Teaching Philosophy

Mark Colson

My primary focus is on mentoring students to become thoughtful and engaged artists who are prepared for the challenges of careers in the performing arts. One of my strengths as a teacher is in approaching each student individually; working from where they are in their process and building upon a core emotional understanding. This method is how I define a progressive approach to education in the arts; it is fluid and adaptable, tailored to each student and their specific needs. In the same way that we train the muscles for voice and movement, I endeavor to train an actors’ emotional connection to character. This work is achieved through in-depth research, the repetition of exercises, and rehearsal, all of which build the inner life of the character, and slowly expand the actors’ emotional capacity.

Cultivating trust between teacher and student and creating a safe place to explore is imperative to the growth of a young artist. I employ a holistic approach to teaching that focuses on connecting to the instructor, to the ensemble, to scene partners, and, most importantly, to the work. In all of my classes, I push my students to experiment, risk, and fail -we redefine “failure” as an integral part of the artistic process. Safe choices are reluctantly abandoned, as exploration, and personal cost become the goals. Also, the use of smart-phones is prohibited in my classroom, as they are a hindrance to one-on-one interaction and the class dynamic as a whole.  

We contextualize our experience by studying history, art, religion, and science. As performing artists, students need to be archaeologists of the human condition. This type of analysis helps actors channel information into thoughtful character research that facilitates compassion for others; as we create art (theatre and film), we create empathy. A robust and diverse liberal arts education facilitates a vibrant learning environment, reflected by its faculty.  An active theatre department is balanced with academics and professionals –both are necessary for establishing and maintaining a relevant, equitable, and forward-thinking program. A diversity of backgrounds and opinions, in both faculty and students, should be nurtured as a foundational element of a department, embracing new methods and perspectives.

My continued work as a professional actor strengthens my lessons in the classroom. I share my own experiences of auditioning and working in film, TV, and theatre, offering my students first-hand information and giving them a window into real-world scenarios. My responsibilities continue post-graduation, helping to make connections with agents and casting directors and strengthening the students’ network of like-minded artists.

Developing storytellers is critical to the survival of our art form, be it, film or theatre. I challenge students to create personal narratives in scenes and short films.  These projects perpetuate self-reliance, as well as fostering skills in collaboration. Through this interdisciplinary learning environment, we expand our creative boundaries and develop artists who are focused, innovative, and empowered.

Directing has always been a part of my career trajectory. I enjoy the research and attention to detail involved in interpreting a playwright’s vision. My philosophy toward directing is straight-forward: directing is storytelling.The director serves the script utilizing actors, wardrobe, set, props, and sound to deliver the overriding truth, message, and themes of the author. This approach may seem elementary, yet productions can get sidetracked by randomly imposed elements, some extensively researched, that have nothing to do with the essence of the story. Additionally, in developing new works, flushing out elements of the story and generating truthful dialogue becomes essential. Shaping original material calls for a director who understands the structure of improvisation as well as how to facilitate collaboration between all members of the creative process; cast, designers, and crew.