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Community Spotlight: Anne Elisa Brown

By Ginny Butsch posted 12-12-2017 09:56


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 next spotlight is Anne Elisa Brown, a high school English/Spanish teacher and theatre director at Madison High School in Madison, South Dakota. Anne Elisa is working hard to build a theatre program and bring some well-deserved recognition to her students in a sports-centered district.

Why do you believe theatre is important?

I believe that theater is important because it is one of the ways that humanity reflects on itself. Since the beginning of human kind, we have used the art of performance to comment on the human condition and to help us understand who we are as people. I love that we can learn about the experiences of others by watching or reading a play. My theater students literally get to walk in another person’s shoes and maybe come away with a deeper understanding of human nature. Theater is also important to me because, I can watch my students grow as individuals as they learn skills that they will use throughout their lives. No matter how my students are involved, whether they are actors, technical crew, student-directors, choreographers, or just enrolled in a theater class, they all learn how to problem solve, be creative, express themselves, how to manage their time, how to collaborate, and how to be adaptable.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical school day for me starts at 7:45. Up until this year, I taught Spanish, English, and Intro to Theatre classes. This year, I was asked to take over my school’s Spanish department, so unfortunately, I am no longer teaching Theatre as an academic class. I am still the director of my high school’s theatre department. After the school day ends, I direct rehearsals for whatever production we are currently doing. Rehearsals typically go until 5:00 pm each day during our One Act season, and 5:30 each day for our spring production. After rehearsal, my evenings are typically full. I have two small boys and do a lot of driving to their activities. I also volunteer as an English as a Second Language Instructor and Curriculum Coordinator for my community.

What is the resource you most recommend to others in your profession?

The resource I most recommend to others in my profession is the students! I teach in a pretty small school with very limited resources. I have a Technical Director, a colleague at my school, who has been a life saver, but even with the two of us, we are stretched pretty thin. The students have been my best resource. They are endlessly creative and often come up with ideas that I never would have thought of myself! I try to give them a lot of creative freedom. The students are directly involved in every aspect of the production process. I want to hear their ideas and encourage them to get involved as much as possible. I tell them that although I do reserve the right to say no to an idea, I rarely have to. Often, their ideas may not work exactly as suggested, but we can find a way to incorporate their ideas into my larger vision of the production. I love that each of our productions is a reflection of our collaborations as a team.

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

The most difficult aspect of any production I have ever had to manage has been students dealing with serious personal crises during productions. As a high school teacher, I wear many different hats throughout the day. In the course of one day, I can be teacher, advocate, counselor, friend, mom, or whatever else my students need me to be. Watching my students go through individual crises has been difficult. Sometimes a student’s personal life can over-flow into the production process. Trying to support an individual student who is going through something tough, not letting that student’s chronic absences affect the show, and trying to be there for the rest of the cast and crew is sometimes harder than it would seem.

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

During the performance of one of our one act shows at the state one act festival, we had a malfunctioning sound effect. Two of the actors were engaged in a struggle over a pistol and there was supposed to be a gunshot sound effect and one of the actors was supposed to fall to the floor. The sound effect for some reason didn’t work and the two actors were stuck on the stage in a (seemingly) never ending struggle over the gun. Finally, one of my students thought to slam a book onto the floor backstage, which made a sound enough like a gunshot that the actors knew to stop waiting for the sound effect and continue the scene. We ended up being two seconds short of the elimination time! 

Name something on your bucket list.

I have a lot of things on my bucket list! I would love to someday study theater in Europe. Maybe once my two boys are grown up!

Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of theatre?

I enjoy performing as a vocalist. I was a professional singer for about ten years in my twenties, but have continued to sing in bands. I currently sing with a great band in my town. I have been performing in various bands now for twenty years!

What is something we would be surprised to learn about you?

I am a bit of an adventurer… or at least I was before I had kids! I have been to twenty one different countries, I have gone on two African safaris and I swam with sharks in South Africa. I have also gone sky diving and have back-packed in Europe five times.

What is your favorite part of the day?

My favorite part of the work day is rehearsal. My students never cease to inspire me. They can make me laugh out loud, full-bellied laughter, or make me cry after a moving performance. My favorite part of the entire day is getting home and relaxing with my two sons. They are 6 and 8 years old and are the funniest, craziest, coolest, weirdest people I know.

What lucky students to have found themselves under Anne Elisa’s nurturing direction! If you enjoyed Anne Elisa’s interview as much as we 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.