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Community Spotlight: Kristin Hall

By Ginny Butsch posted 05-30-2017 11:14


kh3.jpg Hyenas from The Lion King JR.


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 Kristin Hall, an EdTA Member who serves as the Drama Director for Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Kristin is a bronze level contributor who has worked with students in middle school and high school and always has a smart idea or lesson to share with her fellow Community members.


Ginny: What kind of training/education did it take to get you to the job you have today? What inspired you to become a teacher?


Kristin: I’ve always loved theatre, and my parents took me to see shows throughout my childhood.  I used to write musicals for my stuffed animals to perform for my family.  At school, I was involved in all aspects of after school theatre:  there were no options to take any theatre classes.


I majored in Theatre Arts at a liberal arts college, Mount Holyoke, for my B.A.  When I started college, I thought I wanted to be an International Relations major, but when I took “World Politics” first semester, I realized that I was not going to be able to solve the world’s problems.  It was all a bit too real.  At the same time, in spite of not being enrolled in any theatre classes that semester, I gravitated toward the theatre, and signed up for a crew position for each show.  By about February, I was a Theatre Major. 


The next four years gave me broad based knowledge and experience in all aspects of theatre.  I don’t think it would be possible to do my current job had I not had that training. I am now a department of one, and although I take advantage of as many parent volunteers as possible, I have to know how to “do it all.” 


My junior year was spent in London, seeing two or three shows a week all year, and gaining exposure to training that was significantly different from the very American training I had previously received.  It also led to more time in Britain.  I was back again after graduating, working as a temp., and seeing as many shows as I could.  In my free time I hung out at the Theatre Bookshop (now, sadly, closed), and read books about theatre and drama in education by David Hornbrook and Dorothy Heathcote.  During my summers, I continued to work as a camp counselor in Vermont.


But it didn’t click that I was destined to teach, until I spent a year interning at a theatre in Florida, teaching classes in their youth program and taking touring workshops to schools.  The fleeting contact with students during the workshops was so frustrating!  The joy of being a camp counselor was that I got to work with campers for summer after summer, building strong connections.  My “ah-ha” moment was a conversation with a teacher at one of the schools in Florida about her work with her students.  She probably doesn’t remember, but I thought: “I want her job.”


Next came a Masters degree in Theatre Studies at the University of Leeds.  My studies and dissertation focused on theatre in schools, at a time when “process versus product” was heavily debated, and the new National Curriculum was first being implemented (with Drama as part of English rather than a discreet subject).  For the Brits it was a stressful time, but for me nothing could take away the delight of being in a place where every secondary school had a drama department, and every student studied drama.  My M.A. also steered away from the more traditional styles I had experienced during my B.A., and I delved into Devised Theatre, Community Theatre, Boal, Physical Theatre and more. 


One further year of teacher training in Manchester, England, and I was into my first job at a secondary school in central England, teaching grades 6-12.  Being part of a three person Drama department ensured that I was supported and mentored in my first years of teaching… I can’t imagine how tough it would have been to start teaching in a position like the one I hold now.


Ginny: Why do you believe theatre is important?


Kristin: Empathy and imagination. 

"The Walking Stones" by Mollie Hunter, adapted for the stage by Kristin Hall


Ginny: What is your greatest challenge currently?


Kristin: Time and space.  I only teach most students once a week at best.  “Academic” teachers have seen the students as many times by the end of September as I see the students in a whole year.


My spaces are shared ones.  Other teachers might have nightmares about badly behaved students or things like that; my recurring teacher’s nightmare is that I have a class of kids, but no place to teach them.  They follow me from room to room as I knock on doors to ask if I can use that room to teach in, and the answer is no.  I always wake up before I find a space to teach!


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


Kristin: Teach at School A, one or two classes, either 6/7, 7/8 or grade 5.

Drive to School B (about 10 peaceful minutes of either planning or NPR time).

Teach one or two classes, same grades as School A, plus a short elective twice a week and an advisory group twice a week.

After school rehearsal for 1.5-2.5 hours.  Tech happens after rehearsal, or on weekends.


I do three shows a year:  a full length straight play, a junior musical, and a one act play (also worked in one elective class).  School A doesn’t have an after school program, but I’m working on it …


Ginny: What was the first play you ever saw? 


Kristin: I’m not sure which came first, but I remember “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and “Charley’s Aunt,” both at Theatre-by-the-Sea in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.


Ginny: What is your “dream” show? The one that you would love to direct at your school if there weren’t any obstacles?


Kristin: Somehow my one semester of college German Literature stuck with me.  I’d love to direct “Spring Awakening.”  And I once got to direct “The Visit” when I still taught high school… but they are not grade 5-8 shows!  On the more cheerful side, I would love to do “Into the Woods,” but we only do shows with big ensembles.


Still, I’ve had a chance to direct some fantastic shows at the middle school level.  We just closed “The Lion King Jr.” – one of the most rewarding and wonderful theatrical experiences I’ve ever had.  “The Rememberer,” “Faces of Freedom” and “Baghdad Zoo” stand out for their challenging and thoughtful content combined with theatricality; and “Romeo and Juliet Together (and Alive!) at Last” for sheer fun!


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


Kristin: The appearance of The Hound in “Hound of the Baskervilles…” the time I’ve most wished for a tech director to help me!  (Though I am lucky to have IT staff members who love to support theatre when they can.)


Ginny: What is unique about your theatre program?


Kristin: Not unique, but important.  We have a heavy emphasis on devised work.  I don’t think of my job as training future theatre professionals, I just want the students to think, and to think about how to communicate, and to experiment with theatre.  We also work to teach empathy, often exploring how the same situation can be perceived differently by different characters – from “Jack and the Beanstalk” to “The Tempest” to real life situations.


Also, we don’t make cuts from any of our shows.

Mercutio’s death from Romeo and Juliet Together (and Alive!) at Last


Ginny: Tell us about a student that you’ll always remember and why.


Kristin: I’ve taught a lot of fun, interesting and thoughtful students.  I guess it is in contrast to what I wrote about not training professionals, but one I’ll always remember was a high school student.  She loved theatre, but during her A-level (junior/senior year), she discovered through my class that she loved set design.  She was that student who just soaked up everything you said, did everything you suggested, then enthusiastically added her own research and creativity on top.  Her final project was a set for “The Tempest” and it begged to be built and used.  And she went on to study and work in the theatre. 


The reality is that, into my third decade of teaching, I remember lots of students!  There are many who are engaging, open, funny, warm and eager to learn.  I love to watch them grow up over the four years that I teach them: some go from scared and self-conscious fifth graders to confident leaders and performers.  It is the most rewarding part of my job.


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


Kristin: I have a hard time imagining doing anything else, but I have decided that when I retire from teaching, I want to work at Penzey’s (the spice store).  I’d get to indulge my love of cooking, and the store is filled with such beautiful scents (after years of working in a middle school!).


Ginny: How do you relax after a busy day?


Kristin: I cook, and I play too much Solitaire on the computer.  I also drive my kids around, but I’m not sure that is relaxing.


Ginny: Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of theatre? What is something we would be surprised to learn about you?


Kristin: My main hobby outside of theatre is a sport called Orienteering.  You race, usually in the woods, to complete a course marked on a detailed map as a series of points; but you have to navigate from point to point.  I’ve been competing since I was a kid.  Generally orienteering appeals to analytical types (lots of engineers, scientists and computer programmers), but I’ve met two other theatre people who orienteer… one set designer from Australia and one actor/playwright from London.  I’m hoping my daughter will add herself to that list!  It gets me outside, and it keeps my brain busier than just running (though I do that, too).


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


Kristin: Somewhere that combines the landscape of Norway, the food of India and the theatre of London… but I haven’t found it yet.

With a traveling classroom and a history of travel, Kristin’s adaptability and broad range of experiences make her a key member of our Open Forum. If you enjoyed Kristin’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.