do you relax after a busy day?


Jodi: Relax? Relax? What is this word, relax? Oh, you mean the glass of margarita, microwaved frozen tacos and an episode and a half of Grey’s Anatomy before I pass out? That?


Ginny: What is your proudest accomplishment?


Jodi: Being told that I saved someone’s life through theatre and knowing it was true.


Ginny: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?


Jodi: The obvious answer here is New York City, but I would have to have unlimited funds, because I would spend every possible second seeing shows and cabarets.


Ginny: Tell us about the best day of your life.


Jodi: I don’t think it’s happened yet. I’ve had a lot of REALLY good ones- wedding, two childbirths, teacher of the year, putting up some amazing productions, being given my dream job... twice... but no. I think it’s still out there.


With an emphasis on growing technical theatre skills and solid parental support, Jodi clearly has set her program up for success. If you enjoyed Jodi’s 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.