Nashville Children’s Theatre (NCT), the nation’s oldest professional theatre for young audiences, launched the Teaching Artists of Color Training Program earlier this month.
After losing many of its teaching artists due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Colin Peterson, NCT’s Education Director, knew he was going to have to pivot his approach to onboarding and training teaching staff.
“It’s been a goal of mine to increase equity and diversity at NCT through our education programs, and now is the time,” said Peterson.
Thus far, NCT has taken steps to improve equity by increasing teaching artists’ weekly pay, providing free extended care for weekly camps, and paying stipends to its college-aged summer camp interns. To take further steps to provide opportunities to young artists, Peterson brought together community activists, directors and Black NCT teaching artists Shawn Whitsell and Jon Royal to discuss how to achieve various equity goals. From these conversations, came the Teaching Artists of Color Training Program. Through generous funding by the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Mark and Trayte Peters Family, the program is funded for three sessions until 2024.
The Teaching Artists of Color Training Program will admit three artists of color each year to participate in trainings on classroom management, childhood development, trauma-informed practices, inclusion training and general drama skills facilitation. Sessions will be hosted in one-on-one and group formats. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in field-work during regularly hosted Saturday morning classes at NCT serving students 4 to 18 years of age and can complete their training with a guaranteed 5-weeks of employment with NCT for summer camp sessions. Graduated artists will also have the opportunity to continue their work with NCT beyond the summer to serve as a regular teaching artist for NCT’s ongoing drama camps and classes. The program will be led by Jon Royal, a professional director and teaching artist, and co-facilitated by Peterson.
“The hope with this program is that artists who may have always wanted to step into the classroom and teach can have a space to be supported in building a new part of their practice,” said Royal. “Hopefully, some of the processing that can happen when you’re a person of color, in predominantly white training situations can be expressed openly, instead of internalized. If we can help teaching artists bring their full selves into this work, then young people will feel courageous enough to do the same.”
Participants in the 2022 class include:
- Gerold Oliver, a Nashville-based actor who portrayed Peter Pan in Wendy’s Adventure to Neverland, as well as portraying the titular character of Ghost in the NCT Hatchery’s world-premiere production of Ryan Reynold’s book, Ghost.
- James Rudolph, a Nashville-based actor who portrayed Sebastian in NCT’s production of Disney’s the Little Mermaid, as well as portraying Dad in NCT’s livestreamed production of Pete the Cat.
- Piper Jones, a Nashville-based actor and American Idol contestant who portrayed Actor Troupe/Neverbird in Wendy’s Adventure to Neverland, as well as portraying Ursula in NCT’s production of Disney’s the Little Mermaid.