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.

The Madrid’s Edie Falco on Carmela, Jackie and the High School Musical That Launched Her Career

By Kathy Henderson
Twitter @KatH_NY
February 27, 2013
Broadway.Com

Before Edie Falco donned mob wife couture as Carmela in The Sopranos, she won a Theatre World Award for her harrowing performance as the embittered wife of a jazz musician in Warren Leight’s Tony-winning drama Side Man. Falco continued to make stage acting a priority while becoming only the second person in history to win lead acting Emmys in both drama (The Sopranos) and comedy (the title role in Nurse Jackie). Now starring as a runaway mom in MTC’s off-Broadway premiere of The Madrid, Falco chatted with Broadway.com about her iconic TV heroines, three favorite stage roles and the high school musical that gave her the confidence to pursue a career in acting.
Read more…

Role That Changed My Life

“I was a shy, awkward kid—I didn’t know how to be popular and never wore the right clothes—and being chosen to play Eliza in My Fair Lady at Northport High School [on Long Island] was very, very meaningful. My mother had been an actress, and the idea of auditioning for a play was mortifyingly scary for me. But Fran McGarry, who is still performing, cast me and gave me the confidence that I could carry a play and lead an ensemble. The fact that she trusted me was a huge part in my becoming an actress. My Henry Higgins was David Troup, who now works at a theater in Maine [Everyman Rep] and was one of my dearest friends. I would love to do a [Broadway] musical. I almost did Threepenny Opera with Alan Cumming, but I had a conflict. I find the whole mode of expression in musicals very moving.”

Fran’s Comment:

As Edie’s high school drama teacher, I am grateful and humbled to know that I played a small part in the arc of her career; nevertheless, there are thousands of teachers who have impacted the lives of so many students. Edie was the first to share her story:
“Fran McGarry and Eve Terry, perhaps unbeknownst to them, played a huge part in my path to my present career. Though I was just a schoolkid, they treated me like an artist; made me believe I had something unique to offer. They helped grow my confidence which I believe can take you anywhere you want to go. I am so grateful.” Edie Falco, July 11,2011

What about you?
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?