Testimonial #46: Erik Abbott, Theatre Artist, Producer, Scholar, Critic and Teacher, Actors Repertory Theatre Luxembourg

“Madame French Teacher had a limited background in theatre, but she had an infectious spirit, an ability to inspire — and high expectations: she demanded commitment and discipline and hard work.”

How are the arts re-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your local schools?

I know that there are performing arts programmes in the state schools, in the European School (for children of EU employees) and in the prominent private schools. At least some of those programmes are very strong. There is also a state conservatory that offers music and theatre courses for young people. One of the long-time amateur theatre clubs (going strong for over forty years) offers a youth theatre programme every year, as well as a summer residential academy. What precisely, the effect of all this is on innovation and creativity in the schools, I honesty don’t know. But, as a theatre artist, producer, scholar, critic and teacher, it thrills me that I see young people in attendance at every single production I attend (and I attend a lot). We know that arts education and participation increases critical thinking skills and cognition — in other words, the arts create better learners. It is an absolute article of faith for me that they also create better citizens, parents, workers — people.

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

We have to go back to the beginning: eighth grade. I was kind of short, kind of fat, more than kind of nerdy, a late bloomer, angry and unhappy. A friend suggested I get involved in the school spring musical, which was going to be directed by the French teacher, whom I didn’t know. (To this day I’ve never taken a French class.) I did ask to be involved (I don’t think we had actual auditions) and I was cast and, well, the rest is history. Madame French Teacher had a limited background in theatre, but she had an infectious spirit, an ability to inspire — and high expectations: she demanded commitment and discipline and hard work. I fell in love with being in a theatre and being on stage. I learned lessons in that first show that I still follow (not least things like ‘upstage’ and ‘downstage’). I made a decision, or more accurately, I discovered that this was what I was going to do with my life. And I have. I’ve spent my life in the theatre, in one way or another. My skills have enlarged and evolved — I rarely act onstage any more, but I direct and produce and teach and critique and practice dramaturgy and write plays and do scholarship and set budgets and update the company Facebook page and write press releases and publicity material and negotiate venue leases, etc., etc., etc. At thirteen, I awakened to an idea that no other life is possible. I still believe that. Thank you, Madame French Teacher.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: