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Community Spotlight: Cathy Archer

By Ginny Butsch posted 05-15-2018 13:55


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 Cathy Archer, the theatre teacher and troupe director at Rutland High School in Rutland, Vermont, home to Thespian Troupe 5698. Cathy is a regular at Festival and has been asking questions and advising her peers since the Community’s inception. She is passionate about demonstrating the importance of theatre education and participates in TIOS to help raise awareness. This year, she contributed to the Global Issues Network Conference held at her school each year. The theme was “Education for All,” and her booth promoted arts education. Anyone who stopped by the booth signed a banner in support, now displayed in the lobby of the school (pictured below).


Why do you believe theatre is important?

Theatre provides a safe harbor for all who are involved. It creates a community of people who care about each other and the world around them. It allows students to experience a variety of cultures and perspectives. Through theatre students learn empathy, creative problem solving, collaboration skills, and leadership skills. For many students, it is what keeps them in school. Relationships are formed which continue into their adult lives. Theatre tells the stories of our lives and it is through the telling of these stories that we share our humanness with each other.


What is your greatest challenge?

The ever changing nature of our students. Teaching commitment as a long term goal in a world of instant gratification.


What does a typical day look like for you?

My day starts at 5:45, with exercise and then getting ready for school. I arrive at school at 7:50 or so. I interact with a variety of students and prepare my black box theatre space for my class. I prepare for my class - getting all materials out and going over what the expectations will be for the class. My class, this quarter- Stagecraft and Design- meets for 70 minutes every day. After class, I meet with my independent study student who is working on directing our next production, The Hobbit. I also meet with my DUO students who are given tasks like copying, putting up posters, organizing the costume shop, etc. Then comes lunch with the students, Flex block - which is an enrichment period and can include working on scenes with the independent study students in acting, improv games with the group developing a play for June, Producers meeting or meeting with my homeroom. Depending on the day, I may be subbing for various teachers because I am contracted to teach one class and can sub when needed (and I get paid)! After school is for rehearsals, which I am now participating in as an actor and adult supervisor while my student directs. I usually get home between 6 and 8:30, depending on the day. If I get home before dark, my husband and I take the dog for a walk.


Tell us about the best day of your career.

Any day that a student discovers that theatre on some level is cool, or at least doesn’t suck!


Do you have any tips for new theatre teachers?

Enjoy the small successes, celebrate them. Learn from the failures and then let them go.

Booth display for the Global Issues Network Conference

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

Once on This Island, this one touches my heart every time I see it. We did a production in the round which ended with everyone in the audience and on stage dancing. I found a choreographer who taught the students African dance and started taking dance after this show. I no longer avoid dance workshops but embrace them.


What inspired you to become a teacher?  

I have always loved children. I never thought I would teach high school students. However, it has been a wonderful journey and I would not change a thing. Guiding students to new learning and new passions is what makes teaching worthwhile. In addition, my grandmother was a teacher, my aunt was a teacher, my great aunt was a teacher… it is in my genes.


What is unique about your program?

We have a summer program that I started almost twenty years ago. In three weeks, we now develop a play based on the library reading program. The play is devised by the students and me. We design and build the set, costumes and props for the show. The fourth week, we tour the state of Vermont. We perform the play as many as three times each day. The students become a traveling troupe of players. The last three years we have added audience participation and this year we are adding music. We perform for audiences of ten or 400!


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

Technology - we tried using projections and the computer kept trying to log onto the internet in the middle of the performance at a competition!


Name something on your bucket list.

Playing Dottie in Noises Off.


How do you relax after a busy day?

Painting fabric banners, wood or ceramic items. Walking my dog.


What is your proudest accomplishment?

Starting the theatre program at Rutland High School, thirty-three years ago.  When there was a possibility of theatre being cut, the parents and former students came forward and saved the program. It was awe-inspiring to watch them fill the board room, sign petitions and speak in behalf of myself and the program. 


Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of theatre?

Painting, sewing, baking, ice-skating, camping, swimming, kayaking.


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

I just delivered a sermon on the Spirituality of Theatre at my Unitarian Church.


What is your favorite part of the day?

Morning in the morning, afternoon in the afternoon, evening in the evening.


If you enjoyed Cathy’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.