Monday, April 15, 2009

TEACHING THEATER - TEACHING LIFE

When I was 7 years old, I turned to my parents and told them, "I want to be a star." That was very strange coming from a young boy who grew up in a log cabin on a mountain on a farm in the country. However, the universe had plans for me at a very early age and little did I know then where it would lead me. The journey took me into a fantastical world of live theater. I spent my youth singing, dancing and acting in a touring company, then onto musical theater in New York, to 10 years as an entertainer for the Walt Disney World Co. into producing, directing and choreographing around the world. The latest step in my journey has involved opening my own theater company, TheatreWorks Florida, right here in Central Florida, in 2007. Looking back at my 42 years on this planet, I've already lived three lifetimes of a career. Thank you, God.

But - this article is not about my biography. It's about my passion. When asked what my passion is I would not respond "theater" but rather - "telling stories."

As a human race, we have been telling stories since the dawn of time. There is no culture on the globe that does not have stories. They are part of us. We do this for so many reasons - to entertain, to teach, to express, to visualize- but I find in the end, stories help us to understand ourselves a little bit better and give meaning to our lives. These stories help us to reach a place of understanding we may otherwise not have known.

Anytime I get ready to create on stage, I always begin with research, whether it's the people, the time, the place, the elements, etc. Once I have a clearer understanding of what I'm dealing with, then I return to the world of the play and venture to look into the characters and the moments bound between the pages. It never fails that I have my own personal emotions that come rushing in to take over - and that's when the magic happens. Something very powerful stirs within me and I start to visualize the entire world coming to life on a stage. It is at that precise moment I let go of any preconceived notions I may have held and let my inner spirit, my soul, do the talking. I was given a great opportunity as a child to take some classes with the great Bob Fosse who once said in a workshop, "Music, dance, theater- all express emotions from the soul that could otherwise not ever be put into words." I never forgot that to this very day.

Once my inner voice for what I am creating takes over, it is like a tidal wave of visions all clamoring to be heard at once. I work at lightning pace to get it out, write it down, and give it order so that others may understand what I see. I paint it with color, with light, with costumes, with sets - with emotion. I speak each character's lines and try to feel what they are feeling. I literally step into this imaginary world and experience every aspect I can. Then, when I feel ready, I bring everything back out to our world to let everybody see what I have learned. My favorite expression about what I do is, "I don't just teach theater. I teach life." And this - is my passion. - Scott A. Cook